A compelling visual storyteller, Eisner is considered to be one of the
most influential comic book artists of all time. He has been called "the
Leonardo of the comic-book form" and the "single person most
responsible for giving comics its brains." Since the 1930s, Eisner
has written and illustrated numerous comic books and weekly strips, including
the internationally acclaimed "The Spirit" (1940-52), instructional
comics for the U.S. Army and 16 graphic novels. The Will Eisner Comic
Industry Award is named in his honor as a testament to his contributions
to the field.
Eisner coined the phrase "graphic novel" to describe a substantial
comic book, often more than 200 pages in length, that consists of a single
dramatic story or several interconnected narratives told through expressive
illustration art. His first graphic novel, "A Contract with God"
(1977), comprises four stories about Jewish tenement life in the Bronx,
where he grew up. Later examples, such as "A Life Force" (1983),
"The Dreamer" (1986) and "Last Day in Vietnam" (2000),
also drew from his personal experiences and, as is the case with all his
work, provided realistic insight into the human condition.
In the lecture, Eisner
discussed his approach to writing and illustrating graphic novels and
explored his views on the evolution of popular visual media. Images from
early wordless books and a variety of recent graphic novels were shown,
along with a selection of Eisner's own drawings.
The lecture was sponsored by the Swann
Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon, which is administered by the
Library of Congress and supports the preservation and development of the
Swann Cartoon Collection and related collections; maintains a continuing
program of exhibitions and related public programs; and provides funding
for the only scholarly fellowship in the field.