Will Eisner: A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories

Written and placed the work in context as well as conveying information about the life and career of Eisner The lead off story A Contract with God reflects the author s anguish at having lost his only daughter at age 16 eight ears before he wrote and drew the book The bitterness of this experience transmuted into the fantasy story of Frimml informs the 3 subseuent tenement tales in the book There are few likable characters and most characters flaws and contradictions are painfully exposed usually leading to some comeuppance or hubris denouement The effect of the overall sad book is in the end grim The book is wonderfully drawn obviously Mr Eisner was a master of capturing scenes economically using a fantastic pen ink style often with strong black shadows inked in to render additional foreboding or danger The dialog narration are well written Celebrity Bachelor yet there is little variation in the world depictedou can almost predict what the almost 100% venal greedy status hungry scheming people will say and how they will act The book overflows with emotion driven action and debacle after debacle as hopes are shattered there are even scenes of violence and rape Since I usually do not like violence or to be shown violence in an in For Better and Worse your face manner in a graphic novel this aspect of the book was somewhat disturbing Several women are beaten in the book One is beaten by her husband and then engages in make up sex with him in front of a 15ear old boy that she has just slept with Women seek out rich men or resign themselves to marrying men that are not so rich to escape exploitation by relatives being turned into virtual slaves helping in the relatives household They are then seemingly resigned to a lifetime of further drudgery as they stay at home to take care of kids the household and endless chores while having to make ends meet on the few dollars the husband brings home This is really a grim merciless totally un romantic look at the reality of family life for low income struggling immigrants in the Bronx in the first half of the 20th Century The overall effect is one of teeming sick humanity probably as a result of not earning enough to escape tenement life and having to live on top of each other in railroad apartments with very few amenities such as adeuate heat no air conditioning no laundry room etc I m sure I d read the story Super in another collection by Eisner previously since it seemed very familiar It s a creepy story about a nasty super who is driven to suicide by a thieving minor both the victim and the schemer are disasters as people Most of the characters in these stories have few redeeming ualities Some appear to be caricatures of evil ualities such as the gold digging girls attracted to any man who seems to have money the man of modest means who tries to pass himself off as a rich man to attract a rich girl One of the only endearing characters is in the last story the medical student who rescues a fellow Grossman s Grossinger s guest after she has been raped by another guest by promising to marry her and keep the rape a secret The bucolic wholesomeness of the summer in the mountains contrasts sharply with the seedy phony or for some hopeless social sceneI suppose by the time Eisner wrote and drew this book which mocks so many types mercilessly he probably did want to get a lifetime of revulsion at much of humanity off his chest It reminds me a bit of Goya s grotesue prints on war a reaction to the horrors of war dynastic succession struggles and in the French Napoleonic invasion of Spain The bitterness at least in Eisner s book is similar albeit Goya s works are much darker and violent and the exaggeration caricature uality of drawings mocking venal types and greedy types also reminds me of Daumier s prints It is sometimes important to show people the horrors of humanity writ large That in turn reminds me of the great artist s treatment of Weimar era mindless pleasure seeking industrialists and other hypocritical types George Grosz A Contract with God moves uickly can be read in a couple of hours It conveys the author s impression of life in a Bronx tenement essentially what he escaped in making a success of himself as a professional graphic artist and writer When he wrote A Contract with God he must have felt he had nothing to lose in skewering the social scene of his Cassidys Kids (Maitland Maternity, youth perhaps this was his payback for the misery of his childhood He was about 60ears old when he wrote it and probably felt professionally confident enough to write a totally grim book about his recollections of life in the Bronx in the 1930s There couldn t possibly be any negative repercussions by the time he wrote the book since the main characters were probably all dead by the time he wrote it and the world he depicted had at any rate mostly vanished as demographic change and the march of technology inevitably lead to the disintegration of the village like Bronx tenement scene Eisner probably felt free to criticize that world as much as he liked even though it was the world he grew up in or perhaps he grew up in it despite it He had nothing to lose by the time he wrote it and then went on to astound the world of publishing by writing drawing 20 graphic novels by the time he died in 2005 contradicting the commonplace that creativity dries up the older one gets For Eisner he never stopped being creative and in fact made some of his greatest creative contributions after standard retirement age Eisner certainly had the secret of outh in a way his work remained fresh and new even as he aged A Contract with God is obviously a landmark graphic novel the first graphic novel ever writtendrawn To be honest I didn t much enjoy this book since the depictions of women were almost 100% negative even the long suffering wife in the story called Cookalein is eventually seen to have been abandoned by her philandering husband in the last scene as her melancholy son gazes grimly down from the fire escape into the building s courtyard The entire book is grim except for some few flashes of joy although even they end or are destroyed or cheapened in the course of the book Grimness death tackiness degradation depravity all these facets of humanity are packed into A Contract with God The book is the opposite of an escapist story the grimness and all too human uality of the book leaves the reader with a bitter aftertaste although as noted both the dialognarration and the drawings are superb This is an anti Valentine to mankind perhaps Eisner s commentary about man written by the time he had nothing to fear or lose Considered to be the first graphic novel this tells the story in 4 parts of New York circa the Great Depression The characters are caricatures of lives from Eisner s past and while it is a primarily Jewish neighborhood I think anyone with a brain and heart pumping blood etc can identify with the scenese painted here It tackles those subjects that stuff like The Wire still tries and fails to capture today those sinews that bind each life together and ultimately keep them bound if not to each other then certainly rooted to the Spot which in this case is a Bronx ghetto and specifically a tenement building at 55 Dropsie Avenue Part 1 of Eisner s Contract With God Trilogy with part 2 being A Life Force and part 3 being Dropsie Avenue While somewhat dated scripturally 1st published in 1979 by a guy who d been writing comics for a times much less sophisticated audiences for the 40 ears prior it s really Eisner s pencils that kept me glued to this especially in the title chapter No matter how ou slice it this is a good uick read where every character exists in that gray area between good and evil called modern urban living I m curious to see where this goes And I hope David Lapham at least bought Eisner a beer. Troubled inhabitants with pen and ink The comics medium was altered forever with the publication of this seminal wor.

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Buff and a graphic novel neophyte could relate to it and be made devastated and furious by it and appreciate it whollyA few months ago my book club read Frank Miller s Batman The Dark Knight Returns I didn t like it hardly at all The book just didn t jive at all with the image I d been handed about its game changing ness I mean it s supposed to be this pinnacle and groundbreaker of its form and I kind of understand how that might have been true when it was first published But now In 2010 for me to come to Dark Knight with no knowledge of comic book history and tropes living in a CGI world an indie fabulous world a YouTube world a world where everything Miller ever did has been exponentially permutated and shifted and reconsidered from every possible anglewell his efforts just weren t that impressiveBut in the case of A Contract With God I felt just the opposite Despite because of how uncomfortable and upset this book made me it was an absolutely riveting read It didn t feel remotely out of date It didn t even feel old I mean the stories take place in the twenties and thirties of course but it felt like could have been written last ear There was nothing stilted in the language nothing clunky in the design nothing old fashioned in the pictures Maybe this is because Eisner really did set the standard and everyone in the last forty ears has just been working off of his template If so man A genius indeedI m going to go ahead and admit that I was not intending to be very moved by this book I guess I was kind of expecting saccharine Disney type feel good stories or superhero inspired tales of beautiful people doing wonderful things Surely everyone in the world knows how totally wrong I was There s a shocking amount of meanness and ugliness in these stories cruelty and misanthropy and anti Semitism and adultery and spousal abuse and rape and very little of it is remotely punished which I found totally unnerving So even though I was expecting to be disappointed by this being a sappy morality tale I have to admit that a part of me really does want to see the good guys rewarded and the bad guys get what s comin to emLet me give an example In a subplot in the story Cookalein we have a little case of mistaken identity Benny and Goldie who have both gone to a summer resort explicitly to bag a wealthy mate each think the other is loaded After courting for a few days they steal away into the woods in the middle of the night to cement their union but then surprise they find out they re both poor After she cries Benny if ou love me nothing else matters he drops his pants and growls It s a whole new ballgame now baby then lunges at her ripping her clothes and taking her by force So how does the story end Goldie winds up with a doctor whom she had previously scorned because she thought he was poor and Benny seduces an heiress Neither is punished Everybody winsAnd that wasn t even the most upsetting example But I don t want to get bogged down in summary the real point is that these stories are extremely lifelike and real life doesn t come with just desserts or punishments that fit crimes Real life is messy and cruel and mean and ugly And for me even worse than when things are ugly is when they re just totally unfair While it would have annoyed me if these were bland stories about good people being happy and bad people shaking their fists I was far upset by the moral ambiguity the idea that even in fiction even in art where the creator has the power of choice some people are just awful and sometimes they get ahead anyway Eisner has left everything unvarnished unglossed and unmended I get that and I have great respect for his evocative realism But I d be lying if I said I liked it Review of A contract with GodThis was one of the first Graphic Novels I ve read and it has always stayed with me I m not sure why I ve reread it a few days ago and I still don t know why this story affects me The story wasn t that great and it was also rather short In the book an orthodox jew loses his faith after his daughter dies He doesn t understand because all he ever did was serving God and after all he had a contract with God written on a stone I think the mere idea of a contract with God is intriguing Some people do lose their fate when something really bad happens to them Some people find faith in times of hardship Others doubt their entire life But believers do expect something of their faith So who can be blamed God Or was it only a faulty contract Eisner himself admits in his multiple introductions to this volume that A Contract With God was in some ways an experiment which led him to develop the skills he d use in a far serious way on Dropsie Avenue Dropsie Avenue is indeed the superior workThat caveat out of the way A Contract With God is one of the moving deep and visually surprising graphic novels ever despite it being the first The writing is sensitive empathetic and poetically simple The images are masterful Look at the full portrait of the superintendent frightening and real and sad in the extreme The story as a whole and in its parts takes us precisely where great novels should into a truth beyond facts reflecting our own lives just as it reflects Eisner sIt may be unnecessary to say anything nice about this book given the praise heaped on it over the decades Tough situation then to find oneself to gushingly enad Each story ends in tragedy excepting the last one which is hilarious in comparison They are independent from one another with only a street address in commonFrimme s story has a tragic ending his adopted daughter Rachele dies He remembers his Un hros pour Rayne (Delta Force Heroes t. 1) youth and his good deeds that got him to write a contract with God on a small stone He continued to live his life in wholesome way thinking himself and Rochelle protected by the contract God tests his faith when Rachelle dies and Frimme fails miserablyview spoilerRochelle dies unexpectedly from a sickness Frimme renounces God and decides to no longer live a pious life He uses the synagogue s bonds to buy the tenement where he spent his earlierears He treats the tenents harshly and his fortune grows steadily until he owns a tenement empire He tries to return to God but his soul is already corrupted and he dies of a heart attack hide spoiler They are true stories Only the telling and the portrayals have converted them to fiction Will Eisner s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories is simple intense and deep An amazing storytelling with wonderful art One of Eisner s seminal works Released in 1978 A Contract with God was one of the first graphic novels ever produced Eisner based the stories on his life as they tell tales of various tenants of a tenement in the Bronx A Contract with God is the first time he ever discussed the death of his daughter even though Eisner himself is not in the story The stories are of a mature nature and certainly not for children Eisner s black and white art is glorious with exceptional lettering This is one of those books that every fan of comic books should eventually read Will Eisner s legendary graphic novel one of the first of its kind is a semi autobiographical collection of four sad sometimes downright bleak and depressing stories centered around the residents of one tenement in the Bronx in or around 1930 s Eisner s storytelling is masterful the characters are full of life and the stories still resonate despite being decades old at this point It s not a very pleasant read since most of these stories are about human suffering a This is a grim graphic novel consisting of four intertwined stories of characters and lives in a 1930s Bronx tenement basically autobiographical by the great comic book artist and graphic novel genre creator Will Eisner The introductory essay by S McCloud was well. Groundbreaking 1978 creation The human drama the psychological insight Eisner captures the soul of the city and its.

A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories written and illustrated by Will Eisner one of the giants in the seuential arts arena is a perfectly executed graphic novel which provides the reader a peek at the American experience during the early 1930s Through four interconnected graphic stories Eisner provide insights into the human condition while drawing on the memories of his growing up in New York during that time periodA brief look at Will Eisner as a master graphic artistBorn in 1917 Will Eisner was heavily influential in the comic art form and stands tall in the pantheon of all time seuential artists with such luminaries like Milton Arthur Paul Caniff and Jack Kirby He started with his contributions in this medium through The Spirit a weekly newspaper insert comic book in the early 1940s He utilized The Spirit as a launching platform for experimenting his ideas and expressing stories in his mind through comic art formAt that time the seuential art form and comic books were not considered seriously and was often ridiculed by expert artists The Spirit with its crime adventure and drama stories featuring a masked vigilante published every week got popular and it had an influence on the noir genre movies produced during the 1940s Jules Feiffer whose career began with Eisner and who wrote Comics are junk but that junk is good even necessary in a 1965 essay on comic book history made these observations on the the graphic arts created by Eisner the world was redefined by his camera eye More than anyone else Eisner was able to sueeze human interest and dimension and take heroes and use them as he used the Spirit as side characters to telling another story After finishing with The Spirit series in 1952 Eisner left the seuential arts arena for other pragmatic ventures After 25 Mine to Take (Nine Circles, years he returned to the comic book scenario with a series of graphic novels a preexisting term which was popularized by Will Eisner of which A Contract with God released in 1978 cementing his reputation as a master in the comics arena A Contract with God and the return of a master artistIn the preface to A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories Will Eisner narrates about his return to the comic art scene with this new book Twenty fiveears later given the time opportunities I embarked on the effort which His L.A. Cinderella you hold inour hands a harvest at last from the seedlings I had carried around with me all those A Groom for Greta (Amish Brides of Celery Fields, years This book is based on the memories that Will Eisner has about his own and his contemporaries experiences while growing up in New York The book presents a selection of four stories which are interconnected and based on a fictional tenement situated in 55 Dropsie Avenue the Bronx New York and narrates the personal and intimate memories that the author have about a bunch of characters from his past The tenement was built around 1920 when the flow of immigrants after World War I to New York was like a flood By the 30s low paid city employees laborers and their families thrived in these tenements which became home to a whole first generation of Americans born to their foreign parents There was no privacy within these apartment buildings and these stories that Will Eisner narrate in the graphic medium is based on the life as it was in these tenements during the dirty 30s You can detect the dynamics of relationships the culture the depression and state of economy and everything that prevailed in the 30s within these framesIn the first story titled A Contract with God we witness the story of Frimme Hersh an immigrant who fled the terrible anti semitic pogroms of 1882 after the assassination of Alexander II of Russia as a child and who became a prominent religious and social figure in the Hassidic community in the New York City giving up his religious faith after the death of hisoung adopted daughter This is based on Eisner s own loss of his 16 The Baby They Both Loved year old daughter and reflects some of his inner feelings towards god and faith he felt during those timesIn The Street Singer we meet an alcoholic street singer and one with some serious domestic violence issues who is seduced by a retired diva She tries to mentor him by giving him an opportunity to train under her and have a career in the show business In The Super we come to know about the dark tale of Mr Scuggs who was the superintendent of the tenement Both these stories are ironically tragic and are dark in their soul with The Super having overt signs of pedophilia In the final story in this book Cookalein we meet Eisner himself as a fifteenear old and is an intertwining tale of a lot of characters in which the author describes his own honest account of coming of age We can meet characters who are ambitious who are lonely who have dreams and anxieties about future who fight against despair poverty in these depictions of the plain true life brimming with sights of desires frustrations and cynicism happening among the tenements which the author fishes out of his memory Will Eisner blend past and present to create an artwork based on realism in which he fuses together words and illustrations to give them a similarity to the world of dreams or memories Since these memories about the people and his views about the surroundings are from way past they have a certain amount of dullness in his mind which he recaptures in the illustrations through caricature like figures and a monochrome tone which mimic the world of dreams perfectly on the paperThe Seuential Art in A Contract with God Will Eisner follows a rule of realism while producing the artworks in A Contract with God and he uses exaggerations on the depictions of his characters especially their facial features to allow for the limitations of actuality Since these are memories from decades back he resorts to caricature to illustrate the characters as his memory regarding their exact features are hazyThe way in which he utilized the space and format that he used in this comic book medium to meet this realism is expressed by his following words Accordingly each story was written without regard to space and each was allowed to develop its format from itself that is to evolve from the narration The normal frames or panels associated with seuential art are allowed to take on their integrity For example in many cases an entire page is set out as a panel The text and the balloon are interlocked with the art The picture and copy are so interdependent and are inseparable even for a moment so he fuses them together in such a manner to create a smooth flowing narrative In many pages the traditional box frames are not used instead the full page is utilized in a manner to maximize the visual impact on the readerThese four social dramas which are interconnected with their common setting presented within this graphic novel are at times heart warming and at times heart breaking They are told with so much candidness so that we can witness almost everything related to life with in these comic panels A Contract with God was always a special book for Will Eisner and he held it close to his heart through out his life which can be recognized from his words After many subseuent works I can still look back at this maiden book 10 for Jugs Capes And essay 3 for CCLaP In fact someone from Will Eisner Studios actually contacted me to say they enjoyed the review NeatAh Will Eisner Undoubtedly the father or the modern graphic novel his influence has been huge and sweeping I mean that s what they tell me I m sure that 90 percent of the people reading this review know a hell of a lot about Will Eisner than I do But I do know that 1978 s A Contract With God is an incredibly important work in a way that many pieces of art struggle with it has remained fresh and relevant for all these decades and even I as chick and a lit. Go back to where graphic novels all started on the Bronx street of Dropsie Avenue and A Life Force in Will Eisner's.

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