National Will Eisner Week from March 1 to 7 every year. He has been a prolific figure in the comic book, graphic novel, and illustration fields for decades and remains as influential today as he was in his prime and before his untimely death in 2005. His legacy is so incredible it can rival the great Stan Lee, the father of Marvel, and other comic book and graphic novel icons. What Eisner did was innovative, seen as the voice of a generation, and remains a popular sub-genre of books amongst young adults and men and women who seek illustrative novels.
History of National Will Eisner Week
In 1978, one man inspired millions of young adults and comic book enthusiasts to read when he published the book “A Contract with God.” It was considered a graphic novel and kickstarted a whole new wave of literature. The man’s name was William Erwin Eisner, and he was a cartoonist, writer, and entrepreneur from the United States. He became one of the first cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series “The Spirit” was notable for its content and form experiments. He was also an early contributor to formal comics studies and was honored in the form of the Eisner Award, given each year to recognize achievements in the comics medium.
“A Contract with God,” which has become Eisner’s magnum opus, was a collection of short stories and contained mature, complex content based on the author’s own experiences, focusing on the lives of ordinary people in the real world. The graphic novel changed the way people see and read books with illustrations, becoming almost like grown-up versions of comic books, as they redefined what books and novels should and could look like.
Some of his achievements include being inducted into the Academy of Comic Book Arts Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. In his honor, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards were established. Eisner was also posthumously inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015.
Eisner has been a celebrated figure in the publishing and literature worlds and 2016 inspired an entire week of celebrations for his unique style, innovative graphic novels, and incredible talent. This event promotes graphic novel literacy, free expression, and the sequential arts. Today, Eisner is considered one of the most influential comic book artists of all time.
National Will Eisner Week timeline
“Classics Illustrated” launches a comic-book series primarily adapting notable novels into standalone comic books for young readers.
The Spirit, a fictional masked crimefighter created by Eisner, first appears as the main character of a 16-page newsprint comic book.
Eisner illustrates an official Army pamphlet for troops in Vietnam to help minimize the M16 rifle's notorious early reliability problems with proper maintenance.
Comic book historian Richard Kyle coins the term ‘graphic novel’ when he uses it in the fanzine “Capa-Alpha.”
Will Eisner publishes his magnum opus, “A Contract with God.”
National Will Eisner Week FAQs
What is the difference between a comic book and a graphic novel?
Comics are typically included in more extensive, specialized narratives published regularly. Graphic novels, on the other hand, contain a complete story. The primary distinction between a graphic novel and a comic book is that graphic novels are longer than comic books.
How do you read a graphic novel?
Pages are meant to be read from left to right and in a “z-like” pattern — you read the rows as they’re tiered and make your way down a page. Each page consists of panels — single illustrations, usually sequential, that tell the story. And the space that separates each panel is known as the gutter.
What are the benefits of graphic novels?
Graphic novels teach and reinforce reading skills such as inferencing and punctuation and grammar rules, and the meaning of figurative language. It can also assist readers with learning differences. Autistic readers can learn about emotions by observing the images on the page as they read the story.
National Will Eisner Week Activities
Read one of Will Eisner’s graphic novels
Eisner is one of the most iconic graphic novel and comic book authors known today, and his work deserves to be read and seen as part of his legacy. Therefore, it is essential to read one or more of his many works, but it would probably be best to start with what many consider his most significant work, “A Contract with God,” revolving around the lives of poor Jewish characters who live in a tenement in New York City.
Read up on the history of comic books
Comic books go much deeper than what we know today about Marvel and the many superhero films released every other year. There is a very long history of comic books that you can go back to and try to understand in this innovative genre. Stan Lee and Will Eisner are only two of the most influential figures in the field, and there are many others to discover along the way.
Tell a friend about Will Eisner and share his work
Once you feel you have read and understood what there is to know about Eisner, share it with a friend and keep his legacy alive. Share your Eisner graphic novels and tell your friends how they have changed your view of the world and art and literature. A selection of his works also makes for a fantastic gift idea.
5 Facts About Comic Books And Graphic Novels
Very few characters age in real time
John Constantine is one of the few comic book characters who has aged in real-time as a result of his publication.
Neil Gaiman inspired “Harry Potter”
Neil Gaiman published a comic book about an English boy who discovers he's a wizard on his 12th birthday, seven years before the “Philosopher's Stone.”
Marvel and D.C. Comics co-own a trademark
Comic book publishers Marvel and D.C. Comics joined forces in 1979 to trademark the words, ‘super-hero’ and ‘super-villain.’
Almost quitting gave Stan Lee inspiration
Stan Lee was about to leave the comic book industry before he wrote “The Fantastic Four,” in which he created a more humanly flawed type of superhero.
Women characters weren’t always unrealistically drawn
Females had to be drawn realistically, with no exaggeration of physical characteristics, according to the Comic Book Code of 1954.
Why We Love National Will Eisner Week
It honors a legend
When we celebrate National Will Eisner Week, we pay homage to the legend that redefined the illustrative genre within books and publishing. Eisner changed the way millions of people read and gave thousands of people a new kind of book to read. We love that he was so influential and is remembered to this day.
Young, creative minds are inspired
It has been proven that people working in creative fields were avid readers, sketchers, or comic book lovers when they were young. Graphic novels help evolve the creative minds and imaginations of the future through visual and literary escapism. This in itself is something to celebrate.
It reminds us that comic books and graphic novels are literature
Many people that consider themselves lovers of literature would never embrace the literary power and influence of graphic novels and comic books. But the truth is, these genres helped bring reading and books into the 21st century when kids were watching more T.V. than anything else. These worlds that young, creative minds can escape to are equally as powerful as the great novels of our time.
National Will Eisner Week dates