blaqwing asked: Is there anything you miss about writing the avengers?
I miss the characters terribly. I miss Luke and Jessica. I miss having them sit around eating :-)
but I don’t feel like there’s anything I left undone.
except for that one Jessica Jones story… hmmm…. :-)
I would have liked to take them into heroes for hire territory but no one at Marvel wanted me to do that
honestly, because of the characters I’m now working on and the people I’m working with it almost feels like I am working at a different company
like the avengers are somewhere over there now and the guardians and the X-Men are right here. I only really think of this when you guys ask me.
in celebration of WILL EISNER’S BIRTHDAY and Will Eisner Week here is my intro to Fagin the Jew.
obviously i was insanely honored to be asked to contribute.
Fagin the Jew introduction
By Brian Michael Bendis
Like most of you, I have been reading comics ever since I could read and I have been reading Will Eisner ever since I discovered him. Like some of you, I learned to make comics reading Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner. And for a few years now I have been teaching a college graphic novel writing course in my hometown of Portland. One of the reasons I teach is because Will Eisner was a teacher.
In the class, obviously, we cover a great deal of Will Eisner’s work, legacy, and teachings.
So when I got the call to write the introduction to this graphic novel I immediately said yes! A huge honor. But I was also shocked: “Fagin the Jew?”
I scrambled over to my, I must say, substantial Will Eisner shelf only to discover that I DID NOT OWN THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL.
Have I even heard of this graphic novel? Is there a Will Eisner graphic novel floating around in the world that I don’t have? And I’m a Jew! How can I not have this book?? Jew is in the title!!
Of course the amazing Diana Schutz sent me a copy which I immediately read and have spent a great deal of this month thinking about.
As you will soon discover, it is a fascinating work of a man using all of his abilities, but what fascinates me is the motivation behind this work.
As he describes in his original introduction, Will Eisner has been struggling with the fact that decades ago, he had a character in his seminal work “The Spirit” that was, frankly, quite a racist caricature. So much so that it flies in the face of everything else he had ever created before or since.
Everything about Will and his writing had been progressive and sometimes substantially ahead of its time.
As a fan, this character was always a conundrum to me. I, like many, would just wash it away in my head as a sin of the times. But I wondered how he felt about it.
In my class, we screen the quite outstanding Will Eisner documentary Portrait of a Cartoonist where will frankly addresses the controversy surrounding this character and his rather pragmatic feelings about it. He describes, as one would have hoped, that back then he just didn’t know any better. As he lived a more full life, after he had been to war, he realized that the character was a horrible insensitive caricature and quickly altered his writing to reflect that.
Decades later, as he discusses the subject, you could see it still bothered him. You could see that maybe it even haunted him. Well, that was my theory. I had no proof. I just like to project my own neuroses on anyone or anything I can find.
But this time it looks like I was right. Someone tell my wife.
This entire book is a reaction to that character.
This entire book is Eisner’s analysis of another great writer, Charles Dickens, and his misfortunes with caricature. But I would have imagined that if any author was to travel down this road, you would think they would tit-for-tat. You would think that Will would choose to delve into a African-American character or story or historical figure.
Instead, Will takes his complicated feelings about race and caricature and applies them directly to his feelings about Judaism and how Jews have been reflected in the media for hundreds of years by sinking his teeth directly into the classic Oliver twist and one of the most famous Jewish stereotype characters in all of fiction… Fagin.
In the Will Eisner documentary, one of the interviews reflects that how interesting it is that early in his career when Will’s artwork was more of a stark black and white his actual view of the world was more whimsical. As Will aged his artwork took on a palette of grays, yet his view of the world, his writing, became black-and-white. Harsher. Darker.
By the time Will Eisner sat down to write Fagin the Jew it is safe to say that Will Eisner the romantic is long gone. Will spends his time here reflecting on just how someone becomes the stereotype. His theory here is that you are not born to stereotype, you become the stereotype through circumstance and environment. That stereotype, in turn, becomes the weapon of hate that the ignorant will use to try to destroy you.
So what we have here is the work of a man, later in his years, trying desperately to understand how things get to a point where someone of his obvious intellect was able to create his own literary racial stereotype.
As I finished a graphic novel I literally exhaled and said: well, I am very glad I read this. I believe you will too.
I guess the true mark of a master is that even a minor work is an important work.
As for Charles Dickens, he went on to do a short run on uncanny X force before settling into a long run as the seminal writer of the Red Sonja comics.
Wait, that’s not him? Who am I thinking of?
Portland Oregon October 2012
Cloak and Dagger by Bill Sienkiewicz
Wolverine and the X-Men by Arthur Adams
(Source: genegreyschool, via amazingxmen)
Spider-Man by Alex Ross
All New X-Men by Alex Ross
Red Sonja Variant By Art Adams
(Source: comicbookartetc, via comicblah)
iron wolf by Mike Mignola
Ultimate X-Men by David Finch, Art Thibert and Dave Stewart
All-New X-Men #23 by Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia
Warren Worthington III by David Finch, Art Thibert & Frank D’Armata
On the drawing table.