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A Contract with God Paperback – December 17, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (December 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039332804X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393328042
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,538 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It's fair to say that Will Eisner invented modern comic art. A Contract with God has been called the first graphic novel, and its divergence from traditional comics themes and forms highlights Eisner's foresight and brilliance. Dealing with stories and memories from his childhood in a Bronx tenement, he explores the brutality, fragility, and tenderness possible among people living in close quarters close to the poverty line. The four stories here are tough but funny, deep but finely detailed, much like the traditional Jewish stories he drew upon to flavor his own work. Ending reflectively (and perhaps autobiographically), A Contract with God shows us a young man peering out into his city as he decides whether and how to face adulthood. You won't see that in the funny papers. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Will Eisner's art revolutionized comics.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Eisner was not only ahead of his times; the present times are still catching up to him.” (John Updike)

“Harrowingly magnificent.” (Kurt Vonnegut)

More About the Author

WILL EISNER was born on March 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. By the time of his death on January 3, 2005, Will Eisner was recognized internationally as one of the giants in the field of sequential art, a term he coined.

In a career that spanned nearly eight decades - from the dawn of the comic book to the advent of digital comics - Will Eisner was truly the 'Father of the Graphic Novel' and the 'Orson Welles of Comics.' He broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics and was the creator of The Spirit, John Law, Lady Luck, Mr. Mystic, Uncle Sam, Blackhawk, Sheena, and countless others.

During World War II, Will Eisner used the comic format to develop training and equipment maintenance manuals for the US Army. After the war this continued as the Army's "PS Magazine" which is still being produced today. Will Eisner taught Sequential Art at the New York School of Visual Arts for 20 years. The textbooks that he wrote were based on his course and are still bestsellers. In 1978, Will Eisner wrote "A Contract with God," the first modern Graphic Novel. This was followed by almost 20 additional graphic novels over the following 25 years.

The "Oscars" of the Comic Industry are called The Eisner Awards, and named after Will Eisner. The Eisners are presented annually before a packed ballroom at San Diego Comic-Con, America's largest comics convention.

Wizard magazine named Eisner "the most influential comic artist of all time." Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-prize winning novel "Kavalier and Clay" is based in good part on Eisner. In 2002, Eisner received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Federation for Jewish Culture, presented by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman.

"Like" the Official Will Eisner Facebook Page and visit www.WillEisner.com for more information about Will Eisner.

Customer Reviews

The quality of this ebook is really horrible.
Michael A Amaraut
Simply put, this is a must read for anyone who likes graphic novels!
AZ Pete
Wonderful stories, fully-realised characters, charming artwork.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Zack Davisson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
It is an accepted fact in the comic book world that Will Eisner is one of the giants. He has pushed the envelope, single-handedly transforming the medium from one only capable of churning out simplistic kid's fantasies into an accepted vehicle for Art (with a capitol "A!"). The comic book industries highest award, The Eisner, is named after him. All possible accolades are piled upon Will Eisner. Strange, then, that so few comics fans (myself included) have actually read his comics. I decided to change that by buying this book.
"A Contract with God" is a deliberate attempt, the first actually, of using the combination of words and pictures to relate a story of the human condition on par with any works of great literature. It is the first ever "Graphic Novel," printed solely in book form and not merely a collection of serialized stories. Eisner had lofty goals for this slim volume. Semi-autobiographical, he told stories of the Jewish slums of New York around the time of the Great Depression. Being neither Jewish, nor from the East Coast, nor alive during the Great Depression, I was not sure how well I would relate to the book.
Well, because he is one of the giants, Eisner uses words and pictures to bridge the gap between his experience and mine, finding common ground and understanding. "A Contract with God" is entertaining, addictive and enlightening. I can honestly say that I am better for having read it. Go ahead, give it a try.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
Most of us think of Will Eisner as the creator of a terrific comic of the 1940s called The Spirit -- which he is. But we forget that in this book, first published in 1978, he also practically invented the modern "graphic novel." No superheroes here, just ordinary Jewish immigrant families in a tenement building in the Bronx. There actually are four stories here. "A Contract with God" is the story of Frimme Hersh, who made a deal with the Almighty when he was a boy in Poland, that he would do his best in life and God should look out for him in return. He comes to America, becomes quietly successful, is respected by his neighbors and his synagogue, and things are going okay. Then his adored adopted daughter dies suddenly. God has broken the contract, and Frimme is no longer bound by it, either. It's a very satisfying, Sholom Aleichem sort of story. "The Street Singer" tells of an out-of-work bookkeeper during the Depression who finds he can earn a few thrown pennies singing in the allies of tenement buildings. An ex-diva decides to promote him (for her own purposes), but the money she gives him goes for booze instead. This one is interesting -- there really were street singers in New York -- but I found it much less readable. "The Super," about an authoritarian German building superintendent, is a cautionary tale, sort of, about not messing with Lolitas when they come a-calling, and it's rather a lightweight piece. "Cookalein," however, is a superior work, about the escape of young city-dwellers to the Adirondacks in the summer, searching for social and financial advancement through marriage. There's some delicious irony here. Eisner is generally a very good storyteller of this milieu, and he does it all in black-and-white pen work. He's a master of characterization through facial expression and other detail, and there's a reason this volume has been reprinted so many times in the past quarter century.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yakov Hadash VINE VOICE on November 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Will Eisner is, unquestionably, the best comics artist in the world. This book is historically significant because it is called "the first graphic novel." Four stories, each with their own pacing, visual style, and themes.
This would make a great gift for anyone who likes comics or Jewish stories. There is, however, nudity and sex (which is treated with the utmost realism -- this isn't pornography!), so beware of that.
This and all other Eisner is highly, highly recommended. // koby c.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "reviewerx" on April 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Magnificent simplicity yet concentrated in humanistic mechanics. Will Eisner's creation delivers the 1930s in a single drop - the culture, the depression, human relations, the dynamism of emotions. The stories of Fremme Hersch, the Jew who had a contract with God, the saga of the street singer's ill fortune, the tale of emotions as chance intertwines people - all tied by the common element of tenement dwellers gives a glimpse of life in 1930s almost in its exactitude. As the first of its genre, you will be proud to own it and after reading it, you will be saddened to learn that not much has changed for relationships and delighted that not all needs to die.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gagewyn on November 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
A Contract with God tells the stories of people living in a tenement in 1930's New York. The format is similar to comic book, but more like illustrated text, because there is about one frame per page. Maybe this is because the stories are more serious than the comic genre usually deals with, and altering it here is a way to get this to a different audience than the usual comic book crowd.

The stories: The Super tells about the super in a building and shows different kinds of monsters in society. A story about a street singer - in the 30's out of work people might go from block to block and sing in the streets in the hopes of money being tossed out the windows to them. A story following people's vacations. SIngle people pretend to be rich on vacation in the hopes of snagging a rich spouse. I particularly liked this one (and it ends happily).

Th stories here are not for kids since there is a lot of sex and desperation. However these are well done comic book stories, and would be good for someone who is into or new to the genre.
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