[identity profile] dr_hermes.insanejournal.com posting in [community profile] scans_daily



Am I the only one who feels increasingly uncomfortable with Will Eisner's later work? THE SPIRIT ended in 1952, but of course Eisner went on to create a lot more. A CONTRACT WITH GOD, LIFE ON ANOTHER PLANET, THE DREAMER, much more. I've read some of this material and the writing is excellent in every way, but the art bothers me. Everyone seems to be in so much pain. Faces are sagging, mouths puckered in grief, bodies seem ready to break under their own weight. There is a lot of unnecessary drool and faces covered with what seems too thick to be just sweat, as if the people are starting to fall apart. Maybe the necessity of featuring the conventional figure of the Spirit (and his cast) in earlier stories meant Eisner was required to tone this trait down. There's a lot of suffering (both physical and emtional) in the Spirit stories but having a continuing character meant there had to be some healing and recovery, as well. The frequent whimsy and playfulness seemed to vanish with the Spirit.

Date: 2009-05-15 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jlroberson.insanejournal.com
Well, he's deceased, so there won't be any more coming.

But no. My own experience of Eisner, granted, was mostly when I got the Kitchen Sink color SPIRIT series in the 80s, but eventually grew bored because after a while, it seemed more of the same. I came across stuff like CONTRACT WITH GOD later, and I imagine I would have reacted differently to it if, by then, I hadn't been trained in theatre and thus recognized that, while some cartoonists take a filmic approach, Eisner's was in fact theatrical, and this should be kept in mind when looking at the manner in which he does gesture and expression. Which only improved over time. I don't think exaggeration is bad in comics--if they aren't to be the kind of fumetti Marvel seems to want to make them, it's obligatory. (People like Epting or Ross should really start looking at Eisner for this reason)

Now, that said, his later work is really more the sort of thing I admire than enjoy. But that's probably because the concerns he talks about--of the elderly, the retired, the northeastern, and all very specific to that--aren't mine. Though some will be someday and I suppose I'll come back to it then, but I find it easy to leave for now. It's probably a good thing there's at least one long-form cartoonist who has work addressing that.

I will say I was very disappointed in THE PLOT. On one hand, it's fascinating historically. But the closer it gets to the present day, the weaker, I think, it is--I'm not sure if he quite gets the reasons for the appeal and survival of that foul book, particularly among some Muslims(and I felt he was unfair to Muslims in a scene near the end of the book, depicting them as slightly simian toughs). And overall, the book comes across a bit naive, almost broaching the real reason for its survival--that rationality is not actually a human motivator--but not quite getting there. I thought the book needed to understand its enemy a bit better, to try to understand how someone comes to accept it even though it's a hoax, like impoverished people in the mideast. But instead, he seems to think it's only hate that is the cause(rather than a symptom) and dismisses them, rather than understanding those he's (rightfully) condemning. So I found in the end it was informative, but unsatisfying and ultimately ineffective toward anyone but the choir.

Date: 2009-05-15 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] besamim.insanejournal.com
Me, I've always had the opposite reaction to Eisner's later work: I love the art (and the lettering and panel composition, always Eisner's strongest points) but the writing I find melodramatic in comparison to his Spirit work.

Date: 2009-05-15 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jlroberson.insanejournal.com
Oh, I didn't say it was strictly theatrical, just that this was his point of reference. As someone whose comics come from this place as well(my first series was adapted from a play of mine and I'm currently doing a version of Wedekind's LULU--and by the way, I was thrilled to see her show up in the new LOEG for this reason), I find his work technically useful to look at, even if, as a reader, it sometimes leaves me a little cold. Again, I think I may just not yet be old enough--I'm 40--to "get" his later work; I don't think it was being written with someone my age in mind.

But what I mean is that, rather than a "cinematic" approach which is composition-predominant, treating the figure as a subject in the frame, Eisner's approach is more "actorly," following the fluid ups and downs and dynamics of gesture. That he often foregoes any panel boundaries but very liquid washes that only darken, but don't bound, the edge of the storytelling unit, is one part of how this manifests with him. Think of how many pages you can think of in his later work that follow only the motion and speech of the figure, in a series of "peak moments."

That's only a very rough way of trying to describe what I mean, and while I myself try to let my characters "act," I'm more likely to edit those moments down than Eisner, because I try to have each page have its own beginning, middle, and end and rarely let a unit of action stretch more than one at a time. But I'm about plot. Eisner would give his stuff more space, because his stuff was, much more than the work of most cartoonists, focused on character, but not in a way of delineating the character's details, but more an ambient flow.

Again, clumsily put. Someone please tell me what I'm trying to effing say here. Argh!

Date: 2009-05-16 07:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mysteryfan.insanejournal.com
But what I mean is that, rather than a "cinematic" approach which is composition-predominant, treating the figure as a subject in the frame, Eisner's approach is more "actorly," following the fluid ups and downs and dynamics of gesture. That he often foregoes any panel boundaries but very liquid washes that only darken, but don't bound, the edge of the storytelling unit, is one part of how this manifests with him. Think of how many pages you can think of in his later work that follow only the motion and speech of the figure, in a series of "peak moments."

That's really interesting to think about. Do you feel that tends to hold true for his earlier work as well?

Date: 2009-05-16 04:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jlroberson.insanejournal.com
I think his earlier work(I mean the Spirit) reflects this in the figures, but that overall the approach seems more veering toward the cinematic in look(I'm thinking of the settings & layout, for instance, that Miller loved to ape in DD). To me.

Profile

scans_daily: (Default)
Scans Daily
Founded by girl geeks and members of the slash fandom, [community profile] scans_daily strives to provide an atmosphere which is LGBTQ-friendly, anti-racist, anti-ableist, woman-friendly and otherwise discrimination and harassment free.

Bottom line: If slash, feminism or anti-oppressive practice makes you react negatively, [community profile] scans_daily is probably not for you.

Please read the community ethos and rules before posting or commenting.

October 2014

S M T W T F S
    1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags