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January 3: The Spirit

January 3, 2011

eisner_spiritCartoonist Will Eisner, who influenced a generation of comic book artists with his series The Spirit and helped launch the graphic novel as a popular art form, died at 87 on this date in 2005. Eisner was in the thick of the thriving comic book industry when he launched The Spirit in 1940, an adult crimefighter series that ran in some twenty newspapers until 1952. (Jules Feiffer worked closely as his assistant.) During World War II, Eisner introduced the use of comic books as training manuals for the armed forces. In the 1970s until his demise, he created a string of graphic novels, several of them with Jewish themes, including A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) and The Plot (2005), which recounts the history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1988, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were established in his honor.

“Comics, which are really best described as an arrangement of images in a sequence that tell a story — an idea — [are] a very old form of graphic communication. It began with the hieroglyphics in Egypt, it first appeared in a recognizable form in the medieval times as copper plates produced by the Catholic church to tell morality stories.” —Will Eisner