I picked up The Dreamer by Will Eisner in Midtown Comics in New York City on Sunday (that would be the 3rd of May for those that want to be precise about such things).
I’ve been working my way through the Will Eisner library for a number of years now and I’m always interested to run across something new that is more off the beaten path. The Dreamer is very far off the beaten path. It’s basically a story of how Will Eisner “broke into” comics in the late 1930s – just before the outbreak of World War II. In only 48 pages, he manages to squeeze in the creation of Eisner & Iger, Superman, Batman, Wonderman and The Spirit and all of the personalities and artists that were involved in their origin stories. For people who like these kinds of fictionalized glimpses into the history of a subject that they are devoted to, this book is solid gold.
Mind you, it was published in 1986, ~50 years after the events depicted in the book. This means that two things are present in abundance – a foreknowledge that everything will work out for the main character and the fact that Eisner’s trademark layout style is very well established, making this look like every other Eisner book – creative layouts made with a genuine effort to make individual pages look distinctive.
In fact, one of the interesting things about the book is that each page is more or less self-contained. The conversation on the page advances the story in some way, but still manages to present a complete thought (usually a joke). Another great thing about this book is that the story explains exactly why Eisner is able to produce such a cogent history of the pre-war comics industry in New York City – because he did a of high-volume of work on deadline, and practice makes perfect.
Will Eisner wrote a lot of books on a lot of subjects and most of them are reviewed elsewhere. The thing I’m trying to learn from him as a creator is how to pace each page to keep the story flowing. His layouts also make great inspiration for how to make a static page look interesting.