Will Eisner was a true architect of the comic book industry, with a career that spanned eight decades—from the pre-Superman age of the mid-1930s, through the superhero heyday of the 1940s and into the graphic novel era of the 1970s, 80s and beyond. The comic book industry’s equivalent of the Oscars is named after him, and each year his lifetime of achievements is celebrated across the country and around the world during the week of his birthday, March 6th. Will Eisner Week was first launched in 2009 as part of a collaborative effort spearheaded by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), and 2014 marks the third straight year that the ToonSeum in Pittsburgh has joined in on the festivities.
“In late 2007 I started a conversation with Ann Eisner and Denis Kitchen about creating Will Eisner Week as a program honoring Will’s commitment to comics, education, and free expression,” Charles Brownstein, executive director of the CBLDF, explains of the event’s inception. “That led to collaboration with Carl and Nancy Gropper, who run the Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation. Will was an avid supporter of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s work in his lifetime. His work to elevate the conversation about comics within the field, and to evangelize to the world-at-large were positive tools in helping us fight the censorship resulting from stigmas against comics as low value speech. Creating Will Eisner Week as an event to celebrate those aspects of his legacy made a lot of sense. As time went on it took on a life of its own, and I’m proud to see that under the guidance of the Groppers and the vision of Danny Fingeroth that my seed of an idea has flowered so elegantly over the years.”