Monday, 16 September 2013

A Letter To 'The New Yorker'

"Lifelong New Yorker Bernard Krigstein, waiting for the subway.
The latest in my series of portraits of 'legends of comic books'."
Bernie Krigstein (2012) by Drew Friedman

Dear Sirs,

Owing to an unfortunate, for a general interest magazine, choice of anecdote, Art Spiegelman may have (I am sure, inadvertently) left some of your readership with the entirely mistaken impression that Bernard Krigstein's characterisation of Mr. Will Eisner as "the enemy" (Bullbuster, 22 July 2002) represents anything other than a singular, largely, inexplicable and wholly indefensible - albeit fascinating - prejudice on the part of the late Mr. Krigstein.

I feel safe in saying that Mr. Eisner is universally recognised as the single greatest pioneer in the "language" of comic-book storytelling, the innovator of many of those techniques and "breakdowns" which (as Mr. Spiegelman rightly asserts) Bernard Krigstein used to such good effect in his own work - work which occupies a place of undisputed high rank in the pantheon of "comic-book greats", (albeit on a plateau which is widely agreed to be somewhat below that of Will Eisner). I think it worth noting that, years after Mr. Krigstein had abandoned the field, it was Will Eisner who first coined the term - and made the first tentative explorations within the confines of - the "graphic novel" and is, even today, recognised as one of the greatest practitioners (as is, one hasten to add, Mr Spiegelman, himself).

It would be of interest to many of us with a life-long absorption in the comic-book field to read - preferably in some "industry" publication where those space restrictions implied by a general interest publication would not be a problem - Mr. Spiegelman's speculations on what he would see as the reasons underlying Bernard Krigstein's extraordinary perception of Will Eisner as "the enemy".

Dave Sim
Kitchener, Ontario

(from 'Letter To The New Yorker', Cerebus #282, September 2002)

1 comment:

Barry Deutsch said...

My guess is that Krigstein, who tried to organize cartoonists into a labor union of sorts in the 1950s, thought of Eisner as management, and hence the enemy.

Krigstein's short story "Master Race," which Spiegleman in the New Yorker calls Krigstein's masterpiece, can be read online here.