by James A. Owen
On May 28, in association with the Association of Booksellers for Children (ABC) and The Denis Kitchen Art Agency, the Storyopolis Gallery and Bookstore hosted an Evening With The Works Of Will Eisner. Original art going back five decades was hung on every wall in the building, beginning with THE SPIRIT (complete stories, in sequence) and continuing through to his later graphic novel work such as LAST DAY IN VIETNAM.
My first exposure to Will Eisner was in THE SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF COMIC BOOK COMICS in 1982 (I know the date because it was a Christmas present, and it’s written on the flyleaf) and we met at San Diego four years later. In person, he was a remarkable torrent of history and creativity and story – but other than the one Eisner original I own (which he drew for my STARCHILD #0 book) I’d never seen his art up close.
The roughs from CITY PEOPLE were paired with the finished pieces, and showed his amazing thinking process; the color art from THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG showed his versatility; but it was the SPIRIT pages that blew away everyone in attendance. To see jet-black ink on pages a decade and a half older than I am was thrilling and humbling in equal measures.
Among those attending were Jackie Estrada, Batton Lash, Tone Rodriguez, Stan Sakai, Bill Morrison, Larry Marder, and Paul Levitz. An All-Star panel consisting of Jackie, Denis Kitchen, Sergio Aragones, and Mark Evanier reminisced about Will and the effect he had on all of them personally and professionally.
It was the only BEA-related event I attended in LA, and it was absolutely worth the trip.
Storyopolis owner Matthew Abrabowitz and Events Director Blake Harris have hinted that another exhibition of the Eisner work may be upcoming in another venue, so an update may follow. Attached are photos from the event: Denis Kitchen; James Owen and Stan Sakai; the Panel; and some of the SPIRIT pages.