WILL EISNER WEEK concludes, but it wouldn’t be complete without a discussion with writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, whose evocative style recalls the greatest work of the master himself.
(NOTE: First published in 2014.)
Cooke famously followed in Eisner’s footsteps by bringing The Spirit to modern audiences at DC from 2006 to 2008 and partner Cliff Galbraith and I wanted to pick his brain. He had a lot to say about what it was that Eisner’s body of work taught him as a storyteller — and included a list of tales that every fan should read.
Dan Greenfield: What did you learn from Will Eisner’s work — what gem do you use to this day?
Darwyn Cooke: I think the things I learned are far too numerous and involved for anything less than a book unto itself, but I can certainly touch on what I consider the big-picture things Will’s work taught me.
First: Even if your story is about a toy gun or a crying statue, it is a story about character. It’s about the human condition. If your readers don’t care about your characters, your story will be missing what it needs to fully succeed.
Second: Every panel is a stage you build custom to reflect the very best way to show the reader what you need them to see, and more importantly, feel. You must be tireless in this regard, and no experiment that communicates story visually should be off the table.
Third: Will sort of proved conclusively (at least to me) that there is no school for doing comics that has the full answer. He drew from cinema, literature, real life, theater, and the world’s headlines. Whatever worked best for the story. Bring all your resources to the table.
When you worked on The Spirit, how conscious were you of what had come before and did that force you to change or refine your approach?
I was hyper-aware of what came before, as was my partner J. Bone, but that more or less informed the approach and stayed pretty solid from Day One. Look at the world around me and find an entertaining way to comment on it. Which was what Will did every week for all those years.
What Eisner stories resonate with you the most?
Such a question. With literally hundreds of stories to look at, and such a rich vein of excellent work during the postwar years, I’d simply say the ones that made me feel a familiar and extremely deep emotion through a means I hadn’t seen coming. How’s that for some velvet fog?
Can you name a few Eisner stories that everyone should read?
HEARTBREAK — “Gerhard Schnobble”
SUSPENSE — “Ten Minutes”
ROMANCE — “Sand Serif” and “Bring In Sand Serif” (It’s a two-parter.)
MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN — Will inked by Wally Wood for The Spirit in Outer Space.
HYPER-CINEMATIC NOIR LIGHTING AND COMPOSITION — “Who Killed Cox Robin?”
BADASS ACTION — “Hunt the Octopus”
FOURTH WALL FUN — “Death, Taxes, and the Spirit”
PRECOGNITIVE GLANCE AT A SOCIETAL ILL IN ITS INFANCY — “Fox and Hound”
Darwyn Cooke is a multiple Eisner Award-winner who’s been putting shadows and atmosphere to good use in his adaptations of the Parker books for IDW.