A Contract with God

A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Will Eisner published in 1978. The book's short story cycle revolves around poor Jewish characters who live in a tenement in New York City. Eisner produced two sequels set in the same tenement: A Life Force in 1988, and Dropsie Avenue in 1995. Though the term "graphic novel" did not originate with Eisner, the book is credited with popularizing its use.

Four stand-alone stories make up the book: in "A Contract with God" a religious man gives up his faith after the death of his young adopted daughter; in "The Street Singer" a has-been diva tries to seduce a poor, young street singer, who tries to take advantage of her in turn; a bullying racist is led to suicide after false accusations of pedophilia in "The Super"; and "Cookalein" intertwines the stories of several characters vacationing in the Catskill Mountains. The stories are thematically linked with motifs of frustration, disillusionment, violence, and issues of ethnic identity. Eisner uses large, monochromatic images in dramatic perspective, and emphasizes the caricatured characters' facial expressions; few panels or captions have traditional borders around them.

Eisner began his comic book career in 1936 and had long held artistic ambitions for what was perceived as a lowbrow medium. He found no support for his ideas, and left the world of commercial comics after ending his signature work The Spirit in 1952. The growth of comics fandom convinced him to return in the 1970s, and he worked to realize his aspirations of creating comics with literary content. He wanted a mainstream publisher for the book and to have it sold in traditional bookstores, rather than in comic book shops; the small press Baronet Books released A Contract with God in 1978 and marketed it as a "graphic novel", which thereafter became the common term for book-length comics. It sold slowly at first, but gained respect from Eisner's peers, and since has been reprinted by larger publishers. A Contract with God cemented Eisner's reputation as an elder statesman of comics, and he continued to produce graphic novels and theoretical works on comics until his death in 2005.

A Contract with God
A book cover. In the lower right, a man wearing a trenchcoat and hat climbs a staircase in heavy rain.
First trade paperback edition
Baronet Books, 1978
CreatorWill Eisner
SeriesThe Contract with God Trilogy
Page count196 pages
Followed byA Life Force (1988)

Content and plot summaries

A Contract with God mixes melodrama with social realism.[1] Following an author's introduction, "A Tenement in the Bronx",[2] the book contains four stories set in a tenement building;[3] they derive in part from Eisner's personal memories growing up in a tenement in the Bronx.[4] With A Contract with God he aimed to explore an area of Jewish-American history that he felt was underdocumented, while showing that comics was capable of mature literary expression, at a time when it received little such regard as an artistic medium. In the preface he stated his aim to keep the exaggeration in his cartooning within realistic limits.[5]

Stories derive from Will Eisner's memories of his childhood in tenement buildings in the Bronx.

The story "A Contract with God" drew from Eisner's feelings over the death at sixteen of his daughter Alice.[6] In his introduction to the 2006 edition of the book, Eisner first wrote about it and the feelings he felt toward God that were reflected in the story.[7] "The Street Singer" and "The Super" are fiction, but sprang from Eisner's memories of people he had met in the tenements of his youth.[8] "Cookalein" was the most autobiographical—the main character "Willie" even carries Eisner's own boyhood nickname.[9] Eisner remarked that "it took a lot of determination, a kind of courage, to write that story".[10]

The stories' sexual content is prominent, though not in the gratuitous manner of underground comix' celebration of hedonism,[11] which contrasted with the conservative lifestyle of Eisner the middle-aged businessman. Eisner used no profanity in the book,[10] and according to critic Josh Lambert the sex in Contract is not so much erotic as disturbing, the characters frustrated or filled with guilt.[12]

"A Contract with God"

In Russia, the young, deeply religious Hasidic Jew Frimme Hersh[a] carves a contract with God on a stone tablet to live a life of good deeds; he attributes to it his later success in life. He moves to New York, into a tenement building at 55 Dropsie Avenue, and lives a simple life devoted to God. He adopts an infant girl, Rachele, who is abandoned on his doorstep. When she dies of a sudden illness, Hersh is infuriated, and accuses God of violating their contract. He abandons his faith, shaves his beard, and lives a life as a miserly businessman in a penthouse with a gentile mistress. He illicitly uses a synagogue's bonds that were entrusted to him to buy the tenement building in which he had lived when poor. He becomes dissatisfied with his new way of life, and decides that he needs a new contract with God to fill the emptiness he feels. He has a group of rabbis draw up a new contract, but when he returns home with it, his heart fails and he dies. A boy, Shloime, finds Hersh's old contract, and signs his own name to it.[14] Eisner appended a page to the 2006 edition, depicting Shloime ascending the stairs to the tenement.[15]

Eisner called the story's creation "an exercise in personal anguish"[16] as he was still grieved and angered over his daughter Alice's death from leukemia at 16.[17] In early sketches of the story, Eisner used her name for Hersh's adopted daughter,[9] and expressed his own anguish through Hersh. He stated, "[Hersh's] argument with God was mine. I exorcised my rage at a deity that I believed violated my faith and deprived my lovely 16-year-old child of her life at the very flowering of it."[16]

"The Street Singer"

Marta Maria, an aging opera singer, tries to seduce a young man,[18] Eddie, whom she finds singing in the alleys between tenement buildings. She had given up her own singing career for an alcoholic husband; she hopes to get back into show business as mentor to Eddie, and gives him money for clothes. He buys whiskey instead and returns to his pregnant wife, who herself had given up on show business for him and whom he abuses. He hopes to take advantage of Maria and build an actual singing career, but is unable to find the aging diva again—he does not know her address, and the tenement buildings appear all the same to him.[19]

Eisner based the story on memories of an unemployed man who made the rounds of tenements singing "popular songs or off-key operatic operas"[20] for spare change. Eisner remembered throwing the street singer coins on occasion, and considered he "was able to immortalize his story" in "The Street Singer".[20]

"The Super"

Those who live in the tenement at 55 Dropsie Avenue fear and mistrust their antisemitic superintendent, Mr. Scuggs. The tenant Mrs. Farfell's young niece Rosie goes down to his apartment and offers him a peek at her panties for a nickel. After receiving the nickel she poisons Scuggs' dog and only companion, Hugo, and steals Scuggs's money. He corners her in an alley, where the tenants spot him and call the police, accusing him of trying to molest a minor. Before the police can break into his apartment to arrest him, he shoots himself, embracing Hugo's body.[21]

Eisner wrote that he based the superintendent on the "mysterious but threatening custodian"[20] of his boyhood tenement.[20] Eisner added a page to the 2006 edition in which a "Super Wanted" sign is posted on the tenement building, following the original conclusion of Rosie counting her stolen money.[2]


"Cookalein" is a story of tenants of 55 Dropsie Avenue vacationing in the country. To be alone with his mistress, a man named Sam sends his wife and children away to the Catskill Mountains, where they stay at a "cookalein" (Yiddish: kochalayn, "cook alone", a place for boarders with access to a kitchen).[22]

A clothing cutter named Benny and a secretary named Goldie are staying at an expensive hotel near the cookalein, both hoping to find someone rich to marry; they mistake each other for a wealthy target, and when they discover this, Benny rapes Goldie. Herbie, an intern Goldie had earlier turned down, takes her into his care, and Benny goes on to court an heiress. An older woman seduces Sam's fifteen-year-old son Willie at the cookalein; they are discovered by her husband who, after beating her, makes love to her in front of the boy.[23]

At the end of the summer, the vacationers return to Dropsie Avenue. Goldie and Herbie are engaged, and Benny believes he will be marrying into the diamond business. Willie is affected by his experiences, but does not express them,[10] and his family plan to leave the tenement.[24] For the 2006 edition Eisner added an extra page of Willie from a rear-view perspective, looking out from his balcony.[25]

"Cookalein" was the most overtly autobiographical of the stories—Eisner used the real names of his family members: his parents Sam and Fannie, his brother Petey, and himself, "Willie".[9] Eisner called "Cookalein" "an honest account of [his] coming of age" that was "a combination of invention and recall".[20]


Frans Masereel - 25 Images of a Man's Passion - final four plates
Frans Masereel, 25 Images of a Man's Passion, 1918. Eisner was inspired by wordless novels of the 1920s and 1930s.

Will Eisner was born in New York in 1917 to poor Jewish immigrants.[26] He has said he wanted a career in the arts, but that poor Jews at the time were restricted from upper-class universities where he could study it. Like others of his generation, he turned to comics as an artistic outlet,[27] a career he began in 1936. In the late 1930s he co-owned a studio which produced content for comic books; he left the studio in 1940 to produce his best-known creation, the formally inventive The Spirit, which ran as a newspaper insert from 1940 to 1952.[28] After its end, Eisner withdrew from the comic book world and focused on the American Visuals Corporation, which he had founded in 1948 to produce educational and commercial comics and related media. With the rise of comics fandom in the 1970s, Eisner found there was still interest in his decades-old Spirit comics, and that the fans wanted more work from him. After American Visuals went out of business in 1972, Eisner entered a deal with underground comix publisher Denis Kitchen to reprint old Spirit stories. Other reprints followed, but Eisner was unwilling to do new Spirit stories—instead, he wanted to do something more serious, inspired in part by the wordless novels of Lynd Ward he first read in 1938,[29] and similar work by the Flemish Frans Masereel and the German Otto Nückel.[30]

Eisner had had greater artistic ambitions for comics since his time doing The Spirit. Since the 1950s, he had been developing ideas for a book, but was unable to gain support for them, as comics was seen by both the public and its practitioners as low-status entertainment; at a meeting of the National Cartoonists Society in 1960, Rube Goldberg rebuked Eisner's ambitions, saying, "You are a vaudevillian like the rest of us ... don't ever forget that!"[31]

With the critical acceptance of underground comix in the 1970s, Eisner saw a potential market for his ideas. In 1978, he produced his first book-length, adult-oriented work, A Contract with God. He marketed it as a "graphic novel"—a term which had been in use since the 1960s, but was little known until Eisner popularized it with Contract.[31] Though it was a modest commercial success, Eisner was financially independent, and soon set to work on another graphic novel Life on Another Planet,[32] and completed eighteen further graphic novels before his 2005 death;[33] two featured the autobiographical Willie from the story "Cookalein": The Dreamer (1986) and To the Heart of the Storm (1991).[34]

Eisner was brought up in a religious household, but himself was a reluctant disbeliever.[35] In 1970,[6] his sixteen-year-old daughter Alice died after an eighteen-month battle with leukemia.[36] Eisner was enraged, and questioned how a God could let such a thing happen; he dealt with his grief by immersing himself in his work.[37] When working on "A Contract with God", he tried to capture these emotions by acting out Frimme Hersh's character in his head.[38]


The narration is lettered as part of the artwork, rather than being set apart in caption boxes, and Eisner makes little use of conventional box-style panels, often avoiding panel borders entirely,[39] delimiting spaces with buildings or window frames instead.[30] Pages are uncrowded and have large drawings which focus on facial expression.[40] He allowed the length of the stories to develop based on their content, rather than a set page count as was traditional in comics before that time.[30] Eisner emphasizes the urban setting with dramatic, vertical perspective, and dark artwork with much chiaroscuro,[41] and uses visual motifs to tie the stories together. The dark, vertical rain surrounding Hersh when he buries his daughter in the first story is echoed by the revised final image of the last story, in which Willie stares out into a city sky in a similar hatched rainy "Eisenshpritz"[b] style.[25] The monochromatic artwork was printed in sepia tones, rather than conventional black-and-white.[43]

In contrast to comics in the superhero genre, in which Eisner did prominent work early in his career, the characters in A Contract with God are not heroic; they often feel frustrated and powerless, even when performing seemingly heroic deeds to help their neighbors.[44] The characters are rendered in a caricatured manner that contrasts with the realistic backgrounds, though the backgrounds are rendered in less detail than in Eisner's work in The Spirit; according to writer Dennis O'Neil, this style mimics the impressionistic sense of memory.[45] Eisner explored these sorts of characters and situations further in his other Dropsie Avenue books, such as A Life Force.[46]


The stories share themes of disillusionment and frustration over thwarted desires. Frimme Hersh grieves over the death of his daughter, which he perceives as a breach of his contract with God;[47] street singer Eddie returns to insignificance when he finds himself unable to find his would-be benefactor;[2] Goldie's and Willie's romantic ideals are disillusioned after her near-rape and his seduction.[48] Violence also ties the stories together; Eddie's wife-beating is mirrored by the beating Willie's seductress receives from her husband.[48]

A Contract With God page 116
Rosie steals the superintendent's money box in "The Super". Panels lack traditional frames and characters are neither simply good nor evil.

The characters are depicted neither as purely good or evil: for example, Rosie in "The Super" triumphs over the racist, abusive superintendent by stealing his money, having him framed for pedophilia, and driving him to suicide.[2] Confinement is a prominent theme; Eisner chooses perspectives through which the reader views the characters framed by doorways, window frames, or sheets of rain.[49] Frimme Hersh seeks freedom from oppressive Eastern European antisemitism;[49] there is a feeling of elation for characters in the final story as they find their way out of the tenement's, and the city's, confinement.[24]

According to academic Derek Royal, Jewish ethnicity is prominent throughout the stories; in "A Contract with God" and "Cookalein", religious and cultural Jewish symbolry are prominent, though in the middle two stories, there is little outward evidence of the characters' Jewishness. The two outer stories further emphasize Jewish identity with the extra-urban portions of their settings—the rural Russian origin of the religious Hersh in "Contract", and the Catskill mountains in "Cookalein", a retreat commonly associated with Jews in the 20th century.[50] Eisner deals with representing Jewish identity through community. He juxtaposes individual stories and individual characters, who have different experiences which may be incompatible with one another; this confounds any single definition of "Jewishness", though there is a communal sense that binds these characters and their Jewishness together. Royal argues that Eisner shows the unresolved nature of American identity, in which ethnicities are conflicted between cultural assimilation and their ethnic associations.[51] As the book progresses, the characters move from overt Jewishness to greater levels of assimilation, presented as an ambivalent change that has costs of its own.[25]

Royal argued that the book was not only important to comics studies, but also to the study of Jewish and ethnic American literature. Much like short story cycles common to contemporary Jewish prose, in which stories can stand alone, but complement each other when read as a loosely integrated package, Royal wrote that Contract could be better described as a "graphic cycle" rather than a "graphic novel".[52] He wrote that such cycles, as well as Eisner's, emphasized a heterogeneous multiplicity of perspectives, as "[n]o American ethnic literature can ever be defined monolithically".[25]

Art critic Peter Schjeldahl saw the "over-the-topness" endemic to American comics, and Eisner's work, as "ill suited to serious subjects, especially those that incorporate authentic social history".[53] The work has been criticized for its use of stereotypical imagery; writer Jeremy Dauber countered that these images reflect Eisner's own memories of his youth and the strictures that Jewish people felt in the tenements.[30] Others said caricaturized character designs conflicted with the otherwise realism of the stories; the appropriateness of the style was defended by others, such as Dennis O'Neil,[54] who said that they better reflect the impressionistic way a child remembers the past.[45]

Elie Wiesel
Holocaust writer Elie Wiesel made God's duty to uphold the first commandment the subject of the play The Trial of God (1979).

The concept of a contract or covenant with God is fundamental to the Jewish religion. The idea that God must uphold his end of the first commandment has been a subject of works such as Elie Wiesel's play The Trial of God (1979), made in response to the atrocities Wiesel witnessed at Auschwitz.[13] To art historian Matthew Baigell, Hershe's angst regarding his relationship with God is a modern response to the questions of Hillel the Elder's quoted in the Pirkei Avot: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"[55] Literary scholar Susanne Klingenstein found Hersh's character unrealistic from the view of Jewish scholarship. She wrote that "the suffering of the righteous" is "one of the greatest problems in Jewish thought",[56] and that a character as devoutly religious as Hersh would not have struggled with what she saw as elementary Jewish teaching.[57]

Publication history

The book took two years to finish.[58] Eisner worked through a variety of approaches and styles, and toyed with using color, overlays, or washes, before settling on a hard-lined style printed in sepia. As he had no deadline, he reworked and resequenced the stories until he was satisfied.[9]

Eisner intended A Contract with God to have an adult audience, and wanted it to be sold in bookstores rather than comic shops;[59] as such, he turned down an offer from Denis Kitchen to publish it.[20] Though he had contacts at Bantam Books, he knew they would be uninterested in publishing comics.[60] To secure a meeting with editor Oscar Dystel there,[20] he called the book a "graphic novel".[c] When Dystel discovered that the book was actually comics, he told Eisner Bantam would not publish it, but a smaller publisher might.[62]

Baronet Press, a small New York publishing house, agreed to publish A Contract with God,[63] which bears the credit "Produced by Poorhouse Press" of "White Plains, N.Y." on its indicia page. Eisner had originally intended to call the book Tenement Stories, Tales from the Bronx,[60] or A Tenement in the Bronx[30] but Baronet titled it A Contract with God, after the lead story,[60] as the term "tenement" was not widely known outside the eastern US.[58] The trade paperback carried the term "graphic novel", though it is a collection of stories rather than a novel.[60] As Baronet was not financially sound, Eisner loaned it money to ensure the book was published.[20]

Sales were poor, but demand increased over the years. Kitchen Sink Press reissued the book in 1985,[d] as did DC Comics in 2001 as part of its Will Eisner Library;[65] and W. W. Norton collected it in 2005 as The Contract with God Trilogy in a single volume with its sequels, A Life Force (1988) and Dropsie Avenue (1995).[66] The Norton edition, and subsequent stand-alone editions of Contract, included extra final pages to the stories.[67][e] As of 2010, at least eleven translations have been published, including in Yiddish, a language which would have been common with many of the characters in the book.[30] This Yiddish edition was published by the Amsterdam comics store Lambiek on 6 November 1984, in the presence of Eisner himself.[69]


  • 1978 Baronet Books, ISBN 978-0-89437-045-8 (hardcover), ISBN 978-0-89437-035-9 (trade paperback)
  • 1985 Kitchen Sink Press, ISBN 978-0-87816-018-1 (softcover), ISBN 978-0-87816-017-4 (hardcover limited to 600 copies with a tipped-in plate by Eisner)[64]
  • 2001 DC Comics, ISBN 978-1-56389-674-3 (Will Eisner Library)
  • 2005 W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-06105-5 (The Contract with God Trilogy)
  • 2006 W. W. Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-32804-2

Reception and legacy

A Contract with God has frequently, though erroneously, been cited as the first graphic novel;[70] comic book reviewer Richard Kyle had used the term in 1964 in a fan newsletter,[71] and it had appeared on the cover of The First Kingdom (1974) by Jack Katz, with whom Eisner had corresponded. A number of book-length comics preceded Contract, at least as far back as Milt Gross's He Done Her Wrong (1930).[70] A Contract with God attracted greater attention than these previous efforts partly due to Eisner's greater status in the comics community. It is considered a milestone in American comics history not only for its format, but also for its literary aspirations and for having dispensed with typical comic-book genre tropes.[72]

Eisner continued to produce graphic novels in a third phase to his cartooning career that ultimately lasted longer than either his periods in comic books or in educational comics. According to comics historian R. Fiore, Eisner's work as a graphic novelist also maintained his reputation as "a contemporary figure rather than a relic of the dim past".[73]

Will Eisner2
A Contract with God brought greater status within the comics community to Will Eisner.

Editor N. C. Christopher Couch considered the book's physical format to be Eisner's major contribution to the graphic novel form—few in comic book publishing had experience in bookmaking,[f] whereas Eisner gained intimate familiarity with the process during his time at American Visuals.[75] The book succeeded in getting into bookstores, though initial sales amounted to a few thousand copies in its first year; stores had difficulty finding an appropriate section in which to shelve it.[76] It was put on display at the Brentano's bookstore in Manhattan, and reportedly sold well. Eisner visited the store to find out how the book was faring after being taking down from display. The manager told him it had been placed in the religious section, and then in humor, but customers had raised concerns that the book did not belong in those sections. The manager gave up and put the book in storage in the cellar.[77]

Early reviews were positive.[76] The book's marketing consisted initially of word-of-mouth and in fanzines and trade periodicals, as mainstream newspapers and magazines did not normally review comics at the time.[74] Comic book writer Dennis O'Neil called Contract "a masterpiece" that exceeded his expectations. O'Neil wrote that the combination of words and images mimicked the experience of remembering more accurately than was possible with pure prose.[78] O'Neil's review originally appeared in The Comics Journal, and was used to preface later editions of Eisner's book.[74] Critic Dale Luciano called the book a "perfectly and exquisitely balanced ... masterpiece", and praised Kitchen Sink Press for reprinting such a "risky project" in 1985.[64]

Eisner's status as a cartoonist grew after A Contract with God appeared, and his influence was augmented by his time as a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he expounded his theories of the medium. He later turned his lectures into the books Comics and Sequential Art (1985)—the first book in English on the formalities and of the comics medium—and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative (1995).[79] As Eisner's social esteem grew, a distinction developed among publishers between Eisner's pre– and post-graphic novel work; highbrow publishers such as W. W. Norton have reissued his graphic novel work, while his superhero Spirit work has been reprinted by publishers with less social esteem such as DC Comics.[80] The Comics Journal placed the book in 57th place on its "Top 100 English-Language Comics of the Century" list,[81] which called it "the masterpiece of one of the medium's first true artists".[1]

Cartoonist Dave Sim praised the book and wrote that he reread it frequently,[82] but called it "a bit illegitimate" to use the term "graphic novel" for works of such brevity;[83] he stated he could read the book in "twenty to thirty minutes",[84] which he argued amounted to "the equivalent of a twenty-page short story".[85]


On July 24, 2010, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, producers Darren Dean, Tommy Oliver, Bob Schreck, Mike Ruggerio, and Mark Rabinowitz announced plans for a film adaptation of A Contract with God from a script by Darren Dean, with a different director for each of the four stories.[86]

See also


  1. ^ According to academic Harry Brod, the name "Frimme" is derived from the Yiddish "frum", or "pious".[13]
  2. ^ "Eisenshpritz" is a term cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman used to describe Eisner's style of drawing rain.[42]
  3. ^ Eisner asserted in later interviews that he came up with the term "graphic novel" to secure this meeting, though he had corresponded with Jack Katz, who described his work The First Kingdom as a "graphic novel" in letters to Eisner, the first dating from August 7, 1974.[61]
  4. ^ Kitchen Sink reissued the book in both softcover and hardcover editions, with the hardcover limited to 600 copies with a tipped-in autographed plate.[64]
  5. ^ Norton published A Contract with God in black ink rather than sepia.[68]
  6. ^ Comic books had often been repackaged as books, but not by their primary publishers.[74]


  1. ^ a b Rust 1999, p. 57.
  2. ^ a b c d Royal 2011, p. 157.
  3. ^ Royal 2011, p. 151.
  4. ^ Dauber 2008, pp. 23, 25.
  5. ^ Dauber 2008, p. 27.
  6. ^ a b Kaplan 2010, p. 156.
  7. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 145.
  8. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 146; Vos 2010, p. 118.
  9. ^ a b c d Schumacher 2010, p. 199.
  10. ^ a b c Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 147.
  11. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 147; O'Neil 1979, p. 53.
  12. ^ Lambert 2008, pp. 46–47, 51.
  13. ^ a b Brod 2012, p. 115.
  14. ^ Kaplan 2010, pp. 153–156; Duncan & Smith 2013, pp. 144–145.
  15. ^ Royal 2011, pp. 163–164.
  16. ^ a b Schumacher 2010, p. 197.
  17. ^ Schumacher 2010, pp. 196–197.
  18. ^ Kaplan 2010, p. 156; Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 145.
  19. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, pp. 145–146.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h Schumacher 2010, p. 200.
  21. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 146; Royal 2011, p. 155–157.
  22. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 146.
  23. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, pp. 146–147.
  24. ^ a b Royal 2011, pp. 158–159.
  25. ^ a b c d Royal 2011, p. 160.
  26. ^ Dauber 2008, p. 23.
  27. ^ Beeber 2008, p. 125.
  28. ^ Dauber 2008, pp. 23–24.
  29. ^ Kaplan 2010, pp. 151–153.
  30. ^ a b c d e f Vos 2010, p. 117.
  31. ^ a b Kaplan 2010, p. 153.
  32. ^ Andelman 2005, p. 292.
  33. ^ Andelman 2005, p. 292; Kaplan 2010, p. 153.
  34. ^ Royal 2011, p. 164.
  35. ^ a b Andelman 2005, p. 287.
  36. ^ Andelman 2005, p. 131.
  37. ^ Andelman 2005, p. 289.
  38. ^ Andelman 2005, pp. 288–289.
  39. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 149.
  40. ^ Weiner 2003, p. 20.
  41. ^ Roth 2010, p. 47.
  42. ^ Royal 2011, p. 160; Schumacher 2010, p. 197.
  43. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 149; O'Neil 1979, p. 53.
  44. ^ Roth 2010, pp. 47, 49.
  45. ^ a b O'Neil 1979, p. 53.
  46. ^ Roth 2010, p. 51.
  47. ^ Royal 2011, p. 154.
  48. ^ a b Royal 2011, p. 159.
  49. ^ a b Dauber 2008, p. 29.
  50. ^ Royal 2011, pp. 157–158.
  51. ^ Royal 2011, pp. 152–153.
  52. ^ Royal 2011, pp. 151–153.
  53. ^ Schjeldahl 2005, p. 3.
  54. ^ Weaver 2012, p. 162.
  55. ^ Baigell 2007, p. 161.
  56. ^ Klingenstein 2007, p. 86.
  57. ^ Klingenstein 2007, pp. 84–86.
  58. ^ a b Andelman 2005, p. 288.
  59. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, pp. 144, 149.
  60. ^ a b c d Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 144.
  61. ^ Kunka 2017, p. 28.
  62. ^ Schumacher 2010, p. 207.
  63. ^ Schumacher 2010, p. 2000.
  64. ^ a b c Luciano 1986, p. 49.
  65. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, pp. 147–148.
  66. ^ Kaplan 2006, p. 20; Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 148.
  67. ^ Royal 2011, pp. 157, 160, 163–164.
  68. ^ Blue 2005.
  69. ^ "The History of Lambiek (1980-1985)".
  70. ^ a b Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 148.
  71. ^ Williams 2010, p. xiv; Duncan & Smith 2013, p. 148.
  72. ^ Duncan & Smith 2013, pp. 149–150.
  73. ^ Fiore 2005, p. 184.
  74. ^ a b c Schumacher 2010, p. 205.
  75. ^ Schumacher 2010, pp. 204–205.
  76. ^ a b Andelman 2005, pp. 291–292.
  77. ^ Schumacher 2010, pp. 205–206.
  78. ^ O'Neil 1979, pp. 52–53.
  79. ^ Dauber 2008, pp. 25–26.
  80. ^ Roth 2010, p. 53.
  81. ^ Spurgeon 1999, p. 108.
  82. ^ Sim 2009, pp. 42–43.
  83. ^ Hoffman 2012, p. 81.
  84. ^ Sim 2009, p. 42.
  85. ^ Sim 2009, p. 42; Hoffman 2012, p. 81.
  86. ^ Gustines 2010.

Works cited


Other media

External links

1998 in comics

Notable events of 1998 in comics. See also List of years in comics.

A Life Force

A Life Force is a 1988 graphic novel by American cartoonist Will Eisner. It is the second book in the Contract with God trilogy, preceded by A Contract with God (1978) and followed by Dropsie Avenue (1995).


Blackmark is a paperback book (Bantam S5871) published by the American company Bantam Books in January 1971. It is one of the first American graphic novels, predating works such as Richard Corben's Bloodstar (1976), Jim Steranko's Chandler: Red Tide (1976), Don McGregor and Paul Gulacy's Sabre (Sept. 1978), and Will Eisner's A Contract with God (Oct. 1978). It was conceived and drawn by comic book artist Gil Kane, and scripted by Archie Goodwin from an outline by Kane.

The term "graphic novel", while seen in print as early as 1964 in an obscure fan publication, was not in mainstream use in 1971 when Blackmark, a science fiction/sword-and-sorcery adventure, was first published; the back-cover blurb of the February 2002 30th-anniversary edition calls the book, retroactively, "the very first American graphic novel." A 119-page story of comic-book art, with captions and word balloons, published in a traditional book format, Blackmark is the first graphic novel with an original heroic-adventure character conceived expressly for this form. It originally sold for 75 cents, comparable to other paperbacks at the time.

Comic book

A comic book or comicbook, also called comic magazine or simply comic, is a publication that consists of comic art in the form of sequential juxtaposed panels that represent individual scenes. Panels are often accompanied by brief descriptive prose and written narrative, usually, dialog contained in word balloons emblematic of the comics art form. Although comics has some origins in 18th century Japan, comic books were first popularized in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 1930s. The first modern comic book, Famous Funnies, was released in the U.S. in 1933 and was a reprinting of earlier newspaper humor comic strips, which had established many of the story-telling devices used in comics. The term comic book derives from American comic books once being a compilation of comic strips of a humorous tone; however, this practice was replaced by featuring stories of all genres, usually not humorous in tone.

The largest comic book market is Japan. By 1995, the manga market in Japan was valued at ¥586.4 billion ($6–7 billion), with annual sales of 1.9 billion manga books/magazines in Japan (equivalent to 15 issues per person). The comic book market in the United States and Canada was valued at $1.09 billion in 2016. As of 2017, the largest comic book publisher in the United States is manga distributor Viz Media, followed by DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Another major comic book market is France, where Franco-Belgian comics and Japanese manga each represent 40% of the market, followed by American comics at 10% market share.

Contract with God

A Contract with God can refer to:

a covenant (religion) with God

A Contract with God, a graphic novel by Will Eisner

Contract with God, UK title for a novel by Juan Gómez-Jurado published in the U.S. as The Moses Expedition

Detectives Inc.

Detectives Inc. is a series of two original graphic novels written by Don McGregor and published by Eclipse Enterprises in 1980 and 1985. The first, Detectives Inc.: A Remembrance of Threatening Green, featured black-and-white art by penciler-inker Marshall Rogers. The second, Detectives Inc.: A Terror Of Dying Dreams, was drawn by Gene Colan, and printed directly from his detailed pencils; a later comic-book reprinting added a sepia-tone wash in place of inking.

These two early graphic novels were not superhero or science fiction/fantasy stories, and A Remembrance of Threatening Green (1980) was the first naturalistic graphic novel to follow Will Eisner's influential A Contract with God. The Gay League's "LBGT Comics Timeline" cites the book as "featuring the first lesbian characters in mass-market comics".

Dolores Hart

Dolores Hart, O.S.B., (born October 20, 1938) is an American Roman Catholic Benedictine nun who had previously been a prominent actress. She made ten films in five years, playing opposite Stephen Boyd, Montgomery Clift, George Hamilton and Robert Wagner, having made her movie debut with Elvis Presley in Loving You (1957). By the early 1960s an established leading lady, she "stunned Hollywood" by announcing that she would forgo her life as an actress, leaving behind her career to enter the Abbey of Regina Laudis monastery in Connecticut, where she serves her monastic community.

Dropsie Avenue

Dropsie Avenue is a 1995 graphic novel by American cartoonist Will Eisner. After A Contract with God (1978) and A Life Force (1988), it is the third volume in the Contract with God trilogy.

Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême

The Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême is a lifetime achievement award given annually during the Angoulême International Comics Festival to a comics author. Although not a monetary award, it is considered the most prestigious award in Franco-Belgian comics.

It has been awarded mainly to French and Belgian authors, but also to ten people of other nationalities. Recipients are, on average, 50 years old. Only two women, Florence Cestac and Rumiko Takahashi, have ever won the prize.

Graphic novel

A graphic novel is a book made up of comics content. Although the word "novel" normally refers to long fictional works, the term "graphic novel" is applied broadly and includes fiction, non-fiction, and anthologized work. It is distinguished from the term "comic book", which is generally used for comics periodicals.

Fan historian Richard Kyle coined the term "graphic novel" in an essay in the November 1964 issue of the comics fanzine Capa-Alpha. The term gained popularity in the comics community after the publication of Will Eisner's A Contract with God (1978) and the start of Marvel's Graphic Novel line (1982) and became familiar to the public in the late 1980s after the commercial successes of the first volume of Art Spiegelman's Maus in 1986 and the collected editions of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen in 1987. The Book Industry Study Group began using "graphic novel" as a category in book stores in 2001.

Jewish culture

Jewish culture is the culture of the Jewish people from the formation of the Jewish nation in ancient Israel through life in the diaspora and the modern state of Israel. Judaism guides its adherents in both practice and belief, so that it has been called not only a religion, but an orthopraxy. Not all individuals or all cultural phenomena can be classified as either "secular" or "religious", a distinction native to Enlightenment thinking.Jewish culture in its etymological meaning retains linkage to the Jewish people's land of origin, the people named for the Kingdom of Judah, study of Jewish texts, practice of community charity, and Jewish history. The term "secular Jewish culture" therefore refers to many aspects, including: Religion and World View, Literature, Media, and Cinema, Art and Architecture, Cuisine and Traditional Dress, attitudes to Gender, Marriage, and Family, Social Customs and Lifestyles, Music and Dance. "Secular Judaism," is a distinct phenomenon related to Jewish secularization - a historical process of divesting all of these elements of culture from their religious beliefs and practices.Secular Judaism, derived from the philosophy of Moses Mendelssohn, arose out of the Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, which was itself driven by the values of the Enlightenment. In recent years, the academic field of study has encompassed Jewish Studies, History, Literature, Sociology, and Linguistics. Historian David Biale has traced the roots of Jewish secularism back to the pre-modern era. He, and other scholars highlight the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who was dubbed "the renegade Jew who gave us modernity" by scholar and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in an intellectual biography of him. Today, the subject of Jewish secularization is taught, and researched, at many North American and Israeli universities, including Harvard, Tel Aviv University, UCLA, Temple University and City University of New York which have significant Jewish alumni. Additionally, many schools include the academic study of Judaism and Jewish culture in their curricula.

Throughout history, in eras and places as diverse as the ancient Hellenic world, in Europe before and after the Age of Enlightenment, in Al-Andalus, North Africa and the Middle East, in India and China, and in the contemporary United States and Israel, Jewish communities have seen the development of cultural phenomena that are characteristically Jewish without being at all specifically religious. Some factors in this come from within Judaism, others from the interaction of Jews with host populations in the diaspora, and others from the inner social and cultural dynamics of the community, as opposed to religion itself. This phenomenon has led to considerably different variations of Jewish culture unique to their own communities.


Galerie Lambiek is a Dutch comic book store and art gallery in Amsterdam, founded on November 8, 1968 by Kees Kousemaker. From 1968 to 2015 it was located in the Kerkstraat, but in November 2015 the store moved to the Koningsstraat 27. As of 2018, Lambiek is the oldest comics store in Europe and the oldest worldwide still in existence.The Lambiek website is one of the longest-running resources about comics and cartoonists on the Internet. The website features a web shop for comic books, eComics, and original art, as well as a news page with articles of interest to comics fans and online art exhibitions. The flagship of the site is the Comiclopedia, an illustrated compendium of over 13,700 international comic artists. The site also features a history of Dutch comics, mostly researched and written by Kees Kousemaker.The name "Lambiek" originated as a misspelling of the name of the comics character Lambik, from the popular Suske & Wiske comic book series created by Belgian artist Willy Vandersteen. The logo of the shop is an image from the Suske en Wiske album Prinses Zagemeel (Princess Sawdust).The store has held art exhibitions and book signings by comic creators, including Gilbert Shelton, Will Eisner, Tanino Liberatore, Joost Swarte, Peter Pontiac Don Lawrence, André Franquin, Robert Crumb, Lorenzo Mattotti, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Jim Woodring, Chris Ware, Judith Vanistendael, Marc Bell, Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, David Collier, Glen Baxter, Jaromír Švejdík, Scott McCloud, Dave Cooper, Turtel Onli and Derf Backderf. The shop and the informational website both have a strong focus on underground comics, graphic novels and autobiographical comics. The exhibitions can be profit or non-profit, depending on the subject of the exposition.

Lawsuits against God

Lawsuits against God have occurred in real life and in fiction. Issues debated in the actions include the problem of evil and harmful "acts of God".

List of years in comics

This page indexes the individual year in comics pages. Each year is annotated with significant events as reference points.

2010s - 2000s - 1990s - 1980s - 1970s - 1960s - 1950s - 1940s - 1930s -



Maus is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman, serialized from 1980 to 1991. It depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The work employs postmodernist techniques and represents Jews as mice, Germans as cats, and Poles as pigs. Critics have classified Maus as memoir, biography, history, fiction, autobiography, or a mix of genres. In 1992, it became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize (the Special Award in Letters).

In the frame-tale timeline in the narrative present that begins in 1978 in New York City, Spiegelman talks with his father Vladek about his Holocaust experiences, gathering material for the Maus project he is preparing. In the narrative past, Spiegelman depicts these experiences, from the years leading up to World War II to his parents' liberation from the Nazi concentration camps. Much of the story revolves around Spiegelman's troubled relationship with his father, and the absence of his mother, who committed suicide when he was 20. Her grief-stricken husband destroyed her written accounts of Auschwitz. The book uses a minimalist drawing style and displays innovation in its pacing, structure, and page layouts.

A three-page strip also called "Maus" that he made in 1972 gave Spiegelman an opportunity to interview his father about his life during World War II. The recorded interviews became the basis for the graphic novel, which Spiegelman began in 1978. He serialized Maus from 1980 until 1991 as an insert in Raw, an avant-garde comics and graphics magazine published by Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly, who also appears in Maus. A collected volume of the first six chapters that appeared in 1986 brought the book mainstream attention; a second volume collected the remaining chapters in 1991. Maus was one of the first graphic novels to receive significant academic attention in the English-speaking world.

Science fiction comics

Publication of comic strips and comic books focusing on science fiction became increasingly common during the early 1930s in newspapers published in the United States. They have since spread to many countries around the world.

Tze Chun

Tze Chun (born Tze-ngo Chun) is an American film director, writer, and comic book publisher. He was born in Chicago and raised outside of Boston, and graduated from Milton Academy in 1998. He received his bachelor's degree in film studies at Columbia University.

Will Eisner

William Erwin Eisner (March 6, 1917 – January 3, 2005) was an American cartoonist, writer, and entrepreneur. He was one of the earliest cartoonists to work in the American comic book industry, and his series The Spirit (1940–1952) was noted for its experiments in content and form. In 1978, he popularized the term "graphic novel" with the publication of his book A Contract with God. He was an early contributor to formal comics studies with his book Comics and Sequential Art (1985). The Eisner Award was named in his honor, and is given to recognize achievements each year in the comics medium; he was one of the three inaugural inductees to the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.


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