THE PAFF! pays tribute to the great American cartoonist William Eisner

From October 7, 2022 to February 26, 2023, the PAFF! - Palazzo Arti Fumetto Friuli in Pordenone pays tribute to comics master William Eisner with the exhibition "The Spirit of William Eisner."

The PAFF! - Palazzo Arti Fumetto Friuli in Pordenone presents from Oct. 7, 2022 to Feb. 26, 2023 the William Eisner exhibition, The Spirit of Will Eisner, staged at the Palazzo Galvani villa, in collaboration with 9ème Art Références in Paris. The exhibition will trace the main stages of William Eisner, master of comics by including 180 originals including final plates and sketches, and 126 vintage publications. The various works will be exhibited in different rooms divided by subject, which tell, through images, the history of comics and its evolution.

The Spirit of the Thriller

The first section will be devoted to The Spirit of the Thriller, with a brief introduction of the overview of the comic book industry in the late 1930s in the United States, explaining first the boom caused by the arrival of comic books on the market, then the infatuation of readers with thriller comics, as well as with the figures of the avenger and the bandit, and finally the gradual arrival of the first costumed heroes (with DC and Marvel: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America). Thriller cinema greatly influenced Eisner’s works. This background will allow us to introduce the biography of Will Eisner, at the time a hard-working, penniless young cartoonist trying to make his way in an America devastated by the Great Depression. Eisner is one of the greatest expositors of graphic novels, which he will lead to international success.

The Spirit of Synthesis

In a second space you can read the complete short stories of The Spirit on the boards. Six have been collected, each consisting of seven plates. This diversity will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the universe of the series so that they can appreciate its richness, which borrows from different genres and registers. We will discuss here the narrative techniques used by Will Eisner, his cutting, his pacing, his efficiency, allowing him to condense a scenario into 7 pages, when the adventures published in comic books were spread over fifteen or twenty pages. He has, in fact, produced many splash pages, some of which have become veritable manifestos.

The Creative Spirit

In the next section we continue our discovery of the Creative Spirit, narrative and artistic techniques, and Will Eisner’s major works from a more graphic point of view, in order to understand how his style marked the history of comics. We then aim to study his drawing and technique, delving into some of the plates through enlarging the panes. Also to be highlighted are his attempts to move away from the rigid rules of publishing, to construct a sequential art, in which the author pulls the strings of the story. The lack of words in some panels, and thus, the subjective use of images make his creations unique and creative.

The Inspirational Spirit

Will Eisner can be considered the Inspirational Spirit of the new generation of artists. Eisner is considered the master of so many contemporary authors, this is also thanks to publisher Denis Kitchen, who has brought the old stories of these comics back to life. Works from his collection and works that he inspired will be presented.

The Spirit of the Graphic novel

The Graphic novel format became famous thanks to Eisner, writing A Contract with God. The author grasped its potential, making it a favorite among children and turning the comic book into a book, no longer a newspaper. In this way Eisner freed himself from editorial obligations, rules about the length or periodicity of texts. Particularly significant is the atmosphere of his graphic novels: New York, his city, from a viewpoint as macabre and dark as that of the Great Depression. There are flashes of autobiography in these stories, and the stories are extremely contemporary, almost futuristic. Through graphic novels, Eisner was able to break the rigid rules imposed by comic books (despite the fact that some of these rules he himself had chosen), break away from the comics industry, and give a different vision of the comix world.

William Erwin Eisner (New York, 1917 - Lauderdale Lakes, 2005) was an American cartoonist and entrepreneur, among the greatest artists in the history of comics. A passionate student of language, which he dubbed “sequential art,” he developed an expressionistic technique that, through framing and shadow play, aims to create the maximum emotion of drawn narrative. Initially a humor and advertising illustrator, he founded one of the first comic book production and distribution companies, Eisner-Iger Ltd, with publisher Jerry Iger at the age of 20, achieving immediate success. His works are highly influenced by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Through his collaboration with Jerry Iger, he creates characters such as Bob Powe, Jack Kirby, and Bob Kane. However, true notoriety comes with The Spirit (Denny Colt), a private investigator given up for dead, whose urban-set episodes are distinguished by constant reflection beyond the classic “good versus evil” diatribe. The Spirit departs from the canons of contemporary publishing because it manages to involve multiple genres, thriller, erotic, violent, romantic, adventurous, supernatural, and satirical.

Much used by Eisner is the splash page, which as opposed to the Sunday plates are very short, usually one-page, self-contained stories about the adventures of the most fashionable heroes of the time.

After his long work on The Spirit (from 1940 to 1952), Eisner studied and wrote essays on the language of comics and then, came Contract with God, the first successful graphic novel: four episodes and a prologue published in 1978 and first published in Italy in 1980. Only three decades later would it be known that the first dramatic episode was inspired by the tragic death from leukemia of his teenage daughter.

Eisner’s work encompasses every aspect without leaving anything to chance; through the drawing, scriptwriting, composition, anatomy, and body language of the characters, Eisner succeeds in telling the story of real life, the reality of the slums where he himself lived. Undoubtedly making this atmosphere is the inspiration from Pulp literature, thriller cinema and the New York of those times.

Fundamental in his art is also the use of light and the representation of the background: light sources are often scarce and the landscape around is often defined by one or two elements, few but enough to make the context of the scene clear. Another unfailing element is water: raindrops, downpours, puddles... water is a symbol of distress and unease and weighs down the scene.

A large section in the exhibition will be devoted to the works that made his most important works famous.

Giulio De Vita, artistic director of PAFF! - Palazzo Arti Fumetto Friuli and curator of the exhibition said, “There are a few essential and inescapable names in the history of comics, of those whose work and art have helped transform a language of popular subculture to a medium of primary importance, influential and decisive in the modern image society, and one of them is Will Eisner.”

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THE PAFF! pays tribute to the great American cartoonist William Eisner
THE PAFF! pays tribute to the great American cartoonist William Eisner

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