Today (6th March 2011) would've been the 94th birthday of one of the greatest talents and innovators the comics medium has ever seen. Will Eisner's name should be well known to any fans of comics and his books should be on every reader's shelf.
Born on the 6th March 1917 William Erwin Eisner's accomplishments within the comics industry are innumerable and his influence immeasurable. He is frequently referred to as The Orson Welles Of Comics - a description that while illustrating the importance of Eisner to his respective field is also somewhat inaccurate as Eisner's creativity and influence continued to grow and flourish throughout his career.
Eisner's work on his most famous creation - the newspaper strip The Spirit - which ran from 1940 to 1952, was so bold and ahead of its time that it still reads as brilliant and as fresh now as it did then and is still an incredible source of inspiration and innovation to anyone wanting to work in comics today or, indeed, anyone who just wants to read well crafted entertaining comics.
The Spirit alone would have been enough to secure Eisner's place in comics history, but in 1978 he is credited (technically erroneously) as the being creator of the Graphic Novel form with his brilliant work A Contract With God. From then on Eisner continued to produce stunning mature often very personal work with books such as A Life Force; Dropsie Avenue; To The Heart Of The Storm; Last Days In Vietnam; an adaptation of Moby Dick; and his final book The Plot: The Secret and Story of the Protocols of Zion which he completed shortly before his death in 2005.
Eisner also wrote two essential academic works on the art and form of comics Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative which were based on his frequent lectures at the School Of Visual Arts in New York.
Today, his birthday was marked by Google with a wonderful logo in the spirit of The Spirit (see what I did there?) and with a splendid tribute by Scott McCloud.
SPBM strongly recommends everyone reads as much of Eiser's work as you can find. A good starting place is the two paperback compilations of the best of his Spirit strips The Best Of The Spirit and The Spirit: Femmes Fatales published by DC Comics to coincide with the recent movie version of The Spirit written and directed by Frank Miller which we strongly advise you avoid!
What we also recommend is this previously unseen 1995 interview with Eisner by Burke & Hare writer Martin Conaghan which was finally published online today courtesy of Bleeding Cool.