In comics history, the 1978 publication of Will Eisner’s A Contract with God has been heralded as a seminal moment in the development of the graphic novel form. In his discussions of the book’s initial publication, Eisner regularly told of how he came up with the term “graphic novel” on his own, in order to distinguish his work from the juvenile reputation of the “comic book.” However, starting in 1974, Jack Katz began sharing with Eisner his ambitious comic series The First Kingdom, which Katz referred to throughout their long correspondence as a “graphic novel.” These letters form the basis of an alternative narrative for Eisner’s ultimate arrival at the term “graphic novel” to describe A Contract with God. The earliest correspondences between Katz and Eisner show two comics creators from the same generation working out ideas for moving the medium into an area of artistic and literary acceptance, beginning with a new term to describe the work. The Eisner/Katz letters, combined with other letters and interviews with Eisner dating back to the late 1960s, reveal how Will Eisner was trying to navigate the binary of art and commerce on his way to creating A Contract with God.


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pp. 27-39
Launched on MUSE
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