American comic book artist (1917-2005). He was born in Brooklyn on March 6, 1917 and grew up in the slums and tenements of New York City. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where his love of art was encouraged by his teachers. After getting a few cartoons published in the school newspaper, Eisner was able to get his first professional work into a comic book called "WOW What a Magazine!" in 1936. He created Harry Karry and the Flame for WOW, but the magazine was cancelled after only four issues.

Soon after WOW stopped publishing, Eisner and a friend named Jerry Iger formed the Eisner-Iger Studio, which produced a large number of comic strips in the hopes of getting some of them into newspapers -- one of their few successes was a seagoing adventure strip called "Hawks of the Seas." The studio employed several artists who would eventually become comics legends, including Jack Kirby and Bob Kane. The partnership with Iger ended in 1939 after Eisner joined Quality Comics Group to produce a syndicated 16-page newspaper supplement which would contain three color comic features and would be distributed across the United States. The lead feature that Eisner created for the "Comic Book Section" was an adventure serial called "The Spirit."

Eisner's feature was unbelievably popular, and the whole supplement was soon renamed "The Spirit Section." The Spirit was a Central City detective and reporter named Denny Colt who occasionally put on a suit and a domino mask to go out and beat up (and get beat up by) criminals. Eisner's work was groundbreaking -- his stories were highly cinematic, and he used techniques (like artistic splash pages, dramatic "camera" angles, atmospheric lighting, and creative storytelling) that were not used in most other comics.

When Eisner was drafted during World War II, he ended up making posters, comic strips, and other illustrations for the military. When he got back to civilian life, the Spirit had fallen on hard times at the hands of less capable cartoonists, so Eisner reintroduced the character and retold his origin in 1945 and, with the help of artists like Jules Feiffer and Wally Wood, soon returned the strip to its former prominence.

Eisner continued work on the Spirit 'til 1952, and he continued to innovate on the strip, sometimes creating simple stories focusing on normal, non-crimefighting folks and sometimes diving into freewheeling fantasy and science fiction.

Eisner also founded the American Visuals Corporation, a commercial art company that produced illustrations for educational and commercial organizations. AVC produced material for the Army, the Baltimore Colts, RCA Records, New York Telephone, and others, and the company was successful enough that Eisner eventually chose to devote most of his time to his company, rather than to comics.

Interest in the Spirit was rekindled in the 1960s, and some of the strips were reprinted. Eisner created some new material for the reprints, but didn't feel much enthusiasm for them -- he believed that, as an artist and creator, he had moved beyond the Spirit and wanted to create some comics that he felt were more mature. As a result, he ended up creating a book called "A Contract with God" in 1978 -- the four short stories were moral tales set in New York in the 1930s, and the book is considered by most critics to be the first graphic novel. Eisner followed up with a series of graphic novels including "The Dreamer," "The Building," "Life on Another Planet," "Invisible People," "A Family Matter," and "To the Heart of the Storm."

Eisner also taught classes in art and cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York and wrote two of the best books around on comic art -- "Comics and Sequential Art" and "Graphic Storytelling." One of the most prominent awards for comic books -- the Eisner Awards -- is named for him in recognition of his influence on the genre. And for decades, Eisner himself was the man who stood on the stage and presented each winner with their award. When J. Michael Straczynski received a 2002 Eisner award, he said, "You know, you get the Emmy, you don't get it from Emmy. You win the Oscar, you don't get it from Oscar. How freakin' cool is this?"

Eisner died on January 3, 2005, due to complications from quadruple bypass heart surgery. His last graphic novel -- "The Plot," focusing on debunking the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -- was released in 2005.

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