The Will Eisner Sketchbook

    (Dark Horse, 2003)
™ and © Will Eisner & Dark Horse Comics, Inc.

As a visionary artist, writer, entrepreneur, creator of memorable characters, repository of Golden Age lore, pioneer of the graphic novel, expositor of narrative art technique, and overall ambassador for the medium, Will Eisner was the great Renaissance Man of comics. So it’s only fitting that Dark Horse has released the comics equivalent of the DaVinci Notebooks: the massive and endlessly fascinating Will Eisner Sketchbook.

This beautifully-bound edition features 200 pages of Eisner’s original penciled “roughs” (often as tight as his fully-finished work) that span his career since the late 1970s. Included are original treatments to Spirit magazine covers and portfolio prints, plus a generous assortment of pages from each of the most important graphic novels, including A Contract with God, A Life Force, The Dreamer, Family Matter, and Last Day in Vietnam. Most are tight comps of the actual pages, allowing readers to follow the story as well as marvel at the composition and design. A special treat for fans is a “lost” Spirit story that Eisner produced in the late 90s called “The Last Hero.”

Throughout, Eisner’s work is astonishing in both conception and execution. His pencil line is bold and energetic, his compositions flawless—and remember, this is the work of a man in his 70s and 80s. The few finished pages also show the Master’s famed facility with brush and ink to great effect. The only criticism is that the majority of the work presented here has already seen print in finished form. A bit more rare or unpublished material would have been welcome.

Dark Horse spared no expense to create an edition worthy of the content. Each section is marked off with a page of heavy card stock featuring a brief introduction by Eisner. The reproduction of the artwork is sparkling: the pencils look like they might smear if you touch the page. At $50, the 9x12” hardcover is priced the same as a Spirit Archive Edition, and is at least as essential for fans of Eisner and the narrative art medium.

— Rob Salkowitz

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