Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel is a new book by former DC publisher Paul Levitz that looks at Eisner’s historical contribution to comics. And New York magazine has just excerpted the chapter in which Levitz discusses how and why Eisner is credited with being the midwife of the graphic novel form.
Of course the origin of the GN is a subject heatedly debated, as the article’s intro puts it, “The origin of the graphic novel is a bit of a detective story, and [Eisner is] a principal suspect.” And Levitz writes that calling Eisner the “father of the gn” is “loaded with inaccuracy, emotion, and controversy, even among those with deep respect for Eisner and his work.”
Who then are the other suspects? Levitz notes the phrase “graphic novel” was used on the cover of a 1972 issue of The Sinister House of Secret Love, perhaps the greatest title for a comic ever. So if you want to claim that “graphic novel emerged from the sinister house of secret love,” I think we can stop right there and say job well done. But Levitz, now allowing his scholar flag to fly, digs deeper into well known suspects and more shadowy players such as Otto Nückel and Richard Kyle. I don’t have time to dig in to Levitz’s report right now, but I’m sure comics scholars will be having a field day sooner or later. I doubt we’ll ever know who really invented the graphic novel. Like the Television, it had many parents. If you look at it as a sidestep of the picture books, or go with Spiegelman’s preferred pioneers like Masereel and Milt Gross (who both influenced Eisner), it was just sitting by the side of the road waiting for someone to kickstart it on the journey to 21st century art form.
Speaking of Eisner and Levitz, the latter will be in conversation with Eisner collaborator Jules Feiffer tomorrow night at the SVA theater. It’s a fundraiser but tickets are still available.
An Evening with Jules Feiffer and Paul Levitz
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
School of Visual Arts Theatre
333 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
7:00pm | A Conversation with Jules Feiffer and Paul Levitz—Silas Theatre
8:30pm | Book Signing—SVA Theatre Lobby, in partnership with the SVA Campus Store
General Admission Tickets: $20
SVA Student Tickets: $5
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.