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In these rare examples of autobiographical work from comics master Eisner, we see the artist looking back on the expanse of his life. Shown are the New York of his childhood, a family that came together more out of necessity than love, the young artist at war and the ramifications of anti-Semitism at home and in Europe. In an enthusiastic introduction, Scott McCloud tells us, When you enter a 'graphic novels' section of a bookstore, you're looking at Will's handiwork. Indeed, the sense of witnessing history is strong. In The Dreamer, Eisner tells the story of his entry into and hand in creating the comics industry. This section is thinly veiled as fiction but a helpful annotation from the publisher makes clear what the real-world business corollaries were. The central piece of the book is To the Heart of the Storm, in which the artist rides a train through Europe on his way to the war and, as he looks out his window, sees scenes from the past. Eisner's childhood in the Bronx is played out, as are his parents' early lives. This is a rich story, and Eisner's expression of the difficulties faced by Jews in the early part of the 19th century reveals his gritty side. (Oct.)
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Eisners career encompassed much of the history of comic art, from the birth of comic books, in the nineteen-thirties, through the contemporary efflorescence of the graphic novel (a term that Eisner popularized with the 1978 publication of "A Contract with God"). Creating the detective feature "The Spirit" in the nineteen-forties, he developed a flexibility of page layout that married visual complexity to storytelling sophistication. Late in life, inspired by the autobiographical focus of R. Crumb, Eisner began publishing stories based on his own life. The five pieces collected here include evocative accounts of suffering at the hands of anti-Semitic bullies in the Depression-era Bronx, and of early adventures in the comic-book industry. Whatever the subject, Eisner manages a light touch: every page is sure-handed, carried out with subtlety, grace, and wit.
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