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Will Eisner: A Centennial Celebration

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Published by Dark Horse Books on 2017-03-28
Hardcover: $49.99
FICTION / Graphic Novels, ART, HISTORY


The legacy that Will Eisner (1917–2005) had on sequential art cannot be overstated—his innovative storytelling, layouts, and art on his newspaper series The Spirit inspired a generation of cartoonists, and his turn toward an acclaimed run of graphic novels beginning in 1978 with A Contract with God helped pioneer the form. This catalogue includes over 175 selected illustrations, reproduced from the original artwork, from the landmark Will Eisner Centennial Celebration exhibitions taking place in 2017 at Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Dual English and French text with essays by Denis Kitchen, Paul Gravett, and John Lind.


 Celebrating the centennial of a master storyteller!


 Over 175 Eisner illustrations, reproduced from the originals!


The official catalogue to exhibitions at Le Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême and The Society of Illustrators in New York!


(Hardcover, 2017-03-28)
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ASIN: 1506703550
ISBN: 9781506703558
EAN: 9781506703558

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Will Eisner could write and draw in the way that most of us hum or whistle a tune, without conscious effort or inhibition. Story was his music, and pencil and brush his instruments. The universal appeal of Will's very personal compositions made him truly a maestro without peer. As a publisher, a packager, a talent scout, an impresario, and an artist and writer, Will Eisner created the world of comics as I knew it. Will Eisner was far more than one of the greatest, most talented and influential comic authors of the'twentieth century. He was, he is, and he remains one of the very few (fewer than the fingers on a hand) builders of the comics language as we know it. We write and draw comics the way we do because Will Eisner established the very grammar we use. The legacy of his work is'beyond a treasure of inspiration'a true encyclopedia for generations of creators and readers. 'DAVE GIBBONS (Watchmen) The Spirit [became] the standard by which other comic books would be measured. 'HARVEY KURTZMAN (MAD, Little Annie Fanny) Will Eisner is the heart and mind of American comics. 'SCOTT McCLOUD (Understanding Comics) 'MICHAEL CHABON (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) 'JUANJO GUARNIDO (Blacksad)

Will Eisner's drawing board as he left it in 2005 La planche ? dessin de Will Eisner tel qu'il l'a laiss'e en 2005 HE COMIC STRIP, [Eisner] explains, is no longer a comic strip but, in reality, an illustrated novel. It is new and raw in form just now, but material for limitless intelligent development. And eventually and inevitably it will be a legitimate medium for the best of writers and artists. 'EXCERPT FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH WILL EISNER The PhiladelPhia RecoRd, OCTOBER 13, 1941

BANDE DESSIN'E, explique [Eisner], n'est plus une bande dessin'e, mais, en fait, un roman illustr'. Ce format est encore nouveau et brut, mais source d'un d'veloppement intelligent sans limite. Et il finira in'vitablement par devenir un m'dia l'gitime pour les meilleurs 'crivains et artistes. 'EXTRAIT D'UNE INTERVIEW AVEC WILL EISNER The Philadelphia Record, 13 OCTOBRE 1941

Title page to 'Il Duce's Locket,' The Spirit (May 25, 1947) | Ink on paper Premi're de couverture de ''Il Duce's Locket'', Le Spirit (25 mai 1947) | Encre sur papier

BASED ON EXHIBITIONS AT LE MUS'E DE LA BANDE DESSIN'E cURATED BY DENIS KITCHEN AND THE SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS cO-cURATED BY DENIS KITCHEN AND JOHN LIND INTRODUcTION BY JEAN-PIERRE MERCIER ESSAYS BY PAUL GRAVETT, DENIS KITCHEN, AND JOHN LIND EDITED AND DESIGNED BY JOHN LIND PUBLISHED BY MIKE RICHARDSON

Cover to City People Notebook (Kitchen Sink Press, 1989) | Ink on paper Couverture de City People Notebook (Kitchen Sink Press, 1989) | Encre sur papier N EUROPE, ET EN FRANCE EN PARTICULIER, la d'couverte du Spirit et de Will Eisner s'est faite tardivement au cours des ann'es 1970 (? l'exception des premi'res traductions d'Hawks of the Seas faites dans les ann'es 1950 et d'une poign'e d''pisodes du Spirit dans les revues Pogo en 1969 puis Tintin en 1973). Mais au fil des ann'es 1970, les amateurs europ'en pourraient enfin voir Eisner et le Spirit en m'me temps qu'une nouvelle g'n'ration de dessinateurs underground, aux 'tatsUnis, qui les remettaient au go't du jour. La d'couverte progressive de l''uvre d'Eisner a constitu? un choc pour l'amateur d'alors, car Eisner 'tait en avance sur son temps. Le premier auteur post-moderne de la bande dessin'e, qui joue pleinement sur les codes du genre qu'il exploite (le ''roman noir'') tout en introduisant une forme de distanciation ironique sans 'quivalent ? l''poque. Il pariait sur l'intelligence de son lecteur en l'amenant ? r'fl'chir sur la forme m'me de la bande dessin'e. Ca devait 'tre r'volutionnaire dans les ann'es 1940, et encore dans les ann'es 1970, c'est toujours diablement novateur aujourd'hui. Quand, dans les ann'es 1980, Will Eisner per'oit que la bande dessin'e atteint enfin la maturit? ? laquelle il aspirait depuis ses d'buts, il reprend ? son compte l'expression ''graphic novel'? qui 'merge alors et produit un corpus d''uvres qui le place aux c't's des plus grands 'crivains juifs am'ricains du XXe si'cle. Il est rare qu'un auteur connaisse dans sa vie de cr'ateur deux p'riodes ? ce point diff'rentes et novatrices. Et si l'on ajoute qu'il a enseign? son art et qu'il en a 't? un des th'oriciens les plus 'minents, on peut consid'rer que Will Eisner personnifie le g'nie de la bande dessin'e am'ricaine. Voil? longtemps que les 'quipes du mus'e de la Bande dessin'e et du Festival international souhaitaient rendre hommage au grand Will, qui avait 't? r'compens? par le Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoul'me d's 1975. Des artistes d'une telle stature, on en croise peu dans un si'cle. Et comme justement 2017 marque le centenaire de sa naissance, il a 't? d'cid? de c'l'brer ce centenaire avec une exposition qui rende pleinement justice aux multiples facettes d'un g'nie dont, ? coup s'r, l'influence marquera encore le si'cle qui s'ouvre devant nous. N EUROPE, AND PARTICULARLY IN FRANCE, The Spirit and Will Eisner were discovered late 'in the 1970s (except for earlier translations of Hawks of the Seas in the 1950s and a few Spirit episodes in Pogo magazine in 1969 and in Tintin in 1973). But as the 1970s elapsed, European fans could finally see Eisner and The Spirit at the same time that a new generation of underground cartoonists were bringing them back in the United States. The gradual discovery of Eisner's work was then a shock to the amateur. Eisner was ahead of his time, the first postmodern comics author, fully playing with the codes of the form he was working with (the 'noir novel') while introducing a kind of ironic distancing for the first time. He gambled on the intelligence of the reader, making him or her think about the very form of comics. It had to be revolutionary in the 1940s, still was in the 1970s, and is still pretty darn innovative today. When, in the 1980s, Eisner sensed comics finally matured to the level he had aspired to when he started, he adopted the term 'graphic novel? that was emerging and produced a body of work that put him among the greatest American Jewish writers of the twentieth century. It is rare that one author is able to know in his creative life two periods that different and innovative. And if we add that he taught his art and was one of the most prominent theorists, we can consider that Eisner personifies the genius of American comics. For a long time the teams from the Museum of Comics and the International Festival wanted to hail the great Will, who was awarded the Grand Prix in Angoul'me in 1975. Artists of such stature we come across little in a century. And just as 2017 marks the centennial of his birth, it was decided to celebrate this centennial with an exhibition that fully reflects the many facets of a genius whose influence, undoubtedly, will still mark the century that lies before us. WILL EISNER, GENIUS OF AMERICAN COMICS BY JEAN-PIERRE MERCIER WILL EISNER, G'NIE DE LA BANDE DESSIN'E AM'RICAINE PAR JEAN-PIERRE MERCIER 7

Bronze statue of Will Eisner's the Spirit, sculpted by Peter Poplaski (1991) Statue de bronze du Spirit de Will Eisner, sculpt'e par Peter Poplaski (1991) HE CROWD IN RIO DE JANEIRO buzzed with anticipation inside the Fundi''o Progresso, a former foundry in transition as a building site for a proposed arts venue. I was lucky enough to be among that crowd as a guest of Rio's first International Comics Biennial in November 1991. I will never forget the look of amazement and delight on Will Eisner's face as he stepped onto the stage for an audience with his public. The cheering throng was huge and spanned all ages, from grandparents to young children. Their admiration and affection for this spry elder statesman were palpable, and his replies to their questions were witty and warm. This experience gave me striking proof of the lengthy, cross-generational popularity of Eisner's work'The Spirit in particular'among Brazilians. I was also intrigued as to how this had come about. The short stories of The Spirit from 1940 to 1952 provided a unique, spacious, and unusually flexible format'available for free through mass circulation newspapers'with constant experimentation, which Eisner later described as 'almost a continuing laboratory.' Each week he could begin again with a fresh approach and style, and perhaps a different, often one-off, character as the focus. Eisner was untethered from the demands of an adventure strip's ever-present heroic lead and lengthy serialised continuities, while also enjoying enough comic book'sized pages to develop intense narrative and characterization. The Spirit is so highly regarded that it seems it must have always been acclaimed in the canon of the world's greatest comics. Yet after the final episode was published in 1952, the masked detective of Central City became all but forgotten by his homeland, excluding devoted comics collectors, for more than a decade. Out of print meant out of sight, out of mind. When collector John Benson dropped by Eisner's offices in 1961 to request an interview, he recalls Eisner being 'very flattered that I still remembered The Spirit, but he had no plans to revive the feature and apparently had little interest in it.' Benson would have to wait until 1968 to get Eisner's first interview for a comics-related publication, former Spirit illustrator Wally Wood's Witzend. This relative obscurity would gradually pass once the reappraisal of comics in America, specifically The Spirit, got underway in the 1960s. A decade had passed since the series? end when Harvey Kurtzman reprinted a Sand Saref tale in his magazine Help! in 1962. Then in 1965, Eisner's former collaborator Jules Feiffer extolled the THE SPIRIT DIASPORA AND THE GRAPHIC NOVEL REVOLUTION BY PAUL GRAVETT A FOULE DE RIO DE JANEIRO bourdonnait de plaisir ? l'int'rieur du Fundi''o Progresso, une ancienne fonderie en passe de devenir un lieu pour les beauxarts. J'ai alors 't? assez chanceux pour faire partie de cette foule en tant qu'invit? de la premi're Biennale internationale de bande dessin'e ? Rio en novembre 1991. Je n'oublierai jamais le regard d'amusement et de d'lice du visage de Will Eisner au moment o? il est mont? sur sc'ne pour son 'change avec le public. Les acclamations de la foule furent fortes et venaient de tous les 'ges, des grands-parents aux jeunes enfants. Leur admiration et leur affection pour ce v't'ran de la BD toujours fringant 'taient palpables, et ses r'ponses ? leurs questions 'taient dr'les et chaleureuses. Cette exp'rience m'a donn? la preuve 'clatante de la grande popularit? transg'n'rationnelle du travail d'Eisner ? en particulier Le Spirit ? chez les Br'siliens. J''tais aussi curieux de comprendre comment c''tait arriv'. Les courtes histoires du Spirit de 1940 ? 1952 ont fourni un format unique, spacieux et inhabituellement souple ? disponible gratuitement gr'ce au grand tirage du journal ? permettant d'exp'rimenter constamment, ce qu'Eisner a d'crit plus tard comme 'tant ''presque un laboratoire continu''. Chaque semaine, il pouvait recommencer avec une nouvelle approche, un nouveau style, et peut-'tre un personnage diff'rent, souvent 'ph'm're. Eisner 'tait lib'r? de la demande d'un h'ros toujours pr'sent dans une BD et dans une longue s'rie, mais appr'ciait aussi les albums afin de d'velopper une narration approfondie et de cr'er des personnages. Le Spirit est si bien consid'r? qu'on pense qu'il a toujours d? faire partie des canons des meilleures BD au monde. Pourtant, apr's que le dernier 'pisode est publi? en 1952, le d'tective masqu? de Central City a 't? oubli? par sa patrie pendant plus de dix ans, sauf des collectionneurs de BD passionn's. 'puis? 'tait synonyme de loin des yeux, loin du c'ur. Quand le collectionneur John Benson passa dans les bureaux d'Eisner en 1961 pour demander une interview, il se rappelle qu'Eisner 'tait ? tr's flatt? qu'on se souvienne toujours du Spirit, mais il n'avait pas l'intention de faire revivre le personnage et ne s'y int'ressait apparemment pas''. Benson a d? attendre jusqu'en 1968 avant d'avoir la premi're interview d'Eisner pour une publication li'e ? la BD, Witzend, de Wally Wood, ancien illustrateur du Spirit. Cette obscurit? relative dispara'trait progressivement avec le retour des BD aux 'tats-Unis, notamment du Spirit, dans les ann'es 1960. Une d'cennie 'tait pass'e depuis la fin de la s'rie quand Harvey Kurtzman r'imprima une histoire de Sand Saref dans son magazine Help! en 1962. Puis en 1965, l'ancien collaborateur d'Eisner, Jules Feiffer, vanta la s'rie, dans son ode aux ic'nes de l''ge d'or, The Great Comic Book Heroes, qui comprenait un 'pisode en couleur de 1941. L'ann'e suivante, lorsque Joe Simon r'ussit ? rassembler plusieurs r'impressions du Spirit en une 'dition sp'ciale de 68 pages chez Harvey Comics, Eisner finit par revenir ? LA DIASPORA DU SPIRIT ET LA R'VOLUTION DU ROMAN GRAPHIQUE PAR PAUL GRAVETT 9

Published title pages to The Spirit: 'Baxter's Perfect Crime? (January 5, 1947), 'The Halloween Spirit of 1948? (October 31, 1948), 'Return to Boot Camp? (November 14, 1948) Premi'res de couverture de la s'rie Le Spirit': ''Baxter's Perfect Crime'? (5 janvier 1947), ''The Halloween Spirit of 1948'? (31 octobre 1948), ''Return to Boot Camp'? (14 novembre 1948) series in his appreciation of the Golden Age's icons, The Great Comic Book Heroes, including a 1941 episode in colour. The following year, when Joe Simon arranged to package several Spirit reprints into a 68-page special edition from Harvey Comics, Eisner finally returned to his character, drawing a seven-page introductory origin story as well as the cover and a two-page feature. Two new tales and a cover ran in the second special in 1967, which proved to be the last. That year would also bring Britain's Penguin Book of Comics by George Perry and Alan Aldridge, which hailed Eisner by showing the Spirit on the cover held aloft with other characters on Superman's shoulders and included two muddy reproductions inside. These would be many fans? and future professionals? first tantalising details of Eisner's foundational masterworks. In contrast, as demonstrated by Eisner's reception at Rio's 1991 Biennial, the character had enjoyed a more lasting profile in Brazil? the first country to translate The Spirit fifty years earlier, in only its second year of syndication. World War II had delayed selling the feature into Europe, so South America became a prime export market. First localised as O Spirito or Esp'rito, Eisner's hero ran in Rio's comics magazine Gibi, published on Sundays by Roberto Marinho. The Spirit'as well as Dolan, Ebony, and other cast members'starred, sometimes solo, in several new covers by Brazilian artists. Later the Spirit logo had regular prominence on the covers of the restyled, oversized Gibi semanal to promote reprints of the stories, printed two pages to each extra-large page. The covers also presented original cameo images or whole illustrations of the Spirit, all drawn by Walmir Amaral, whose mixing of various characters could become surreal. One eye-catching 'infinity? cover from 1975 showed the Spirit at a desk drawing a comic strip of Dick Tracy, who's drawing Li'l Abner, who's drawing Fearless Fosdick. Other Brazilian anthologies reprinted the Spirit and featured him on their covers, from Globo juvenil mensal, O lobinho, and Biriba mensal in the early 1950s and C'mico colegial in the early 1960s to Gibi especial and Almanaque do gibi in the 1970s. It's also revealing that in 1951, Eisner was among the significant artists invited by Brazilian curator 'lvaro de Moya to participate in son personnage et dessina une histoire introductive de sept pages, ainsi qu'une couverture et deux nouvelles pages. Deux nouvelles histoires et une couverture sortirent dans la seconde 'dition sp'ciale de 1967, qui fut la derni're. Cette ann'e-l? vit aussi na'tre en Angleterre Penguin Book of Comics de George Perry et Alan Aldridge, qui saluait Eisner en montrant le Spirit sur la couverture, tenu en l'air avec d'autres personnages sur les 'paules de Superman et en incluant deux superbes reproductions ? l'int'rieur. Ce furent l? les premiers d'tails attrayants du chef d''uvre fondamental d'Eisner pour de nombreux fans et futurs professionnels. ? l'inverse, comme d'montr? par l'accueil d'Eisner ? la Biennale de Rio en 1991, le personnage avait b'n'fici? d'une vie plus longue au Br'sil ? le premier pays ? traduire Le Spirit cinquante ans plus t't ? d's la deuxi'me ann'e de vente des droits de diffusion. La Seconde Guerre mondiale avait retard? la vente du personnage en Europe, de ce fait l'Am'rique du Sud 'tait devenue le premier march? d'exportation. D'abord publi? comme O Spirito ou Esp'rito, le h'ros d'Eisner se retrouva dans le magazine de BD de Rio Gibi, publi? le dimanche par Roberto Marinho. Le Spirit ? tout comme Dolan, Ebony, et d'autres personnages ? faisait la une, parfois seul, de plusieurs nouvelles couvertures d'artistes br'siliens. Plus tard, le logo du Spirit eut une place de premier plan r'guli're sur les couvertures du Gibi seminal, nouvelle formule ? la taille XXL afin de promouvoir les r'impressions des histoires, deux pages 'tant imprim'es sur une page extra-large. Les couvertures pr'sentaient 'galement des images originales de cameo ou des illustrations enti'res du Spirit, toutes dessin'es par Walmir Amaral, dont le m'lange de diff'rents personnages pouvait devenir surr'aliste. Une couverture accrocheuse ''infinie'? de 1975 montrait le Spirit derri're un bureau en train de dessiner une bande dessin'e de Dick Tracy, qui dessinait Li'l Abner, qui dessinait Fearless Fosdick. D'autres anthologies br'siliennes r'imprim'rent le Spirit et le mirent en vedette sur leurs couvertures, de Globo juvenil mensal, O lobinho et Biriba mensal au d'but des ann'es 1950 et C'mico colegial au d'but des ann'es 1960 ? Gibi especial et Almanaque do Gibi dans les ann'es 1970. Il est 'galement r'v'lateur que, en 1951, Eisner ait 't? parmi les artistes importants invit's par le programmateur br'silien 'lvaro de Moya ? participer ? ce qui a 't? pr'sent? comme'''La Premi're Exposition Internationale de la Bande Dessin'e''. Commen'ant le 18 juin 1951, elle s'est termin'e le 2 juillet au Centro de Cultura e Progresso ? S'o Paulo. Alors que des artistes comme Alex Raymond et Milton Caniff pr't'rent des originaux, Eisner n'en confia aucuns ? mais il fut pr'sent? comme O G'nio (le g'nie), et des reproductions de s'quences de Spirit 10

Published title pages to The Spirit: 'Stop the Plot!' (December 5, 1948), 'Dolan Walks a Beat? (April 17, 1949), 'Lurid Love? (September 18, 1949) Premi'res de couverture de la s'rie Le Spirit': ''Stop the Plot!'? (5 d'cembre 1948), ''Dolan Walks a Beat'? (17 avril 1949), ''Lurid Love'? (18 septembre 1949) what was billed as 'The First International Exhibition of Comics.' Opening on June 18, 1951, it ran until July 2 at the Centro de Cultura e Progresso in S'o Paulo. While artists like Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff loaned originals, none arrived from Eisner'but he was highlighted as O G'nio (the Genius), and reproductions of Spirit sequences were displayed, analyzed in the evolutionary timeline, equated with the works of Orson Welles, and hailed in a review in the journal O globo as 'a high point of the modern expressionist trend.' It was only after the end of World War II that The Spirit spread beyond Brazil in South America, albeit sporadically. In Spanish, it was briefly renamed El Lince (The Lynx) in Argentina in 1947 and El Spirit in Mexico in the early 1950s as he became a character occasionally featured on the cover of Paquin. Both attempts to launch the series in Spain, first in 1948 and then (by Joaqu'n de Haro) in 1950, managed only four issues each. As often happened elsewhere, fellow professionals and fan communities did much to put Eisner's forgotten hero into the international spotlight. For instance, the publishers of the new monthly linus were such aficionados of The Spirit that they introduced it in Italian in the magazine in 1968. This attempt was short lived, however, as they had not secured the rights; these belonged to rival title Eureka, which ran the stories for many years. Readers in France would have to wait until 1967's hardcover anthology Les chefs-d''uvre de la'bande dessin'e (The masterpieces of comics), edited by Jacques Sternberg, Michel Caen, and Jacques Lob, for their first glimpse'not of one of Eisner's classics, but of his 1966 origin story from the Harvey Comics special, in black and white and with the name changed (for the first and last time) to L'Esprit. Thereafter, The Spirit appeared in French under its original moniker in every issue of the monthly Pogo (later Poco) between 1969 and 1971, and then in twenty-eight episodes in colour in the French weekly Tintin (published simultaneously in Dutch as Kuifje) from 1973 to 1975. A youth-oriented magazine built around Herg''s boy reporter might seem an unlikely showcase for an intensely charged series with noir themes and femmes fatales, but the addition of carefully selected stories was driven by its editor, Greg (Michel R'gnier). furent affich'es, analys'es chronologiquement, compar'es ? des 'uvres d'Orson Welles, et salu'es dans une review du journal O globo comme ''un point culminant de la tendance moderne expressionniste''. Ce fut seulement apr's la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale que Le Spirit se propagea au-del? du Br'sil en Am'rique du Sud, bien que de fa'on sporadique. En espagnol, il a 't? bri'vement rebaptis? El Lince (Le Lynx) en Argentine en 1947 et El Spirit au Mexique dans les ann'es 1950, lorsqu'il devint un personnage parfois pr'sent? sur la couverture de Paquin. Les deux tentatives de lancement de la s'rie en Espagne, d'abord en 1948, puis (par Joaqu'n de Haro) en 1950, n'ont seulement dur? que quatre num'ros chacune. Comme souvent ailleurs, d'autres professionnels et des communaut's de fans ont fait beaucoup pour mettre le h'ros oubli? d'Eisner sur la sc'ne internationale. Par exemple, les 'diteurs du nouveau mensuel linus 'taient de tels fans du Spirit qu'ils l'ont introduit en italien dans le magazine en 1968. Cette tentative a 't? de courte dur'e cependant, car ils n'avaient pas obtenu les droits'; ceux-ci appartenaient ? leur rival Eureka, qui a publi? les histoires pendant de nombreuses ann'es. Les lecteurs en France devront attendre jusqu'en 1967 l'anthologie Les chefs-d''uvre de la bande dessin'e (The masterpieces of comics), 'dit'e par Jacques Sternberg, Michel Caen, et Jacques Lob, pour leur premier aper'u ? non pas de l'un des classiques d'Eisner, mais de son histoire d'origine en 1966 de l''dition sp'ciale Harvey Comics, en noir et blanc et avec le nom chang? (pour la premi're et derni're fois) en L'Esprit. Par la suite, Le Spirit est paru en fran'ais sous son nom original dans chaque num'ro du mensuel Pogo (plus tard Poco) entre 1969 et 1971, puis en vingt-huit 'pisodes en couleur dans l'hebdomadaire fran'ais Tintin (publi? simultan'ment en n'erlandais sous le nom de Kuifje) de 1973 ? 1975. Un magazine destin? aux jeunes, construit autour du journaliste de Herg', peut sembler une vitrine peu probable pour une s'rie intens'ment charg'e avec des th'mes noirs et des femmes fatales, mais l'ajout d'histoires soigneusement s'lectionn'es a 't? conduit par son r'dacteur en chef, Greg (Michel R'gnier). Eisner a m'me 't? convaincu par Greg de dessiner une nouvelle couverture, qui montre comme le Spirit 'chappe de peu ? un assassin invisible dont la hache coupe non seulement des bouts de son manteau, mais passe aussi symboliquement par l'affiche du Spirit et du logo de Tintin lui-m'me. De mani're surprenante, ce fut seulement lors du deuxi'me Festival international de la bande dessin'e d'Angoul'me en France en 1975 que le jury d'experts d'cerna le Grand Prix ? son h'te am'ricain, Will Eisner, principalement pour Le 11

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Published cover to Tintin no. 68 (1974) featuring the Spirit by Eisner Couverture de Tintin n? 68 (1974) avec le Spirit d'Eisner Eisner was even persuaded by Greg to draw a new cover, which shows the Spirit's narrow escape from an unseen assassin whose axe not only slices off the back of his coat but also symbolically cuts through the Spirit poster and the Tintin logo itself. Remarkably, it was only at France's second annual Angoul'me International Comics Festival in 1975 that the jury of experts awarded the Grand Prix to their American guest, Will Eisner, primarily for The Spirit. In a preface to the twentieth-anniversary book about Angoul'me, Eisner wrote: 'A key event for me took place in 1975. That year, I received the Grand Prix of Angoul'me 2. It was a time of great movements. Bande dessin'e had just reached maturity and European professionals would propel it towards new horizons. In the United States, the underground was responsible for making comix known and that influence spread to Europe. The French were trying to create a new breed of comics, far from the superheroes which had dominated the scene for so long.' At the festival, Casterman released La ballade de la mer sal'e (The Ballad of the Salt Sea), compiling Hugo Pratt's earliest Corto Maltese stories from Italy into a large paperback of 160 pages in black and white, an atypical format for a French album. Eisner would have known that Pratt's book was awarded the best realistic international work at the 1976 festival, and that it sold well enough to be reprinted several times and become the centrepiece of Casterman's pioneering collection, Les grands romans de la bande dessin'e (The great novels of comics). Eisner could see that his dream of a growing audience supporting serious literary comics was becoming a reality. In his interview with John Benson in 1968, he had sounded cautious, even dubious, about whether such a market could be developed. 'I'd jump into it in ten minutes if I felt that there was a really substantial need for it, or a substantial appreciation,' he said. 'But I suspect, and I found that happening in The Spirit toward the last few years I was doing it, that people haven't the patience to read that long, or to devote that much time or that much attention to a lengthy thing. You look at the comic strips in the newspapers; they're all very short and punchy things.' Still, he was clearly keen when he added, 'This is probably the way I'd go. But I don't think the media itself, right now, unless I misread the public, can stand an extreme acceleration into that area.' Eisner witnessed that acceleration firsthand in the early 1970s, partly in France and across Europe, partly in the emergence of personal and political content for adults in American underground comix. Perhaps what would most inspire his peers and successors to this day was his decision not to retire and spend the rest of his days by his Florida pool, but to find renewed energy to vigorously reengage with the medium in his later years. He debunked the truism that as creators age, they inevitably sink into formula and repetition or gradually decline in quantity or quality. Eisner brought to the form his maturity, his artistry developed through the decades, and his own lived and contemplated experience. He demonstrated that comics need not be solely a young person's game, but a lifelong quest. In America's taboo-breaking, risk-taking cartoonists and in his international peers, Eisner recognised and inspired kindred creators who were called to pursue the same mission that drove him to the very end: to advance and expand the graphic novel form. Spirit. Dans une pr'face du livre sur le vingti'me anniversaire d'Angoul'me, Eisner 'crit': ''Un 'v'nement cl? pour moi a eu lieu en 1975. Cette ann'e-l', je re'us le Grand Prix d'Angoul'me 2. Ce fut un moment de grands changements. La bande dessin'e venait d'atteindre l''ge m'r et les professionnels europ'ens allaient la propulser vers de nouveaux horizons. Aux 'tats-Unis, l'avant-garde rendait les comics connus et cette influence se r'pandit en Europe. Les Fran'ais essayaient de cr'er un nouveau type de bande dessin'e, loin des super-h'ros qui avaient domin? la sc'ne pendant si longtemps''. Au festival, Casterman publia La ballade de la mer sal'e (The Ballad of the Salt Sea), la compilation italienne des premi'res histoires de Corto Maltese de Hugo Pratt dans un grand livre de poche de 160 pages en noir et blanc, un format atypique pour un album en fran'ais. Eisner savait que le livre de Pratt recevrait le prix du meilleur travail international r'aliste au festival de 1976 et qu'il vendrait suffisamment pour 'tre r'imprim? ? plusieurs reprises et devenir la pi'ce ma'tresse de la collection d'avant-garde de Casterman, Les Grands Romans de la bande dessin'e. Eisner pouvait voir que son r've d'un public de plus en plus large appr'ciant les BD litt'raires s'rieuses devenait une r'alit'. Dans son entretien avec John Benson en 1968, il avait donn? l'impression d''tre prudent, voire dubitatif, quant ? savoir si un tel march? pourrait 'tre d'velopp'. ''J'en ferais partie en dix minutes si je sentais qu'il y avait un besoin vraiment important, ou une appr'ciation r'elle,'? dit-il. ''Mais je soup'onne, et c'est ce que j'ai constat? dans les derni'res ann'es du Spirit, que les gens n'ont pas la patience de lire si longtemps, ou de consacrer beaucoup de temps ou beaucoup d'attention ? quelque chose de long. Regardez les bandes dessin'es dans les journaux'; elles sont toutes tr's courtes et percutantes. ? Pourtant, il 'tait tr's clair quand il a ajout'': ? Voici ce que je ferais probablement. Mais je ne pense pas que le m'dia lui-m'me, en ce moment, ? moins que je n'aie pas compris le public, puisse supporter une acc'l'ration extr'me dans ce domaine.'? Eisner a 't? directement t'moin de cette acc'l'ration au d'but des ann'es 1970, en partie en France et en Europe, en partie dans l''mergence de contenus personnel et politique pour les adultes dans les comics underground am'ricains. Peut-'tre que ce qui va le plus inspirer ses pairs et ses successeurs est sa d'cision de ne pas prendre sa retraite et de passer le reste de ses jours pr's de sa piscine en Floride, mais de trouver un regain d''nergie pour se remettre au travail dans ses derni'res ann'es. Il a d'mystifi? la croyance que plus les cr'ateurs vieillissent, plus ils sombrent in'vitablement dans les m'mes formules et les r'p'titions ou progressivement diminuent la quantit? ou la qualit? de leur production. Eisner a apport? sa maturit? au format, son art d'velopp? au fil des d'cennies, et sa propre exp'rience v'cue et pens'e. Il a d'montr? que la bande dessin'e ne doit pas 'tre uniquement l'affaire d'une jeune personne, mais une qu'te permanente. Eisner s'est reconnu dans les illustrateurs qui osent et brisent les tabous et dans ses pairs internationaux, et a inspir? ses proches cr'ateurs qui ont 't? appel's ? poursuivre la m'me mission qui l'a conduit jusqu'? la fin': faire avancer et d'velopper le format du roman graphique. 13

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