Comic Book Artist #6: A Tribute to Will Eisner: Edited by Jon B. Cooke, 256 pgs. By Keith

Like it says, it’s a massive tribute to comic artist Will Eisner, who, among other things, is pretty much credited with essentially inventing the graphic novel as it’s known today. This thing’s massive: the material includes dozens of essays and memorials to the man from renowned people in the comics field, as well as dozens of reproductions of his art, and small text-and-image memorandums at the end of the book, a kind of thank you list to the man by everyone from Frank Miller to John Updike.

As someone who read comics voraciously throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s, right to the beginning of Image Comics’ start up and blossoming into its current juggernaut-like status, I can see, in retrospect, that Eisner’s influence on comics today is absolutely undeniable. Everything, from how he used text as actual images in a panel, to the fact that he was probably the first person in comics history to own a studio and pay his artists a living salary, rather than the “kick it out as fast as you can” by-the-page format, which was standard at the time. The tributes at the back of the book, as well as many of the essays by people who knew Eisner or were influenced by him, are touching. He honestly seems to be one of those mythical, near guru-like figures who managed to have a kind word of encouragement to say to everyone, even those just starting out in the field or showing him the rawest aspects of their portfolio.

On one hand, my interest in comics waned pretty seriously by the time punk rock rolled around into my life, but this book was still a fascinating trip, not just into one guy’s life, but into an entire artistic field that once totally enthralled me. It’s perfect for those who are interested in the “golden age” of comics or who are, of course, particularly interested in the man himself and his unceasing creative output. Mostly, for me, it serves as proof that while comics go through trends just like punk and anything else, there are still people who have to be noted as innovators, as visionaries and spearheads; not only is a tribute like this fitting for Will Eisner, it ultimately comes across as necessary. –Keith Rosson (Top Shelf Productions, PO Box 1282, Marietta, GA 30061-1282)