Will Eisner’s A Contract with God Curator’s Collection

Will Eisner’s A Contract with God–one of the most influential graphic novels of all time–reproduced at 1:1 size from the original art! This deluxe slipcase, two-volume hardcover set contains full-size, full-colour reproductions of Eisner’s unpublished pencil layouts in one volume and his finished inked pages in the companion volume! 

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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.

Complete pencils and inks of a seminal early graphic novel by master cartoonist Will Eisner. Based on those points alone this should be a must-have purchase, but continue reading to get really excited about buying this beautiful slipcased set.

More than any other Artist’s Edition format book, Will Eisner’s A Contract with God Curator’s Collection provides a clear and concise insight into the artist’s process by not only showing the transition from pencils to inks but also discussing those changes in the context of the work. And these included essays, introductions to previous volumes, and appreciations round out and enhance the story.

With pencils and inks of the same work split between two volumes, the review images here follow a pattern of comparing same pages or section page, first from Pencils and then Inks. They don’t always line up, but it’s pretty close.

As Lind outlines in “Eisner’s process on A Contract with God” Eisner used 8.5″ x 11″ paper for his pencils and the same size in vellum for his inks, which were taped to bristol board. An odd size and process, but it was published at 6″ x 9″.

Scans are clear and without issue. At times it can appear the text is slightly blurry but it’s the paper Eisner used and not the scans. One page in Pencils and eighteen pages in Inks are from production pages. Pencils is as one would expect graphite and blue pencil. Inks show some gradients in the blacks. No margin notes but that’s not surprising for someone doing all the work. Correction fluid is used both for removing unwanted dialogue and lines but also as a medium such as lightning. Pages show little ageing; most are lightly tanned.

A fantastic design all around. Two volumes with consistent elements, utilizing the wealth of existing material from previous editions. Decent margins allow for well-appreciated page numbers. Cloth spines on the books and slipcase. The entire package oozes quality and luxury.

Heavy matte paper stock in a sewn binding. The books lie flat after smoothing the center. The slipcase is shrink-wrapped and comes in a cardboard case. On the back is a separate “back cover” with sample images, UPC and price. While that isn’t affixed a separate barcode and price sticker is attached on the back bottom left.

I was skeptical when this was announced: two volumes, separate pencils and inks, 10″ x 13″, $195. Unfortunately, Artist’s Edition format books still get very little pre-publication attention from publishers. A decent preview or two would have assuaged most potential buyer’s concerns.

Once it’s in your hands all concern immediately vanishes. The size of the volumes allows for side-by-side comparison. The price is high, but this is a luxury item and you get what you pay for.

I’m still not sold on the appreciations; those that discuss specific elements of Eisner’s work or process add to the experience of this work, but the rest fall flat.

It’s hard not to fall to hyperbole when discussing this work: a new standard has been set for examining cartoonist’s original art.