Contract with God
Today I read a book called “Contract with God” by Will Eisner. This is coined as the first graphic novel. It focuses on 4 chapters of loosely related stories that revolve around an apartment complex named 55 Dropsie Avenue. Looking at the book from face value, it looks like an easy read, and it is with the exception of some of the Yiddish spoken by the predominantly Jewish cast of character. The most shocking thing was the subject matter. I must say that the way comics were used to tell these stories was amazing. In this book, Eisner did not shy away from very, very mature topics, and he didn’t censor them either. From death, to rape, to child molestation, I surely did not expect the subject matter to be so dark. Not one bit. Especially because when you think of Will Eisner as the grandfather of modern comics, you don’t realize that his audience was not of kids but of mature readers.
I’m not going to spoil the plot of this iconic book because I feel that you as the reader should experience the plot twists and shocking revelations yourself. I will say that as a black artist and comic book fan that isn’t well versed in history, I really appreciate this work for its use of form and function. It reminded me of the impact Luke Cage had. The biggest criticism about Luke Cage was that it was “too black.” When you are telling a story grounded in realism, it can’t be “too” of anything. If that were true, this book would be “too Jewish.” In my opinion, that is the dumbest thing someone could say. I found it educational to have a glimpse into the world of another culture. It is inspiring to see the differences and similarities people have as they go through life. I did have trouble at first understanding the dialogue, but towards the end I picked it up quick and could understand most of it. I think that is because the author was able to make living character pop from the pages of his ideas.
With that being said, there are a multitude of elements I plan on using in my future work that references this book. This mostly single panel storytelling format was very interesting to see. It reminded me of Bernard the invader by Skottie Young. The simplicity of the compositions mixed with narration and word balloons drives the story. Expect Roscoe to appear with some Will Eisner inspiration soon.
Create & Conquer!