Legendary Comics Artist Will Eisner Dies at 87

Legendary comics and graphic novel artist and writer Will Eisner died Jan. 3, 2005, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the age of 87, following complications from quadruple heart bypass surgery, reports Bob Andelman, author of the upcoming authorized biography, WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE.

A comics artist since the 1930s, Eisner was the first to use "silent" balloonless panels to show characters' emotions by focusing attention on their accentuated facial expressions.

He addressed subjects considered unthinkable in comic books and rarely seen at the time in newspaper comics: spousal abuse, tax audits, urban blight and graft.

Andelman writes in his A SPIRITED LIFE newsletter:

Will Eisner didnt create SUPERMAN, BATMAN, SPIDER-MAN or even ARCHIE AND JUGHEAD. Some comicbook fans may scratch their heads when asked to describe his work. But every artist and writer in comicbooks, as well as graphic artists across the entire spectrum of modern illustration, television and film, owes a debt to him.

In 1941, Eisner created a goofball detective named Denny Colt who died (not really) and was reborn as The Spirit, the cemetery-dwelling protector of the public and pretty girls in particular. The Spirit possessed no superpowers. He couldnt see through his girlfriends clothing the way a curious alien like the Man of Steel might scientifically investigate Lois Lane. And he wasnt a brilliant technologist like Batman, imagineering hokey gadgets and psychedelic compounds for all-night parties with the Joker.

Eisner was the strips artist and writer, which was published and distributed as an insert in Sunday newspapers, ala PARADE magazine.

THE SPIRIT was published and reissued in various forms almost uninterrupted for 60 years. Andelman said, Its look, feel and smartass humor is timeless, which accounts for the countless revivals.

THE SPIRIT was acquired in August 2004 by Odd Lot Ent. and Batfilm to be made into a feature film. Odd Lot's Gigi Pritzker and Deborah Del Prete (THE WEDDING PLANNER) and Batfilm's Michael Uslan (BATMAN BEGINS, CATWOMAN, CONSTANTINE) will produce the film. Benjamin Melniker and Steve Maier are attached as exec producer with F.J. DeSanto and Linda McDonough as co-producers.

Drafted during World War II, the Army had Eisner create JOE DOPE to teach Jeep maintenance to soldiers with a bumbling comicstrip character.

Eisner, who went to high school with BATMAN creator Bob Kane, provided first jobs in the comics business to everyone from Jack Kirby (co-creator of CAPTAIN AMERICA and THE FANTASTIC FOUR) to Pulitzer-winning writer and artist Jules Feiffer," said Andelman.

Eisner is credited with popularizing if not inventing the medium of the graphic novel with the 1978 publication of his graphic story collection, A CONTRACT WITH GOD, according to Andelman.

Eisners final graphic novel, THE PLOT, will be published this spring by W.W. Norton.

One of the industrys highest honors for comicbook professionals is the Eisner Award, named for Eisner, given out every summer at Comic-Con International in San Diego, which the comic genius has always been on hand to present to the winners.

Andelman said, Will Eisner was the wizard behind the curtain, except in his case, the magic was real.

There will be no funeral service, per his wishes. Eisner will be buried next to his late daughter, Alice, who died in 1969. His wife, Ann, and his son, John, survive him.

Cards may be sent to:Will Eisner Studios8333 W. McNab RoadTamarac, Florida 33321

Andelman suggests, Unofficially, in lieu of flowers, you might consider a donation in Wills name to the American Cancer Society his daughter died of cancer or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which Will was known to have supported.

On a personal note, wrote Andelman, I am crushed. Will and I started working on what began as an autobiography and morphed into an authorized biography three years ago this month. His friendship and camaraderie was like none other. WILL EISNER: A SPIRITED LIFE will be published in July for Dark Horse Comics new M Press imprint. He welcomes stories and thoughts about Eisner he will share in his newsletter devoted to the artist. These may be sent to: ASpiritedLife@tampabay.rr.com.

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