Alter Ego #48 (2005)

Can you imagine what it must be like to be incredible at something? Not just really good, not just terrific, but really great? As in, one of the best people ever to do what you do? Few people have that experience. Olympic athletes maybe, or Pulitzer Prize winners, or Bill Gates. Will Eisner was such a man. Eisner, the cartoonist who created "The Spirit" and pioneered the field of graphic novels, was a legend. He was a genius, one of the top four or five cartoonists of all time. Perhaps alongside Jack Kirby, Eisner is one of the finest cartoonists to come out of the United States (though you can easily make a case for Kurtzman, Barks, Crumb, perhaps even Frank Miller in terms of greatness). Eisner’s command of light and shadows, feel for character and mood, mastery of the storytelling medium, and ability to tell mature stories, were unequaled in the field. Even in his 80s, Eisner was doing brilliant comics – his book on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was released to thunderous acclaim this year. Which makes his death on January 3rd, at the age of 87 so sad.

Eisner was a truly beloved figure in the world of comics, and that is part of the point of this issue of Alter Ego, which pays tribute to both the man and the legend of Eisner. The main feature in this issue is a long and charming interview with Eisner, done several months before his death. As usual, Eisner is a wonderful interview subject. He sheds light on the past while maintaing his typical grace and good humor. Editor Roy Thomas adds some wonderful art, and the interview takes on the odd patina of a nostalgic and warm reminiscence.

Also in the issue, we get a series of tributes to Eisner from such luminaries as Gene Colan and Stan Lee, accompanied by some wonderful rare sketches by the great cartoonists.

The most amazing piece in the issue is a short reminisence by artist Alex Savuik about Eisner. Savuik worked on perhaps the final Spirit story, doing pencils for a tale that would see print in the Dark Horse comic The Escapist. We see the evolution of the art on the piece, from a nice sketch by Savuik to a gorgeous rain-swept scene by Eisner. Even at age 87, the great man still had it.

I never knew him, but I miss Will Eisner. He was truly a great in his field.


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