Review: Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel

This coffee-table book shows how cartoons were elevated to a high literary artform.

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Our Verdict

This book rises to the challenge of documenting one of the most important American cartoonists. Tracking the development of his work throughout the course of his long and varied career, Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel is a feast of a book that serves up stunning art showcasing the artist's enthusiasm for his craft.

Every artist with an interest in graphic novels needs to know about New York artist Will Eisner. His seminal 1978 work A Contract With God is widely considered the first significant graphic novel, ushering in a new kind of personal, non- superhero storytelling that changed the art of comics forever.

Featuring over 200 colour illustrations, and making full use of its large page format, this hardback volume is as complete a collection of Will's work as you're ever likely see, stretching from his 1930s newspaper cartoons and iconic 1940s strip The Spirit, right up to his work for Dark Horse Comics, just before his death in 2005 at the age of 86.

Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel

Cover detail from 1985's A Contract With God

Paul Levitz, historian and former president and publisher of DC Comics, traces Will's evolution as an artist with a clear sense of passion, drawing you into the detail of the artist's life. But what really keeps you turning the pages, is the art itself.

The teeming life of an immigrant city burned into the young Will's eyes on his arrival in New York, and the earthy immediacy and visceral nature of his street scenes still have the capacity to enthral and amaze today.

Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel

The book traces the whole course of Eisner's career

As Brad Metzer argues: "It wasn't that he was one of the first to create 'serious comics'. It's that he was one of the first to show the world that comics should be taken seriously."

Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel

The Verdict

9

out of 10

Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel

This book rises to the challenge of documenting one of the most important American cartoonists. Tracking the development of his work throughout the course of his long and varied career, Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel is a feast of a book that serves up stunning art showcasing the artist's enthusiasm for his craft.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he’s worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella. Follow him on Twitter @tom_may.

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