Originally posted by New York TimesWill Eisner, an innovative comic-book artist who created the Spirit, a hero without superpowers, and the first modern graphic novel, "A Contract With God," died on Monday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he lived. He was 87.
His death came after quadruple bypass surgery, said Denis Kitchen, his friend and publisher.
Comics fans call the Spirit "The Citizen Kane" of comics for its innovation, its seriousness and its influence. The first installment appeared in June 1940 as part of a syndicated comics section he had begun producing a year earlier as an insert for Sunday papers. It featured a detective, Denny Colt, who was killed off on the third page. Or so it seemed.
Will Eisner not only deserves to be remembered for The Spirit and being one of the guys who damn near invented comics in the Forties (or at the very least the studio system) he is also the man who invented the concept of the graphic novel and put comics back on the path of exploring subjects other than super-heroes.
Without Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art, there is no Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. Without A Contract From God, hell name it - would Gaiman's Sandman have been possible? Chadwick's Concrete? And A Contract From God is not just the tabula rasa for graphic novels and non-super-hero material, it's better, ten times better than 99% of what is on the stands today.
It was the main lineup: Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, and Red Hulk. On paper, it sounds a bit ludicrous. I mean, Rhino took on Thor and won! Let me repeat that. Rhino went one-on-one with the God of Thunder...and WON!