L’Esprit de Will Eisner

L'Esprit de Will Eisner cover

Will Eisner is one of the most influential authors in American comics. On June 6, 1940, he created ‘The Spirit’, a series published in the form of leaves inserted in the Sunday newspapers, in which he played with the codes of the comic strip. In 1978 he published ‘A Contract with God’, one of the first graphic novels, the first to have a real impact. Will Eisner has spent his entire life teaching and theorizing about his discipline. This bilingual catalogue accompanies the beautiful exhibition at the Thomas Henry Museum in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin (05/28/2021 – 08/29/2021). It was thought of as a monumental comic book, and for good reason, it approaches the size of the original boards reproduced inside.

  • Editions Toth, May 2021
  • ISBN 978-2-913999-42-8
  • 30 × 45 cm (11.75″ x 18″), 58 pages, Softcover
  • 29,00 €
  • Order online: BDFugue, AbeBooks
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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

LEsprit de Will Eisner interior 1
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An exhibit catalogue from the Thomas Henry Museum in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin France that presents four complete Spirit stories, a few random Spirit pages, plus a section on the Spirit’s reprint rebirth with Kitchen Sink Books and an interview with Denis Kitchen. No endpapers, but that’s the norm for softcovers.

The four complete stories are Mr. McDool, The Job, Lilly Lotus, and The second and final installment of Sand Saref. None of these stories have appeared in either volume of Will Eisner’s The Spirit Artist’s Edition, so this volume is an excellent companion of additional Spirit stories for Eisner fans.

The scans are excellent, with no issues. Blacks show some gradients. A good amount of correction fluid. A few margin notes, mostly Eisner signing pages. A few paste-ups. The pages have aged well, from light to heavy tanning and some yellowing.

All text appears in French and English, translated by Paul Gravett. The material is well worth the read and adds context to Eisner. The back material on Eisner and Kitchen has some artwork but feels like it needed more, since the bulk of the art is original Spirit stories. There is a spelling mistake in one header, and I found the text awkward in places, but that appears to be the original French that Gravett did a good job massaging.

LEsprit de Will Eisner interior 6
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LEsprit de Will Eisner interior 8
LEsprit de Will Eisner interior 9
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The design is completely engaging, with many flourishes such as watermarks and images on the text pages, judicious use of enlarged panels, and smooth text placement of both French and English. While the book is 11.75″ x 18″ the original art is mostly 10.5″ x 16″ with decent white borders. A page number and small graphic appear along the bottom of the left pages and are such a nice touch. All art notes the artist, the title, story name, page, and publication date.

Production is quite good. A stapled softcover of heavy matte paper stock; a single signature with two staples. The cover is a plastic-coated paper, thicker than the interior paper but not much more. I found the top and bottom of the spine showing some bumps. The dimensions of the book and its relative thinness call for some extra cautiousness when handling and reading. The book lays flat.

LEsprit de Will Eisner interior 11
LEsprit de Will Eisner interior 12
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This was a surprise to me, brought up on the forum. Yet another treasure of original art from France. Please let there be more exhibit catalogues of this calibre in the future.

Availability and shipping proved challenging but I was able to get five copies to me in Canada but suffered through duties, processing fees and taxes. I had ordered extra copies for the AE store but they went very fast.