Monday, October 31, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
But his influence was so great that the comics industry’s equivalent of the Oscars — awarded each year at Comic-Con — is known as the “Eisners.”
Eisner’s most-famous creation was the noir-ish hero The Spirit, which became a big influence on Frank Miller’s Daredevil and Batman work and the subject of a horrible 2008 movie. But his most personal work is his trilogy of graphic novels inspired by Eisner’s depression-era childhood in New York. The “Contract with God” trilogy (named after the first book in the series) is a series of vignettes set in tenement housing, centered around the (fictional) residents of 55 Dropsie Avenue in the Bronx.
The volume, both written and drawn by Eisner, starts with the eponymous first story, outlining the life of an Orthodox Hasidic Jew named Frimme Hersh, as he immigrated to the United States after a pogrom and became a pillar of the community. The titular contract with God is made in exchange for good fortune, then broken when the protaganist’s daughter dies (not a spoiler, that’s within the first few pages). The developments from there take a twist right out of EC Comics’ horror stories.
|A page from the eponymous "Contract with God"|
The second story, “The Street Singer,” about a drunken alley singer’s encounter with an over-the-hill opera diva, also has a twist, but is the least compelling story in the volume.
If the first story had a twist out of EC Comics’ horror stories, “The Super” has a twist out of EC’s crime stories. Telling the tale of 55 Dropsie’s alternatively hated and pitied superintendent, it’s a tightly wound, yet disturbing tale dealing with ambiguous victimhood centered around an accusation of pedophilia.
|A page from "The Super"|
Finally, “Cookalein” deals with the country jaunts from the city that Jewish families who could afford to do so often took in the 1930s. It also has by far the most characters to keep track of: a poor boy and poor girl both pretending they're rich, a teenage boy subjected to the advances of a married woman, small kids discovering the joys of “camping.” Plotwise, it includes portrayals of date rape, infidelity and true romance. This story was confusing at first with its myriad of characters, but developed into an interesting case study of how fish (repressed ones at that) deal with being out of water.
|One of the few pages from "Cookalein" printable on a family blog.|
The book deals with some heady topics for something written by a Depression-era kid in the ‘70s, and the art and storytelling are fine. But I had issues with the book. Eisner’s stories in the first volume aren’t much more than a series of vignettes centered around the same neighborhood — without much of a unifying thread. It’s a piece of Americana, but A Contract with God’s contents feel like they’d fit in a simple anthology, rather than a groundbreaking piece of comic literature.
But one of the biggest criticisms I have was made in other reviews as well: Eisner’s art is great for the pulps, but when dealing with serious subjects it seems a bit cartoony for the matter at hand. Not to say that simple art is bad for serious subjects — Craig Thompson’s Blankets is an example where simple art works well with adult themes — but Eisner’s characters almost look like caricatures in some places.
Still, A Contract with God was a good read and a great look into multiculturalism for the uninitiated. The next volume, A Life Force, is purported to be the best of the series. Expect a review of it soon.
Note: This is a review of the first book in Will Eisner’s Tenement Trilogy. The next two books, A Life Force, and Dropsie Avenue were later reviewed in November and December.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Tonight's Game 6 of the World Series at first looked like it would be a forgettable one: a sloppy game with multiple errors, a letdown for the National League. Instead, by the end of the night it turned into one of the all-time classic baseball games.
Four hours and 33 minutes is a long time for a baseball game, but the tension, the back-and-forth reversals and the thrill of seeing a "goat" redeem himself Thursday night made every moment exciting.
The Texas Rangers would have won the series with a victory Thursday, and if you weren't watching, the St. Louis Cardinals not once, but twice, were down to their last strike.
Lance Berkman drove in the tying run. An inning after that, Freese struck again with a walkoff home run to win the game for the Cardinals and force a seventh game on Friday.
Tonight's game joined a number of famous World Series Game 6s: 1975 (Fisk's blast at Fenway off the foul pole), 1986 (Bill Buckner's error), 1993 (Joe Carter's walk-off to win the series) and 2002 (the Angels rally to beat the Giants). Of course, none of those games had Twitter through which far-off fans could commiserate. To wit:
As Texas pulled ahead and the game went into the ninth, I posted the following:
(Times and dates shown on these Tweets are GMT.)
A few moments later, the Cards were down to their last strike when Freese tripled to right just past the reach of outfielder Nelson Cruz, scoring two to tie the game and make up for an earlier error. That hit brought the following reactions online:
Heck, even I got a little excited:
Outspoken Florida Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen and Braves Pitcher Peter Moylan (writing from his native Australia) were also impressed:
The game now tied, it went into the tenth. Reining AL MVP Josh Hamilton then blasted a monster shot into the bleachers to once again put the Rangers on the brink of their first world title:
Cardinals fans looked forlorn, with good reason. They had the bottom of the lineup coming up, including the pitcher with no pinch hitters left on the bench:
But, whaddya know? Rally time! St. Louis gets two runs with a ground out and -- after a fan-infuriating intentional walk to superstar Albert Pujols -- an RBI single to right from Lance Berkman:
People saw this game was becoming a classic:
Well, most people did:
As the game moved past midnight (Eastern Time), this became a game not to go to bed during -- even if you start work at 4 a.m.:
Of course, politics gets into everything:
Then Freese strikes again ... home run to straightaway center and we're off to game 7! The reaction, by now, is predictable:
Freese's story will be the headlines tomorrow, if Twitter's any indication:
Personally, I had to give a shout out to the sports editor at Santa Clara University's student newspaper. He called it:
Dang that rain that postponed game six until tonight instead of last night. Now Game 7 will be Friday night, when I have to cover a football game for the San Mateo Times. At least I'm not the only one who'll miss out:
Well, time to DVR the game, hope the PA announcer at Terra Nova High says nothing and keep the radio off on my way home!