This week, CBLDF is celebrating Will Eisner Week. Running from March 1 through March 7, Will Eisner Week is an annual celebration honoring the legacy of Will Eisner, champion of the graphic novel.
Comic-Con International is sponsoring a day of panels in San Diego exploring Eisner, his work, and his legacy — CBLDF will be there! Join speakers this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Comic-Con Museum (2131 Pan American Plaza San Diego, CA 92101). Speakers include Jeff Trexler and Betsy Gomez of CBLDF, members from Comics@SDSU, and local comics legends. All the panels are free with admission to the museum. We hope we’ll see you Saturday for a day of Eisner and that you’ll stick around afterward to explore the art and installations of the Comic-Con Museum.
Not in the San Diego area? You can check the Will Eisner Week list of events to find a celebration near you!
Comic-Con Museum Schedule of Panels Saturday, March 5
12:00-1:00 Words and Pictures Together: Using Will Eisner’s Work and Other Comics in the Classroom
Eisner’s pathbreaking educational comics and prophetic understanding of sequential art as a new form of visual literacy spoke to the medium’s instructional power. Even the notorious comics critic Dr. Fredric Wertham, whom Eisner had parodied in a 1949 Spirit adventure as Dr. William Worry, would eventually come to appreciate Eisner’s skillful use of comic art as “an efficient teaching tool.” In this panel, expert educators Mick Rabin, Ed Lim, and Betsy Gomez, joined by Diana Schutz via Zoom, will explain the relevance of Eisner’s work for teaching today—and beyond.
1:00-2:00 The Past Is Now: How Censorship During Eisner’s Era Foreshadowed Censorship Today
Will Eisner was a stalwart champion of free expression for the comic arts—in fact, one of his final published illustrations of The Spirit appeared on the membership card for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. To what extent did Eisner’s experience with the anti-comics crusade of the 1940s and 1950s presage the challenges to graphic novels that we are seeing now? Does Eisner’s pointed critique of censorship through market forces have relevance for comics in the digital space? The Comics Code may be no more, but as this panel featuring Carol Tilley and Denis Kitchen (both via Zoom) will discuss, comics censorship and the future of artistic freedom continue to be significant concerns.
2:00-3:00 The Eye of Eisner: Looking at Us through His Lens
Will Eisner saw comics as “an art form that deals with human experience,” but as his own works illustrate, how comics depict the human condition can— and should—change over time. From the problematic legacy of racial caricatures to his profound examination of anti-Semitism and Jewish culture, this panel featuring Mary Stout (in person) plus John Jennings, Ken Quattro, and Leela Corman (via Zoom) will explore what lessons we can draw from Eisner’s work for the representation of identity in the comic arts.
3:00-4:00 And Now for Something Completely Different: Exploring the Graphic Storytelling Medium
Will Eisner believed that comics/graphic storytelling is a true literary art form with unlimited potential. Over the last few decades, many creators have gone “outside the comics box” to create a variety of techniques, formats, and devices for telling their stories. The panelists will provide a variety of examples of works that Eisner would have appreciated for their exploration of the medium. Moderated Jackie Estrada, administrator of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, with 2021 Eisner Awards judges Pamela Jackson (San Diego State University Library), Alonso Nuñez (Little Fish Comic Book Studio), and Jim Thompson (independent comics scholar).
Will Eisner (1917–2005) is recognized as a comics visionary. Starting with his early career running the Eisner-Iger Shop (a group of writers and artists who provided original content to publishers), Eisner was known for his great art and storytelling ability. He introduced his creation The Spirit in 1940 in a new format: a 16-page comic book supplement included in about 20 Sunday newspapers around the country. At its height, the blue-suited crimefighter reached close to 5 million readers each week. Eisner produced the supplement for almost 13 years, and in 1951 created PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, which illustrated preventative maintenance techniques in comics form for the U.S. Army. In 1978, Eisner was one of the pioneers of the graphic novel format, publishing A Contract with God, and going on to write and illustrate numerous graphic novels until his death in 2005. Eisner was a great friend of Comic-Con, and to this day the event salutes him each year with the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards and the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. In honor of his memory, the first week in March each year is known as Will Eisner Week, promoting comics, graphic novel literacy, free speech, and the legacy of this amazing comic storyteller.