Will Eisner has passed away at the age of 87.
What Welles did for American film, what Lennon and McCartney did for rock 'n' roll, Will Eisner did for American comics. His work spanned every age of comics, from his landmark strip "The Spirit," to the form-creating "A Contract With God," to his brilliant guides to the form of comics itself, "Comics and Sequential Art" and "Graphic Storytelling." Along the way, he trained or inspired some of the greatest names in the medium: Bob Kane. Jack Kirby. Art Spiegelman. Scott McCloud. Oh, hell, Everybody.
I never met Will, but I did see him hand out the awards named after him at the San Diego Comic-Con on two occasions. Despite his age and frailty, he came alive on that stage. I could tell, from way back in the cheap seats, that here was a man who had made a life doing what he loved and celebrating it with others who loved it just as much as he did. I would have been proud to meet him someday. To shake his hand, say "thanks," and maybe spend some time talking comics. And I'll admit it, I dreamed of walking up onto that stage in San Diego, taking his hand, and accepting my own Eisner from the man himself. (They even make them in little statues shaped like him now.) I still have that dream of winning the award, but it won't be the same without being able to look him in the eye and give him a smile that means everything. Whomever they get to ahnd them out from now on has big shoes to fill.
It's funny how you can mourn someone you've never met, but some people are just that big. Tonight, I'm meetingup with a sci-fi fantasy group in Midtown for dinner. Some of them may not get it, but I'll raise a glass in honor of Will tonight. It's the least I can do for the man who helped build a medium from the ground up.
(The family of Will Eisner has requested that mourners make a donation in his name to the American Cancer Society or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.)