Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TOP TEN :: Best Comics Artists Ever :: #6 :: Will Eisner


What can I say about Will Eisner that hasn't already been said by people with college degrees? I'll say one thing--it's pretty shocking that he's this low on the list--this is by no means my only disagreement with what our staff's voting came up with, but I guess that's the nature of the beast. If Jack Kirby represents the creative spirit and fever of American comics, then Will Eisner is surely the brain, the science, the technique. People forget that The Spirit was cranking away in the 40's, with some of the most gorgeous page layouts ever in comics, back when most mainstream comics characters were drawn roughly and crudely. By the time Kirby and Stan Lee created Fantastic Four in 1961, The Spirit was already 20 years old!

You can't understate Jack Kirby's relentlessly creative output, and the incredible brute energy of his art. But for innovation, it's Will Eisner all the way; who besides his more famous achievements--including being credited with the creation of the graphic novel--took comics from the Siegel and Shuster adapted newspaper strip style, and developed them into a language and rhythm altogether unique. His storytelling remains peerless even today; besides his enormous influence over nearly every branch of comics, he's directly inspired many of the graphic novelists and autobiographical cartoonists of the last 30 years. For my money, there may be no more influential cartoonist in the history of the medium--and unlike many of his contemporaries, Will Eisner was not only an incredible draftsman and idea man, but a storyteller first and foremost, a necessity for good comics that is often forgotten.

10 comments:

Shawn Reynolds said...

I agree with Dustin. Eisner is way too low on the list.

Dan Morris said...

Even I'm not a huge Eisner fan and I think he and Tezuka are far too low on this list.

Phil Southern said...

Is that what they teach ya atcher fancy-dan-artiste-school? Somebodies gone off and become an aristocrat!

Phil Southern said...

Oh yeah, Eisner shoulda been higher, at least in the top three.

But if everybody liked the same thing, they'd all be dating my girl-friend.

Douglas Merkle said...

never heard of him.

Douglas Merkle said...

juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust kidding.

Andy Mansell said...

hmmmm. To me Will Eisner belongs in the all-comics Pantheon-- Herge, Barks, Kirby, Tezuka, Caniff, Crane, Raymond, Kelly, Foster and Kurtzman when you combine influence, innovation and especially the completed body of work. That said-- I do NOT believe Eisner belongs any higher on THIS LIST for two reasons. 1. (This is dicey) Was the Spirit a comic book or should it be classified as a newspaper strip? I realize I am picking nits, but that is the point of this list. 2. More importantly, Will Eisner unlike all of the other artists-- was work by committee. Eisner was a shop. He may very well have designed characters and laid out those beautiful splash pages and wrote incredible stories, but how much of the completed art was him? Does it matter? For a list with these established parameters, I say YES, it matters a great deal.
When I was asked by Heroes to come up with my 5 favorite comics of all time, I chose the Post War Spirit stories as second only to Segar's Popeye. I have spent over $1,200 on the Spirit Archives. My point--I am not saying this causually. I love Eisner's work; it is essential reading for any fan or creator, but Best Artist, I say thee NAY!!

Thanks for listening

Dustin Harbin said...

Well, ManSMELL, I must point out Eisner's output post Silver-Age: Contract With God, Life On Another Planet, Life Force... One thing you can say about Eisner is that his art didn't go at the end: even The Plot looks good, and he was well into his 80's by that time, wasn't he?

Plus, comic art is about more than just the actual pencilling and inking--it's the storytelling where he made his great mark. Think of all those great Spirit splashes, the way he'd plan with panel structures, etc. And though it was a newspaper insert, it was a short comic WITHIN a newspaper, not a strip. Important distinction.

Andy Mansell said...

OK, I'll give you the strip vs. comicbook.. even though it was a weekly versus monthly deadline and limited size which --to me --makes it closer to a strip than a comic book...
ANYHOO, DUSTBIN...
I believe we defined artists--for the sake of this BLOG-- as the guys that draw the pictures. Notice I cited Eisner in the Pantheon--those 11 are unequalled as creators of comic art -- but we are talking about the drawing here--pictures and storytelling--.. and bottom line-- all evidence--including words from Eisner himself-- point that he did less and less and less drawing on the book after 1947. (1948-1950 were the book's zenith) To me that disqualifies him from the greatest artist (read: drawing pictures)group. If we had to make the leap you suggest-- and again--in no way am I disagreeing with the end product--we would need to ignore any quantifying that arise in the the following two examples: Al Capp-- (Lil Abner) designed the strip, drew the first year or two-- then turned everything over to a staff except occasionally inking Abner's face. To me, Al Capp is a committee. The same can be said about (here it comes) Stan Lee if we were discussing the BEST writers in comics. Stan could really put the words on paper, but he--like Eisner and Capp-- were more creative, active editors.
That is of course just my opinion.
thanks for listening.

Dustin Harbin said...

And again I must say: Contract With God, Life On Another Planet--eisner's graphic novel output was potentially more influential (at least to my generation) than The Spirit was, at least directly.