Robot 6

Google celebrates Will Eisner’s birthday

To mark what would have been Will Eisner’s 94th birthday, Google is honoring him with a homepage “doodle” spotlighting The Spirit and the cartoonist’s imaginative blend of type and architecture. Scott McCloud, who helped design the piece, also writes a tribute to Eisner on the Official Google Blog: “For most of his career, Eisner was years, even decades, ahead of the curve. I saw him debating artists and editors half his age, and there was rarely any question who the youngest man in the room was. It helped that he never stood on ceremony. Everyone was his peer, regardless of age or status. None of us called him ‘Mr. Eisner.’ He was just “Will’.”

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12 Comments

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.

I, too, am disappointed. CBR should be loading up on SEO-friendly keywords related to Mr. Eisner and The Spirit today. We should be hoping for all the Google searches we can get by reprinting EVERYTHING we have in the vast CBR library back to the front page. Maybe we could reprint the Wikipedia entry, too. I hear that’s Creative Commons, so we’re allowed, right? Does anyone have an old interview we could create a separate blog entry out of?

Show me the SEO money!!!

@T. Martin

Erm – kind of difficult to say he’s unrepentant to this day since he’s been dead for 6 years…

Generally when I respond on message boards or blogs, I TRY to elevate the conversation where I can, but in the case of T. Martin, where clearly he doesn’t get easy concepts likes historical context nor does he know anything about Eisner other than what is evidenced by his ill informed rantings above, I have only one thing to say:

T. Martin, you’re a serious dolt.

And Kudos to Scott McCloud and Google for recognizing one of the most influential and important illustrators to ever contribute to the comics medium. Without him, many of the artists we love today would not have been inspired to do what they do.

Kudos to Google for honoring Eisner! Eisner is an important American artist who should be higher profile to the mainstream media than he is. The way he visually portrayed Ebony White is consistent with the way blacks were portrayed at the time, and while definitely insulting by today’s standards, was done without malice. If one holds the same standard against all artists, then we wouldn’t be celebrating Dr. Seuss this month, either, for he, too, used unflattering visual portrayals of people of color. However, both artists dealt with themes of equality in their work and I believe that is what should be looked at. Ebony was often the bravest and smartest character in the stories in which he was featured and often saved the day. True, he was sometimes used for comedy relief, but so were the white characters. Most, if not all, of Eisner’s criminals were white folks. That doesn’t mean he discriminated against whites, either.

@ T. Martin

“Oh No, someone was racist in the 1930′s!”

You know who else was racist in the 1930′s? EVERYONE. Not even hyperbole.

While it’s by no means PC by today’s standards, the fact that Ebony existed at all in the comic, never mind as the sidekick and close friend of the main character The Spirit was generally more than what most people in the entertainment mediums did at the time. It might still look bad, but it was unfortunately the product of its time.

If you look at much more recent Spirit comics, particularly the Eisner-approved series by Darwyn Cooke, Ebony both looks and speaks like a normal human being, but his role as an assistant and friend is the same as it was 60 years ago.

Simon DelMonte

March 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Funny. But it always struck me that even when Eisner was writing The Spirit, he was trying to make amends for Ebony with positive portrayals of African Americans when no one was doing that, and by even addressing Ebony’s speech patterns. Was Ebony racist? Yes? Was Eisner a hateful bigot? I don’t think so.

Eisner Reader

March 6, 2011 at 2:41 pm

If you read Eisner’s later works like Dropsie Ave he often has realistic black characters living in a realistically racist world. Just because Ebony was a caricature of African Americans does not mean Eisner was racist, look at most potrayals in those times. In fact, given the time period, Eisner was pretty progressive when it came to adding people of color in his works.

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, T. Martin, I can be just as ridiculously histrionic as you are. I note you’re spamming this nonsense all over the internet, so I just followed you over here from the WASHINGTON POST.

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.

Shame on Ms and/or Mr Martin for being prejudiced towards Jews!

*jeep!
—Grandpa Chet

I remember watching a televised debate about censorship on the internet. The net neutrality defenders was, possibly, the worst caricature of an internet used you can imagine. He was a corpulent gentleman in his late 20′s/early 30′s with an unkempt neckbeard. He was so obnoxious that even if you agreed with him, you’d be inclined to disagree with him on principle. Everytime there was a point he didn’t like, he’d interrupt his opponent with a loud:

“I defy you!
I defy you!
I DEFY YOU!”

Long story short: I think that was T. Martin.

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