Will Eisner Week: Eisner’s Highschool Art Assignments

Among the many astonishing gems in the Will Eisner Collection here at the Cartoon Library, there are dozens of pieces that Will did as a high school student. If you’re in awe of the work he did as an adult for The Spirit, Contract With God, and countless others, just check out how impressive his chops were as a 16 year old student at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx.

Will Eisner original, 1933. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Will Eisner original, 1933. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Will Eisner original, 1933. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Will Eisner original, 1933. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

These two portraits, likely done for a high school art assignment, date back to 1933. Here at the Cartoon Library we have put our collective knowledge together to try to identify who Eisner was depicting, but it has proven difficult for us to focus on anything other than his remarkable artistic skill at such a young age. Could it be Vladimir Lenin? Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey? We turn the question over to you, dear readers, and hope you’ll help us decide.

Will Eisner Week: Eisner’s Military Memorabilia

Happy Will Eisner Week! The Cartoon Library is happy to once again participate in this celebration of Eisner’s legacy, so that we can share with you some of the amazing items in the Will Eisner Collection that resides here. The collection contains original and published work by Eisner and by various artists who worked for him, as well as correspondence, articles, commercial publications and more.

Last year we highlighted originals from The Spirit, a copy of Eisner’s commercial work for Gre-Solvent (the money from which he used to start Eisner & Iger Studio), and an original from Eisner’s military cartoon Joe Dope.

Eisner was drafted into the service in early 1942, and spent his next three years working on a number of cartooning projects for army training programs, including his well-remembered pieces for PS- The Preventative Maintenance Monthly magazine (originally titled Army Motors). Even after returning to civillian life in 1945, Eisner would continue on as the art director for Preventative Maintenance until 1972.

Below, found in the Eisner archive, are his military dog tags, identification card, and Aberdeen Proving Ground Pin.

Will Eisner's military dog tags. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Will Eisner’s military dog tags. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Will Eisner's military identification card. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Will Eisner’s military identification card. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Will Eisner's Aberdeen Proving Ground Pin with photo. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Will Eisner’s Aberdeen Proving Ground Pin with photo. From the Will Eisner Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Happy Birthday, Will Eisner!

Will Eisner Week: Joe Dope

Corporal Will Eisner. Photo from The Will Eisner Collection, of The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

In early 1942, Eisner was drafted into the war- leaving behind his trusted assistants to work on The Spirit during his time on duty. While away, he was given a number of assignments for camp newspapers, and eventually began to work with the Hollabird Depot on a publication called Army Motors. As cartoonist for the magazine, Eisner used his medium to teach G.I.’s about preventative maintenance in their own language. It was there that he developed Joe Dope, an educational comic strip revolving around the clumsy Joe and his mishaps, framed to teach army safety lessons. Eventually, Eisner and Joe Dope moved on to PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, a U.S. Army magazine on proper equipment maintenance. Eisner remained the artistic director from the magazine’s inception in 1951 through 1972.

Below is an original Joe Dope illustration by Eisner, circa 1944 for Army Motors.

Joe Dope. Original illustration from The Will Eisner Collection, of The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

 

Thank you all for keeping up with us during Will Eisner Week! We hope you will come check out Will’s collection at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum sometime soon. For a closer look at the holdings, you can view the finding aid here.

We’ll resume our normal posting format come Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

Will Eisner Week: Researching Religion in Eisner’s Work

Interview with Martin Lund, Researcher at the Cartoon Library February 7-22, 2012

Swedish Ph. D. Candidate Martin Lund

Martin Lund is a Ph.D. candidate in Jewish Studies at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies at Lund University in Sweden.  He arrived at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum on February 7th, 2012 with a two-week research request to view the collection of Will Eisner’s papers.  These 7 boxes contain Eisner’s personal and business correspondence, articles, and commercial publications.

Caitlin McGurk: Thanks for making time to talk with me! Can you tell me a bit about your Ph.D. thesis work, and what you’re hoping to gain from using the Eisner collection?

Martin Lund: The general subject of my thesis is “Jewish Cultural Memories in and of American Comics”. I’m looking specifically at Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s original run on “Superman”, Will Eisner, and Chris Claremont’s “Uncanny X-Men”.

CM: Interesting choices – why those creators specifically?

ML: I chose them for the fact that they worked in mainstream comics… comics that were created for and have reached a much broader audience. I didn’t want to write about more alternative creators like Art Spiegelman or Harvey Pekar whose works are created with more of an outspoken intention to reflect the Jewish experience. Instead, I was looking to find something less obvious. The three main focuses of my thesis are 1- How, if at all, is the fact that they (Siegel, Shuster, Eisner, and Claremont) were Jewish reflected in their work? 2- How is this fact argued in recent writings on Jews in comics? 3- How do similarities and discrepancies between these two issues reflect and effect contemporary American Jewish identity politics?

CM: I see, so you’re looking at other critical works that address this topic as well?

ML: Yes. In fact, a lot of my inspiration came from reading material on similar issues, but ones I felt were not as critical and contextualized as they could be. A lot of the work on Jews in comics that I will be studying is… I guess you can label it post-Michael Chabon’s fantastic novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”, because of the effect the book seems to have had on the discourse. I want to read both collections of material from a cultural history and sociology perspective, and through this hopefully further the understanding of how comics reflect and are said to reflect the American Jewish experience in the past century.

CM: This all sounds fascinating! So, have you found any especially interesting gems in the Eisner collection so far?

ML: Oh, I’d say just about all of it is fascinating – to me at least! There is a lot of old business correspondence in there between “Jerry” Iger, Eisner, and E.M. (“Busy”) Arnold from the studio days of working on “The Spirit”. The way that Arnold criticizes Eisner’s work is hilarious – very harsh and matter-of-fact. Another amazing thing to see is all of the fan mail and his correspondence with some of the greats. His exchange of letters with Harvey Kurtzman, recommendations from Art Spiegelman, and even a few lines from Brian Michael Bendis, a creator who is (I think very deservedly) famous in his own right today, thanking Eisner for the inspiration he provided. In his responses to many now-famous creators who sent him samples of their work, Eisner often gives them an artistic tip or two.

CM: Haha, excellent. I assume you’ve found what you’ve been looking for in the Eisner holdings – can you talk a bit about how you’re analyzing all of the material? What do you look for in particular to support your thesis?

ML: I look for keywords and topics in his personal writings – like anything pertaining to his views on life, or of course to Judaism or Jewishness in general. A lot of what I’ve found is along the lines of what Eisner said in other places, about not considering himself a particularly Jewish writer, but instead insisting that he just “wrote what he knew”. He appears like more of an observer – reporting the human experience through the lens that he knows, which, he writes, happens to be Jewish culture. He refers to himself as a Jewish Frank McCourt. He also mentions in one correspondence about “The Spirit” that only Jules Feiffer considered “The Spirit” to be Jewish, even underlining the word “only”.

CM: I’m really glad to hear it was fulfilling research! So, have you used comics in your religious studies research before, or do you plan to again? I think it’s a very unique discipline to apply comics to, so all of this has been fascinating to hear about.

ML: Comics and religion are what I want to study, for as long as I’m able to. I’ve actually been working on another piece during my stay in Columbus, totally unrelated to my thesis, about Jack Chick’s “Chick Tracts”. They are definitely a private obsession of mine. I’m looking at Chick’s use of stereotypes – the division of humanity into what he calls the saved and the lost – and how he uses these in his tracts for propaganda purposes.

CM: As a New Yorker, I’ve amassed quite a collection of Chick Tracts myself. High entertainment! Both of the projects you’re working on sound incredible – please keep us posted on when they are available. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, and for coming all the way from Sweden to use our collection!

Will Eisner Week: Gre-Solvent

Drawn by a 19 year old Will Eisner as a commercial job for the cleaning product “Gre-Solvent”; without the strip below Eisner & Iger Studio (also known as Syndicated Features Corporation) may have never existed.

"Gre-Solvent" Advertisement drawn by Will Eisner. From The Will Eisner Collection, of The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

In 1936 after the dissolve of Samuel Maxwell “Jerry” Iger’s Wow, What a Magazine!, Iger and Eisner teamed up with the plan of forming a studio that would produce comics “on demand”. Comic publishers at the time had previously focused on reprints of newspaper strips, while Eisner & Iger were able to bring something new to the table: full feature comic stories created specifically for their publication.

As legend has it, Iger was hesitant about the finances it would require to start up a company. Eisner convinced him otherwise by using the $15 he had received for drawing the “Gre-Solvent” ad to pay the first 3 months rent for an office space (rent being $5 per month). Thus emerged Eisner & Iger Studio, and an opportunity for young cartoonists they hired such as Jack Kirby, Wallace Wood, and Jules Feiffer to first enter the field.

Will Eisner Week: The Spirit

Happy Will Eisner Week, everyone! In honor of Will’s birthday (tomorrow, March 6th) and to take part in the annual Will Eisner Week celebration, the blog will be updated daily with Eisner as our focus, including selections from The Will Eisner Collection here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. The collection contains original and published work by Eisner and by various artists who worked for him, as well as correspondence, articles, and commercial publications. You can browse the finding aid for this collection here.

Early rendition of "The Spirit" in TuPenny Adventure Comics. The Will Eisner Collection, of The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Stay tuned this week for originals, early publications, and Eisner-related events and interviews!