The first week of March each year is nationally known as Will Eisner Week, aimed at not only celebrating Eisner’s life and accomplishments, but also to celebrate the things that Eisner stood for – literacy, community, free expression. Individuals and institutions set aside time this to offer classes, symposiums, screenings, and more, all in honor of remembering a titan in comics, and carrying his important legacy forward for generations to come.
Who Was Will Eisner?
WILL EISNER was born William Erwin Eisner on March 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. By the time of his death on January 3, 2005, following complications from open heart surgery, Eisner was recognized internationally as one of the giants in the field of sequential art, a term he coined.
In a career that spanned nearly seventy years and eight decades — from the dawn of the comic book to the advent of digital comics — he truly was the ‘Orson Welles of comics’ and the ‘father of the Graphic Novel’. He broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics and was the creator of The Spirit, John Law, Lady Luck, Mr. Mystic, Uncle Sam, Blackhawk, Sheena and countless others.
There is absolutely no way to fit a life filled with reading, creating, teaching, mentoring, and more into one article. There are several books for those interested in learning more about Eisner’s life, including Paul Levitz’s Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel, Bob Andelman’s Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics by Michael Schumacher, and more. There is also an award-winning documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist available.
How to Celebrate Will Eisner Week
The best and easiest way to celebrate this annual week is to read a graphic novel. Then read another. They don’t have to be by Eisner, but by all means, if you want to, his work stands the test of time. If you have a friend you think of while reading some graphic novel, lend it to them (or give them their own copy) and have them read it too. Celebrate comics and literacy by enjoying and encouraging others to enjoy the sublime and simple joys of reading sequential art.
Other great ways to enjoy Will Eisner week include attending events around the country.
Tuesday March 5, The New School in New York City is hosting a free symposium open to the public. This is the 239th meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-Story Symposium, which is fairly impressive. The theme of tonight’s talk revolving around creating autobiographical graphic novels. From the website,
MEMORIES OF ME: Creating the Autobiographical Graphic Novel
Graphic novelists working in the autobiography/memoir subgenre are regularly asked: “Did these traumatic things really happen to you? And if they did, why did you choose to reveal such personal information?” Tonight, using Will Eisner’s autobiographical work, such as To The Heart of the Storm and The Dreamer, as a touchstone, JENNFIER HAYDEN (The Story of My Tits), PETER KUPER (Stop Forgetting to Remember), SARA WOOLEY (Los Pirineos: the Mostly True Memoirs of Esperancita Gómez) and LIANA FINCK (Passing For Human) join moderator DANNY FINGEROTH (author of an upcoming biography of STAN LEE) to discuss the challenges and rewards of doing such personal work.
For details like when and where, check the website.
For those in the Phoenix Arizona area, there is a free screening of the award-winning documentary, Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist. The screening is sponsored by local bookstore chain, Bookmans, who also run a sale on comics and manga for the length of Will Eisner week. The screening is set for Thursday March 7, for more details or to reserve a seat, go to Film Bar’s website.
Free Educators Resource
Pop Culture Classroom released a free, short, educational comic, Will Eisner: Father of the Graphic Novel. The comic aims to explain Eisner’s contributions to the field of graphic novels, as well as encourage students own creation of sequential art, and regular use of the library. Any teachers, librarians, parents, or just fans of educational comics, can check it out here.