Written and Illustrated by Will Eisner
Essays and Appreciations by Dave Gibbons,
Denis Kitchen, John Lind, Frank Miller,
Vivek J. Tiwary, Denny O’Neil, Stan Sakai,
Mark Schultz, Steve Rude, Jill Thompson,
Eric Shanower, Trina Robbins, Howard Cruise
Published by Dark Horse Comics
The original edition of Will Eisner’s A Contract with God hit the discriminating comics reader like a ton of bricks on its original 1978 publication.
The comic book industry was going through a rough period, with pretentiousness more often being the result of what some creators had hoped would be perceived as more mature, adult fare. The industry wanted to show it had grown up but it didn’t seem to quite know how.
Then Will Eisner, the old master, back in the thick of things with Spirit reprints for much of the decade, showed everyone how it was done…like—as the kids say today—a boss!
One of only a handful of books to that point actually created to be a “graphic novel” rather than just reprinted comic books, A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories was surprisingly not a novel at all but rather a collection of short stories all based around the same New York neighborhood.
But that was then and this is now.
Eisner created many more graphic novels throughout the remaining years of his life, each uniquely masterful but none with quite the impact of that first one. Thanks to Dark Horse, we now have A Contract With God—Curator’s Edition, a thick collection reprinting the original in pencil form, the better to study the master’s technique. The heart-wrenching true to life stories are all back and they still pack their punches even in today’s topsy-turvy world but this is an artist’s showcase if ever there was one.
No one drew water like Eisner. The reader almost feels like he needs to dry off after several pages of Will’s rain-drenched panels. And architecture! No one ever drew buildings and stairs and stoops and hallways like Eisner, either.
Along with his own original 1978 Introduction and Denny O’ Neil’s Intro to the 1985 edition, we’re treated to a number of appreciations of Eisner’s skills in this volume from devotees including Frank Miller, Eric Shanower, Trina Robbins, Steve Rude, and award-winning Broadway producer Vivek Tiwary, most of them Eisner Award winners themselves.
As always, Denis Kitchen is the keeper of the Eisner flame and here provides more telling background info about various different versions and revisions of the book.
This particular collection also includes Vol. 2—the Inks, going through all the stories yet again only this time the way Eisner meant them to be seen, adding an extra layer of skill to the entire mix.
The stories aren’t fun. They’re filled with sadness and loss, with realistic violence and sex, with shattered dreams and everyday nightmares. But you’ll also find hope and admiration for the man who could bring this kind of book about with seemingly so little effort.
He’s been one for nearly eight decades now and Will Eisner clearly remains an inspiration to anyone and everyone who opens their eyes to the sheer craftsmanship and artistry he brought to the comics format.
Again, these are not fun stories in any sense of the word but if you’re a true comics lover, you can study these pages for hours and find LOADS of fun that way!