Bloomsbury Press, $28.00, 360 pages
Will Eisner was to comics what John Ford was to westerns: he made them an art. Easily ranked alongside Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Osamu Tezuka as the most important person in sequential art, Eisner was such a phenomenon that anything written about him is bound to be interesting.
Michael Schumacher’s book Will Eisner: A Dreamer’s Life in Comics isn’t the first biography of the artist, but it could be the last, considering how comprehensively it’s written. It follows Eisner through his childhood in tenements, battling anti-Semitism, to his modest start in comics, running a business in a room smaller than many apartments. His years doing the Spirit make up the heart of the book, followed by his hitch cartooning for the army. The last hundred pages are the most interesting, as they detail Eisner’s years turning out his brilliant tragic parables revolving around real life in real cities.
The one drawback of the book is that, while it gives everything you’d want to know about what Eisner did, it offers surprisingly scant info about who he was–his emotional life and his beliefs. Thankfully, Eisner wrote autobiographical comics that better resolve those issues, collected in Life, In Pictures.
Reviewed by Corey Pung