Will Eisner: A Spirited Life
by Bob Andelman
(M, 2005)

Although he died on Jan. 3, 2005, Will Eisner remains a legend in the comics industry. In fact, the most prestigious award for a comic book creator given away each year at the San Diego Comic-Con is called the Eisner Award in his honor. Eisner is remembered by many for his writing and art (namely The Spirit and A Contract With God, one of the first graphic novels), as well as his business skills in managing and publishing (a rarity in the comics industry).

You would think a biography about such a successful, creative and accomplished individual would be really entertaining, right? Well, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life seems to focus more on the people around Eisner than on Eisner himself.

This biography is fascinating in one aspect, in that Eisner worked with and knew pretty much every legend in the comics industry. In telling Eisner's story, Bob Andelman is not excessively name-dropping as much as simply listing the facts. From working during the birth of modern-day comics (The Golden Age) to Stan Lee offering Eisner his job at Marvel to the Kitchen Press/Warren Publishing revival of The Spirit, this book covers a lot of exciting times in history. On the other hand, the book occasionally drudges through the mundane. While it is worth noting Eisner's pivotal role in pioneering preventative maintenance for the Army with Army Motors and PS Magazine, Andelman exhaustively covers this period of Eisner's life, listing nearly every person that he ever worked with and even those that later outbid him.

It is seemingly apparent in comments throughout the book that Andelman became a close friend of Eisner's. And being such a close friend, it may explain why some subjects are broached carefully and with an excessive amount of tact. The biggest example is the death of Eisner's daughter at a young age from leukemia. What must have been a significant and traumatic event is briefly covered over a page or two and rarely mentioned thereafter. Other important events involving Eisner focus more on the other people involved and their backstory, rather than offering Eisner's views and impressions.

Now, not every biography needs to be a Kitty Kelley tell-all, but this book seems to focus more on who Eisner knew and tells stories about them. In other words, Andelman writes the biography as if Eisner was a supporting character in his own life. Perhaps that was the intent, as Eisner created and published stories about fictional characters for others to read. Maybe it's fitting that A Spirited Life is filled with larger-than-life big-name characters while the creative source is behind the page.

by C. Nathan Coyle
30 September 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.