Comic book pioneer Will Eisner dies at 87
MIAMI (AP) — Will Eisner, the artist who revolutionized comic books with the popular newspaper supplement The Spirit and taught generations of soldiers how to maintain their equipment with the Joe Dope series, has died. He was 87.
Eisner died Monday at Florida Medical Center in Lauderdale Lakes of complications from quadruple bypass heart surgery last month, according to Denis Kitchen, Eisner's publisher for three decades.
"He was absolutely the greatest innovator the industry ever saw," Kitchen said.
Eisner started making comics in the 1930s and was the first to use "silent" balloonless panels to emphasize characters' emotions by focusing attention on finely wrought facial expressions.
He addressed subjects considered unthinkable in comic books and rarely seen at the time in newspaper comics: spousal abuse, tax audits, urban blight and graft.
In 1940, he created a weekly newspaper supplement titled The Spirit, which at its height had a circulation of 5 million in 20 Sunday newspapers. The supplement consisted of a comic book with three self-contained stories, and The Spirit became the most popular.
Its title character was a coroner named Denny Colt, believed murdered by a mad scientist's potion but actually buried alive. He protected the fictional Central City, which was based on New York.
"I had been producing comic books for 15-year-old cretins from Kansas," he told The Associated Press in a 1998 interview. With The Spirit, he was aiming for "a 55-year-old who had his wallet stolen on the subway. You can't talk about heartbreak to a kid."
Eisner was drafted during World War II, and the Army had him create Joe Dope to teach Jeep maintenance to soldiers with a bumbling comic-strip character.
After the war, he went back to The Spirit and continued the series until 1952. The Army also hired him for more instruction manuals, which he produced until the 1970s, Kitchen said.
Eisner's first graphic novel, A Contract with God, was published in 1978, combining elements of comic books and literary novels
An unappreciated artist RIP