March 1-10 marks the 10-day-long celebration of the birth of Will Eisner (who was born on March 6, 1917), which has — in spite of it being 10 days in length — been dubbed Will Eisner Week. Eisner, who hailed from Brooklyn, New York, is considered not only one of the founding fathers of the comicbook industry, but the creator of graphic novel itself. In fact, one of the comic industry's most prestigious awards is named after him. The Eisner Awards (considered by many as the “Oscars” of the comicbook industry), is awarded at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Eisner’s career spanned some eight decades — from the dawn of comicbooks themselves, to the advent of digital comics. For his part, Eisner broke new ground in the development of the visual narrative and the language of comics (coining the term “Sequential Art”).
Hence it is only right that the industry that he helped found would spend 10 days celebrating his birth. During this “metric week”(as one comicbook historian calls it) a series of events will be held across the country in more than a dozen cities celebrating graphic novels, free speech awareness, as well as the legacy and career of one of the most innovative figures in the history of the medium. The theme of the week is, “Read a Graphic Novel,” which is the overiding message of the week’s events. Cities that are holding celebrations range from New York and Boston, to Minneapolis, to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.
As if it needed greater significance, Eisner’s birthday celebration this year is also the 35th anniversary of the 1978 publication of Eisner’s groundbreaking graphic novel, A Contract with God. According to Will Eisner Week Organizing Committee Chair Danny Fingeroth, “This year, we will be having Will Eisner Week celebrations in more places than ever before. The people doing the events are planning some amazing happenings that will spread the word about how cool graphic novels are, and that celebrate Will Eisner’s astonishing body of work done over a career that spanned seven decades.”
Will Eisner Week Events: City by City
March 1-15, Savannah, GA: Savannah College of Art and Design will hold several events run by Professor David Duncan, including a March 2 screening of Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist and various Eisner-themed art sessions.
March 2, 4:00-4:55 p.m., Seattle, WA: Emerald City Comic Convention panel: Eisner’s A Contract With God — Reflections on the 35th Anniversary, featuring Dennis O’Neil, Batton Lash, Matt Fraction, Jackie Estrada, and Ben Saunders.
March 3-10, Pittsburgh, PA: Various events at the Toonseum, including a screening of the documentary Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist by Andrew & Jon Cooke on March 6.
March 4-8, Arkadelphia, AR: The Comics Arts Club of Henderson State University, under the direction of Professor Randy Duncan, will study Eisner’s work in the context of Immigrant Experience Focus Week.
March 6: 7:30 p.m., Portland, OR: The Art Institute of Portland: Lecture on Eisner by Dark Horse Editor Diana Schutz.
March 7, 6:30-9:30 p.m., New York, NY: The Society of Illustrators hosts a Will Eisner Sketch Night.
March 7, 6:00 p.m., New York, NY: Columbia University, Butler Library, room 523. Celebrate the most recent comics acquisitions of Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library with moderator Paul Levitz and panelists Larry Tye, Jay Emmett, Denny O’Neil, and Al Jaffee.
March 7, 7:00-9:00 p.m., San Francisco, CA: The Cartoon Art Museum. An Evening with Mario Hernandez, including a discussion of Eisner’s influence.
March 7, 7:30 p.m., Portland, OR: The Jack London Bar. A reading of Eisner’s Last Day in Vietnam, with Brian Bendis, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Michael Oeming, and Dylan Meconis.
March 7, 7:00-9:30 p.m., Boston, MA: Tufts University. Screening of Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist, followed by a panel discussion including A. David Lewis, Chuck Henebry, and Stephen Weiner.
March 10, 1:00-4:00 p.m., Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis College of Art and Design hosts a Graphic Novel Read-In, featuring a screening of Will Eisner: Portrait of a Sequential Artist.
March 11, 7:00-9:00 p.m., New York, NY: Parsons/The New School, Comics & Picture-Story Symposium. Jeremy Dauber and Danny Fingeroth discuss Eisner’s work in the context of Jewish-American literature.
March 12, White River Junction, VT: Center for Cartoon Studies. Lecture on Eisner by Stephen Bissette. (For CCS students only.)
March 14, 7:30 p.m., Burbank, CA: The Animation Guild will hold a special Comic Art Professional Society meeting devoted to Eisner, hosted by Scott! Shaw.
Check the website for additional updates on other celebrations check.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular comicbook articles and reviews.