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The Contract with God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue (A Contract With God, A Life Force, Dropsie Avenue) Hardcover – December 17, 2005


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The Contract with God Trilogy: Life on Dropsie Avenue (A Contract With God, A Life Force, Dropsie Avenue) + Will Eisner's New York: Life in the Big City
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (December 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061055
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.5 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Famed innovator Eisner showed the creators of modern comics what a potentially rich medium they were working with. In particular, he used the term "graphic novel" to sell A Contract with God (1978), a collection of interrelated comics stories about residents in a Jewish tenement section of New York. He returned to that territory in A Life Force (1988), showing one man's uncertain progress, and in Dropsie Avenue (1995), an historical panorama of the whole neighborhood. Printed together for the first time in this volume, the works reinforce each other beautifully. Eisner's virtuoso art always has been admired, but his writing sometimes has been disparaged as thin and sentimental. Over the span of these three books, though, emotions jostle and balance each other; sometimes the stories seem upbeat, sometimes fatalistic. The characters frequently are defeated in the short term but always yearning for more than their surroundings offer. In any case, Eisner's illustrations are superb: water drenches a man walking alone at night in a thunderstorm; a fat housewife athletically performs a "heart attack" right after her husband has collapsed with a real one; aerial cityscapes expand; and every possible expression flickers over the characters' faces. This is an important, wonderful book. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Comics veteran Eisner launched a second career with A Contract with God (1978), one that eclipsed his pioneering 1940s work featuring the masked crimefighter the Spirit and led the way for the contemporary graphic novel. Two further Depression-era books set on the same fictitious street in the Bronx followed. In the wake of Eisner's recent death, the three are here gathered into a single volume. Contract consists of four vignettes, each focusing on a resident of 55 Dropsie Avenue. More ambitious, A Life Force (1983) details the intertwining lives of a handful of the tenement's inhabitants. Dropsie Avenue (1995) portrays the neighborhood's history from 1870, when British immigrants displaced Dutch--descended farmers, to its improbable rebirth from the ruins of the Bronx at the close of the twentieth century. By this point, Eisner's drawing style, always slightly cartoonish, had become even looser and more exaggerated, while his storytelling remained masterful. Along with his other late-life graphic novels, also slated for collection, the trilogy compellingly if melodramatically portrays New York Jewish life. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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

4.8 out of 5 stars
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And Eisner's art is simply beautiful.
Arthur C. Adams
The lives we get a glimpse at show the range of human emotions and development, and grant the reader an overall sense of hope for new renewal.
J. Edgar Mihelic
This book collects three graphic novels by Will Eisner, one of the masters of the comic book format.
Johnny Heering

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Johnny Heering on May 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book collects three graphic novels by Will Eisner, one of the masters of the comic book format. The original "A Contract With God" book is often considered to be the first real graphic novel. It features four short stories about people who lived at 55 Dropsie Avenue in the Bronx during the Great Depression. The title story is about a devout Jew who loses his faith in God when his daughter dies. The other stories are about a street singer, the building superintendant and vacationers in the Catskills. Eisner returned to 55 Dropsie Avenue with "A Life Force", which is a longer story telling the interlocking stories of the building's residents. The final story here is "Dropsie Avenue (The Neighborhood)", which is an extended story about the history of Dropsie Avenue from 1870 to the present. All the stories are absolutely wonderful "slice of life" tales about "normal" people. The Contract With God Trilogy is a mesmerizing, fictional chronicle of a universal American experience as well as Eisner's most poignant and enduring literary legacy.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Arthur C. Adams on January 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I tend to think the "Great American Novel" will never be written. But if there can be a Great American Graphic Novel, this may well be it.

This is basically a set of stories about life in a inner-city tenement, mostly set during the Depression, but with the final volume of the trilogy covering the building's entire history. It is a simple enthralling story.

This is not, of course, your typical comic book. It even far exceeds the standards of the best graphic novels. And there are no superheroes, no giant robots, none of the standard trappings of the form. Its just stories about life, many very poignant.

And Eisner's art is simply beautiful. Jack Kirby is called the King of Comics, and I don't dispute him that title. But if Kirby is "The King", then Will Wisner is the all-powerful, wise and benevolent Emperor of a tiny little land. His work certainly isn't as well-known to the public, even among comic fans, but the art is simply amazing.

To be fair, I found the middle chapter ("A Life Force") somewhat dull. But that's only because its less interesting than the other two -- its still makes for entertaining reading.

If there's one real criticism I have of the book, its that its printed with a brown ink, almost sepia tone in color. While I'd presume that was done to create a period feel for it, I would have preferred black ink.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By M. Dog VINE VOICE on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Comic and cartoon artists are finally getting the respect they have deserved since the Yellow Kid wore his one piece pajama. Artists like Charles Burns and Frank Miller; Seth and Tony Millionaire, all work in a medium whose fan base is basically adult, literate and mainstream. In reading current book reviews of works like "Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth" by Chris Ware or "Blankets" by Craig Thompson, it is clear that the Graphic Novel as an art form no longer requires an asterisk.

All these artists and cartoonists owe this new environment of respect in no small part to the work of Will Eisner, specifically the work contained in this volume. While Eisner was not the first artist to tell a story with pictures, he without question hammered out a stylistic language that others could learn and understand. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that he brought the concept of the graphic novel home and gave it a firm structure and a future. Also important was Eisner's unyielding believe in the graphic novel as a form of fine art, as legitimate a tool for storytelling as any of the traditional oral or written forms. All current artists working in comics owe Eisner in the same way that all Afro-American ballplayers owe a debt of gratitude to Jackie Robinson. Like Robinson, Eisner completely believed in what he was doing and refused to accept anything less than respect for his work, all done in a day when respect didn't come easily or automatically for them.

Now, about the work itself - what can one say? No one will ever replace or improve on Eisner's innate ability to tell a story with pictures. His work was absolutely gorgeous and fluid, the line and brushwork immaculate and dense without every looking fussy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael F. Hopkins on December 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Seems to me that the great genius and timeless vigor
of Will Eisner draws a deadly parallel to another
artistic giant, the fabulous Duke Ellington. Like
the young Ellington, the young Eisner helped usher
in the finest qualities of an entire expressive
idiom at its roots. As did Ellington, Eisner
conceived some of his most creative work decades
after his most acclaimed masterpieces. Most of
all, like Ellington, Eisner's vision continues
to set precedents for future generations, well
after the innovator himself has passed on.

Eisner established much of the groundwork for
Sequential literature in the 1930s and the
1940s, long before anyone ever thought of the
term "graphic novel". With THE SPIRIT, Eisner
laid a firm foundation for the field of Comix
as a literary field. While a handful of folk
such as PRINCE VALIANT's Harold Foster brought
this perspective to bear in landmark work,
Eisner was the one who stepped it up to
directly challenge the notion that Comix
couldn't tackle any subject at any proper
time and place.

The trilogy compiled by W.W. Norton represents
the work which ignited the entire field with
its daring topics, bold execution, and emotional
richness. Well into his "retirement" years by
the late 1970s, Eisner set himself to the telling
of more personal stories which reflected the broad
spectrum of human endeavor. Utilizng his own Jewish
heritage and memories of his youth in New York
City, the good, the bad, and the shades of grey
which often define the balance of each, are all
in play here. Striking with the aggressive jolt
of a 1930s-40s Warner Bros.
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