Well speak of the devil, here’s a new Kickstarter from the Locust Moon folks that plans to reprint some long lost early work by Will Eisner. The story of how it came to light is one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard:
A collector outside Philly discovered 104 zinc plates engraved with work that Eisner did in his teens, under the name Willis B. Rensie. Somehow these plates were never melted down, made it through WWII, and are still part of an enormous collection of ’30s era plates. No one had any idea this massively important stuff was in there.
It’s like finding the notebooks of a teenage Shakespeare — you can see Eisner experimenting, imitating, developing, and gradually becoming the fully formed storyteller that we know. It’s an incredibly intimate look at an incredibly talented kid finding his voice and turning into a full-fledged seminal artist.
The strips—Harry Karry and Uncle Otto—are surely early work, but provide a humanizing look at Eisner’s deveopment. It’s also fascinating how these zinc plates made it through so much history and zinc speculation. I remember Denis Kitchen telling me that these kinds of printing plates were considered so valuable that original art was sometimes used as packing material to preserve the plates….and that’s the way that some golden age art survived.
The Locust Moon folks seek $20,000 to reprint a nice hardcover of this work. Given their sterling production on the Little Nemo Dream a Little Dream project, you know it will be a lovely book. They’re 10% of the way there, so go help them get this well over the finish line.