Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog

Will Eisner

Childhood Heroes

Comic-books are without a doubt one of the most successful forms of visual storytelling. Yet it's a subject I haven't tackled in this blog so far, save from a couple of self-made attempts used as illustrations.

I grew up on comics and for a large part of my adolescence the only thing I dreamt of was to become a comic-creator. My biggest idols of that period was probably the French/Belgian masters Franquin, Uderzo & Goscinny. This first comic-oriented blog post is however dedicated to another one of my heroes: Will Eisner.

The Spirit

Eisner's most well known character is probably The Spirit. A noir-styled, masked crime-fighter. The stories often border on the absurd and it is often quite hard to predict just where Mr. Eisner is going until you actually finish the last page or the last panel.

Opening page from a Spirit-story. Copyright © Will Eisner.

As you can see from the image above, the drawings are of a slightly caricatured nature and the page layout is extremely dynamic. Yet the composition always seems to lead your eyes in the right direction avoiding the distractions you find in some other comics. In lack of a better word I'd call the look "modern" which in this context is meant as a compliment, especially since the original Spirit stories were all made between 1940 and 1952(!)

Beyond the Bedroom

Eisner is generally considered to be one of the comic-creators who really managed to elevate the art of comics beyond the bedroom of teenage boys. His achievements are probably best witnessed in his graphic-novel A Contract With God (available at Amazon). A piece of work that demonstrates just how potent comics can be when tackling more serious material than cape-wearing guys in leotards beating up bad guys.

Of course Eisner himself was well aware of the possibilities that existed in the art form and wrote two books on the subject. I highly recommend both Comics & Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative to those of you with a larger interest in the subject.

His Spirit Lives On

Sadly Will Eisner passed away in 2005 so we won't see any new work from the master's hands. His legacy lives on however and through researching this blog I found that a film about The Spirit is scheduled for release next year. What makes this project really interesting is that the director/screenwriter of the film is none other than Frank Miller(!)

Link: Official Will Eisner site.