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The book’s short story cycle revolves around poor Jewish characters who live in a tenement in New York City. Eisner produced two sequels set in the same tenement: A Life Force inand Dropsie Avenue in Though the term “graphic novel” did not originate with Eisner, the book is credited with popularizing its use. Four stand-alone stories make up the book: The stories are thematically linked with motifs of frustration, disillusionment, violence, and issues of ethnic identity.

Eisner uses large, monochromatic images in dramatic perspective, and emphasizes the caricatured characters’ facial expressions; few panels or captions have traditional borders around them. Eisner began his comic book career in and had long held artistic ambitions for what was perceived as a lowbrow medium. He found no support for his ideas, and left the world of commercial comics after ending his signature work The Spirit in The growth of comics fandom convinced him to return in the s, and he worked to realize his aspirations of creating comics with literary content.

He wanted a mainstream publisher for the book and to have it sold in traditional bookstores, rather than in comic book shops ; the small press Baronet Books released A Contract with God in and marketed it as a “graphic novel”, which thereafter became the common term for book-length comics. It sold slowly at first, but gained respect from Eisner’s peers, and since has been reprinted by larger publishers.

Contrato Con Dios : Will Eisner :

A Contract with God cemented Eisner’s reputation as an elder statesman of comics, coontrato he continued to produce graphic novels and theoretical works on comics until his death in A Contract with God mixes melodrama with social realism. In the preface he stated his aim to keep the exaggeration in his cartooning within realistic limits. The story “A Contract with God” drew from Eisner’s feelings over the death at sixteen of his daughter Alice. The stories’ sexual content is prominent, though not in the gratuitous manner of underground comix ‘ celebration of hedonism, [11] which contrasted with the conservative lifestyle of Eisner the middle-aged businessman.

Eisner used no profanity in the book, [10] and according to critic Josh Lambert the sex in Contract is not so much erotic as disturbing, the characters frustrated or filled with guilt.

A Contract with God – Wikipedia

In Russia, the young, deeply religious Hasidic Jew Frimme Hersh [a] carves a contract with God on a stone tablet to live a life of good deeds; he attributes to it his later success in life. He moves to New York, into a tenement building at 55 Dropsie Avenue, and lives a simple life devoted to God.

He adopts an infant girl, Rachele, who is abandoned on his doorstep. When she dies of a sudden illness, Hersh is infuriated, and accuses God of violating their contract. He abandons his faith, shaves his contratooand lives a life as a miserly businessman in a penthouse with a gentile mistress. He illicitly conrrato a synagogue’s bonds that were entrusted to him to buy the tenement building in which he had lived when poor.

He becomes dissatisfied with his new way of life, and decides that he needs a new contract with God to fill the emptiness he feels. He has a group of rabbis draw up a new contract, but when he returns home with it, his heart fails and he dies.

A boy, Shloime, finds Hersh’s old contract, and signs his own name to it.

Eisner called the eisjer creation “an exercise in personal anguish” [16] as he was still grieved and angered over his daughter Alice’s death from leukemia at He stated, wilk argument with God was mine. I exorcised my rage at a deity that I believed violated my faith and deprived my lovely year-old child of her life at the very flowering of it. Marta Maria, an aging opera singer, tries to seduce a young man, [18] Eddie, whom she finds singing in the alleys between tenement buildings.

She had given up her own singing career for an alcoholic husband; she qill to get back into show business as mentor to Eddie, and gives him money for clothes.

He buys whiskey instead and returns to his pregnant wife, who herself had given up on show business for him and whom he abuses. He hopes to take advantage of Maria and build an actual singing career, but wilp unable to find the aging diva again—he does not know her address, and the tenement buildings appear all the same to him.

Eisner based the story on memories of an unemployed man who made the rounds of tenements singing “popular songs or off-key operatic operas” [20] for spare change. Eisner remembered throwing the street singer coins on occasion, and considered he “was able to immortalize his story” in “The Rios Singer”.


Those who live in the tenement at 55 Dropsie Avenue fear and mistrust their antisemitic superintendent, Mr.

Farfell’s young niece Rosie goes down to his apartment and offers him a peek at her panties for a nickel. After receiving the nickel she poisons Scuggs’ dog and only companion, Hugo, and steals Scuggs’s money. He corners her in an alley, where the tenants spot him and call the police, accusing him of trying to molest a minor. Before the police can break into his apartment to arrest co, he shoots himself, embracing Hugo’s body.

Eisner wrote that he based the superintendent on the “mysterious but threatening custodian” [20] of his boyhood tenement. To be alone with his mistress, a man named Sam sends his wife contfato children away to the Catskill Mountainswhere they stay at a “cookalein” Yiddish: A clothing cutter named Benny and a secretary named Goldie are staying at an expensive hotel near the cookalein, both hoping to find someone rich to marry; they mistake each other for a wealthy target, and when they discover eianer, Benny rapes Goldie.

Herbie, an intern Goldie had earlier turned down, coj her into his care, and Benny goes on to court an heiress. An older woman seduces Sam’s fifteen-year-old son Willie at the cookalein; they are discovered by her husband who, after beating her, makes love to her in front of the boy. At the end of the summer, the vacationers return to Dropsie Avenue. Goldie and Herbie are engaged, and Benny believes he will be marrying into the diamond business. Willie is affected by his experiences, but does not express them, [10] and his family contrafo to leave the tenement.

Will Eisner was born in New York in to poor Jewish immigrants. Like others of his ccontrato, he turned to comics as an artistic outlet, vios a career he began in In the late s he co-owned a studio which produced content for comic books; he left the studio in to produce his best-known creation, the formally inventive The Spirit dis, which ran as a newspaper insert from to With the rise of conttrato fandom in the s, Eisner found there was still interest in his decades-old Spirit comics, and that the fans wanted more work from him.

After American Visuals went out of business inEisner entered a deal with underground comix publisher Denis Kitchen to reprint old Spirit stories.

Eisner had had greater artistic ambitions for comics since his time doing The Spirit. Since contratk s, he had been developing ideas for a book, but was unable to gain support for them, as comics was seen by both the public and its practitioners as low-status entertainment; at a meeting of the National Cartoonists Society inRube Goldberg rebuked Eisner’s ambitions, saying, “You are a vaudevillian like the rest of us With the critical acceptance of underground comix in the s, Eisner saw a potential market for his ideas.

Inhe produced his first book-length, adult-oriented work, A Contract with God.

Contrato Con Dios

He marketed it as a ” graphic novel “—a term which had been in wlil since the s, but was little known until Eisner popularized it with Contract. The Dreamer and To the Heart of the Storm Eisner was brought up in a religious household, but himself was a reluctant disbeliever.

The narration is lettered contrto part of the artwork, rather than being set apart in caption boxes, and Com makes little use of conventional box-style panels, often avoiding panel borders entirely, [39] delimiting spaces with buildings or window frames instead.

The dark, vertical rain surrounding Hersh when he buries his vios in the first story is echoed by the revised final image of the last story, in which Willie stares out into a city sky in a similar hatched rainy “Eisenshpritz” [b] style. In contrast to comics in the superhero genre, in which Eisner did prominent work early in his career, the characters in A Contract with God are not heroic; they often feel frustrated and powerless, even when performing seemingly heroic deeds to help their neighbors.

The stories share themes of disillusionment and frustration over thwarted desires. Frimme Hersh grieves over the death of his daughter, which he perceives as a breach of his contract with God; [47] street singer Eddie returns to insignificance when he finds sisner unable to find his would-be benefactor; [2] Wjll and Willie’s romantic ideals are disillusioned after her near-rape and his seduction.

The characters are depicted neither as purely good or evil: According to academic Derek Royal, Jewish ethnicity is prominent throughout the stories; in “A Contract with God” and “Cookalein”, religious and cultural Jewish symbolry are prominent, though in the middle two stories, there is little outward evidence of the characters’ Jewishness.

The two outer stories further emphasize Jewish identity with the extra-urban portions of their settings—the rural Russian origin of the religious Hersh in “Contract”, and the Catskill mountains in “Cookalein”, a retreat commonly associated with Jews in the 20th century.


He juxtaposes individual stories and individual characters, who have different experiences which may be incompatible with one another; this confounds any single definition of “Jewishness”, though there is a communal sense that binds these characters and their Jewishness together. Royal argues that Eisner shows the unresolved nature of American identity, in which ethnicities are conflicted between cultural assimilation and their ethnic associations.

Royal argued that the book was not only important to comics studiesbut also to the study of Jewish and ethnic American literature. Much like short story cycles common to contemporary Jewish prose, in which stories can stand alone, but complement each other when read as a loosely integrated package, Royal wrote that Contract could be better described as a “graphic cycle” rather than a “graphic novel”.

Art critic Peter Schjeldahl saw the “over-the-topness” endemic to American comics, and Eisner’s work, as “ill suited to serious subjects, especially those that incorporate authentic social history”.

The concept of a contract or covenant with God is fundamental to the Jewish religion. The idea that God must uphold his end of the first commandment has been a subject of works such as Elie Wiesel ‘s play The Trial of Godmade in response to the atrocities Wiesel witnessed at Auschwitz. But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?

She wrote that “the suffering of the righteous” is “one of the greatest problems in Jewish thought”, [56] conrrato that a character as devoutly religious as Hersh would not have struggled with what she saw as elementary Jewish teaching. The book took two years to finish.

As he had no deadline, he reworked and contrago the stories until he was satisfied. Eisner intended A Contract with God to have an adult audience, and wanted it to be sold in bookstores rather than comic shops; [59] as such, he turned down an offer from Denis Kitchen to publish it. Eisner had originally intended to call the book Tenement StoriesTales from the Bronx[60] or A Tenement in the Bronx [30] but Baronet titled it A Contract with Godafter the lead story, [60] as the term “tenement” was not conrato known outside the eastern US.

Sales were poor, but demand increased over the years. A Contract with God has frequently, though erroneously, been cited as the first graphic novel; [70] comic book reviewer Richard Kyle had used the term in in a fan newsletter, [71] and it had appeared on the cover of The First Kingdom by Jack Katzwith whom Eisner had corresponded. It dioz considered a milestone in American comics history not only for its format, but also for its literary aspirations and for having dispensed with typical comic-book genre tropes.

Eisner continued to produce graphic novels in a third phase to his cartooning career that ultimately lasted longer than either his periods in comic books or in educational comics. According to comics historian R. Fiore, Einser work as a graphic novelist also maintained his reputation as “a contemporary figure rather than a relic of the co past”. Christopher Couch considered wilk book’s physical format to be Eisner’s major contribution to the graphic novel form—few in comic book publishing had experience in bookmaking, [f] whereas Eisner gained intimate familiarity with the process during his time at American Visuals.

Eisner visited the store to find out how the book was faring after being taking down from display.

The manager told him it had been placed in the religious section, and then in humor, but customers had raised concerns that the book did not belong in those sections. The manager gave up and put the book in storage in the cellar. Early reviews were positive.

O’Neil wrote that the combination of words and images mimicked the experience of remembering more accurately than was possible with pure prose. Eisner’s status as a cartoonist grew after A Contract with God appeared, and his influence was augmented by his time as a teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he expounded his theories of the medium. He later turned his lectures into the books Comics and Sequential Art —the first book in English on the formalities and of the comics medium—and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative Norton have reissued his graphic novel work, while his superhero Spirit work has been reprinted by publishers with less social esteem such as DC Comics.

Cartoonist Dave Sim praised the book and wrote that he reread it frequently, [82] but called it “a bit illegitimate” to use the term “graphic novel” for works of such brevity; [83] he stated he could read the book in “twenty to thirty minutes”, [84] which he argued amounted to “the equivalent of a twenty-page short story”.