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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 03/ 6/2011

WILL EISNER'S GOOGLE LOGO: Doodle marks 'The Spirit' creator's 94th birthday

By Michael Cavna


For comics fans, today's image may well be Google's greatest "Doodle" yet.

The latest Google logo celebrates what would have been the 94th birthday of one of the cartooning world's towering legends, Will Eisner. The home-page "doodle" -- as the company calls each of them -- features Eisner's iconic character The Spirit, as well as the Bronx tenement buildings that the pioneering cartoonist rendered so elegantly in his ever-influential '70s graphic novel "A Contract With God (and Other Tenement Stories)."


"Eisner was one of the first cartoonists to understand the power of visual education, and wrote eloquently about the process of making comics in 'Comics and Sequential Art' (1985) and 'Graphic Storytelling' (1996)," writes noted comics artist/author Scott McCloud, who was invited by Google to remember his mentor. (McCloud also helped design the logo, whose puddle pays tribute even to the "Eisner spritz" -- the legend's famed style for drawing precipitation.)

"For most of his career," McCloud writes, "Eisner was years, even decades, ahead of the curve."

Eisner's masked Central City criminologist The Spirit -- aka Denny Colt -- debuted in American newspapers in 1940 and ran for 12 years as part of "the Spirit Section." Among the great talents who worked on "The Spirit" -- which also was published in comic-book form -- were Pulitzer-winning Village Voice cartoonist/author Jules Feiffer, MAD co-founder Wally Wood and Plastic Man creator Jack Cole.

"Will Eisner was a rarity, a man who wrote as well as he drew -- and he was a master at both," Stan Lee tells Comic Riffs. "Not only was he a great creator of graphic novels, but his talent as a designer was awesome, as evinced by the magnificent opening pages of his famed 'The Spirit' strip.

"Will's lasting legacy was, and always will be, an inspiration to creative people everywhere."

In 2008, Hollywood tapped Eisner's Wildwood Cemetery crimefighter for "The Spirit," starring Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johansson.

The Brooklyn-born William Erwin "Will" Eisner died in 2005. The industry's esteemed Eisner Awards -- handed out each year at San Diego Comic-Con International -- pay tribute to his legend and inspiration.

WILL EISNER on creating The Spirit:

THE EXPENDABLES: Remembering why Eisner's "A Contract With God" is so great

By Michael Cavna  | March 6, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  General, The Comic Strip, The Graphic Novel  | Tags:  A Contract With God, Google Doodle, The Spirit, Will Eisner  
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Shame on Google!
Shame on Google!
Shame on Google!
How dare Goggle honor such a racist cartoonist as Will Eisner. This man created create an over the top racist cartoon character named "Ebony White". A supposed young black boy who spoke in extremely broken English or “pidgin dialect”. To add insult to injury he resembled a monkey. Please Google this for yourself and see how rudimentary offensive this character was.
Here is a snippet from a Time magazine interview in 2003:

TIME.comix: As you say in the introduction to "Fagin," you have your own history with stereotype, most particularly in the character Ebony White, a big-lipped, saucer-eyed African-American comedic sidekick to the Spirit. Although Ebony evolved with greater sensitivity in the latter half of the series' life, do you see "Fagin" as a kind of mea culpa?

Eisner: I suppose if I denied it nobody would believe me. But I if you go back and examine how I handled Ebony, I was aware that I was dealing with something that was volatile and had I a responsibility. The only excuse I have for [that portrayal] is that at the time humor consisted in our society of bad English and physical difference in identity. Later I attempted to depart from it by having a black character, a detective, who spoke proper English and I had an airplane pilot that was black.

Eisner remains unremorseful to this day and is quoted in many articles as saying “Those were different times.”

Google you should take better care in the future to honor people who deserve it, not this RACIST who only changed due to social disapproval.

Posted by: izodmartin2 | March 6, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Shame on someone who's obviously never read Eisner's comic!
Shame on someone who's obviously never read Eisner's comic!
Shame on someone who's obviously never read Eisner's comic!

See, I can be just as ridiculously histrionic as you are.

Anyway, I think Eisner was more than just contrite on the surface about the Ebony White character. First, Ebony was always a minor, supporting character in the strip, and, although he did have a few solo outings, as when he penned a bad Tin Pan Alley song, "Every Little Bug" & tried to hawk it to music publishers, he was mainly just in the background or as a decided sidekick. Second, Eisner phased Ebony out by the end of the 1940s and replaced him with a young white character named Sammy,who behaved just about the same & served the same narrative purpose. Third, there were "serious" African-American characters in the Spirit series, including Detective Grey, a police investigator, who collaborates with the masked hero in several adventures. Fourth, when Eisner brought the Spirit out of retirement for a 1960s, he brought back Ebony--as the middle-aged mayor of Central City, the Spirit's home city. All of this seems to indicate that the mindframe of the young Eisner, who created the strip in 1940, had a different mindset than the older Eisner of the early 1950s or mid-1960s. There were plenty of similarly stereotyped black characters in comics of the 1930s and 1940s, and give Eisner credit for knowing when to retire the character and when to update him into something more realistic.

Frankly, if you would bother to sit down and read reprints of Eisner's Spirit from its glory years, i.e., 1946 through 1950, you'd see that Ebony has very little to do with what's going on. It's also obvious what a great work of fiction the Spirit could be at times, that Eisner was concerned with historical and social issues and with experimentation with narrative in what was largely regarded at the time as junk reading for small kids.

There's a reason why so many comic book artists and writers, including Frank Miller and Alan Moore, have shown so much respect to Eisner, and it's more than appropriate that Google's honoring him today.

Posted by: woolrich2 | March 6, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Shame on Ms or Mr Martin for his/her hatred for Jews. This isn't the first time we've seen it.

Posted by: MORMONYOYOMAN | March 6, 2011 7:30 PM | Report abuse

I got a chance to interview Eisner back in 2000. Basically what he told be was, as a young man, he just couldn't connect the dots between racist attitudes toward Black people and the anti-semitism he had seen. It wasn't until later in life -- when he realized hate is hate no matter who it's directed at and stereotypes are lazy and lame -- that he moved to more realistic and rounded portrayals of Blacks.

Posted by: xaxton | March 6, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

So on April 15, will we have the pain of Tax Day alleviated by seeing another cartoonist-related doodle, this one honoring the 121st anniversary of the birth of Billy DeBeck, the creator of (who else?) Barney Google?

Posted by: seismic-2 | March 7, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

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