Comic legend Will Eisner was honored Sunday (March 6), on what would have been his 94th birthday, with a creative Google Doodle that references the author's most famous works as interpreted by artist Scott McCloud.
The drawing shows the eyes of Eisner's most well-known creation, The Spirit (aka Denny Colt), substituting for the two "Os" in Google, flanked by buildings taken from his graphic novels about NYC drawn to look like the other letters.
"He died in 2005, but for six decades, Eisner was a participant in, and inspiration for, much of the best in American comics, as well as a friend and mentor to multiple generations of comics artists," McCloud wrote of why he chose to honor 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."
Though perhaps best known as the creator of the strip "The Spirit," which was made into a 2008 film directed by Frank Miller, Eisner was also a pioneer of the graphic novel format. He was recognized for his achievements with the 1987 creation of The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, given each year to exemplary examples of craft in comics. Over the years, recipients have included such celebrated titans as Brian K. Vaughan, Alan Moore and Ed Brubaker.
Not content to simply tell amusing stories, however, Eisner endeavored to take full advantage of the educational value of comics, a plan of attack evident as far back as World War II when he began integrating drawings into Army magazines.
"I remember talking to my commander officer, who was a lieutenant colonel in charge of the newspaper, saying the problem with [the Army's Preventive Maintenance Program] was that it required a voluntary contribution and that the best instructional material that could be produced for this thing was in the comic form," Eisner told MTV News' Brian Jacks in an interview four years before his death. "I was convinced that comics as a medium was a fine instructional tool and was capable of far more than the usual entertainment, gag-a-day stuff."
That commitment continued through the 50s and then into the Korean and Vietnam Wars, where Eisner worked on publications such as "Army Motors," and "P.S. Magazine" among others.
"I became far more interested in the use of comics as an instructional medium than I was as an entertainment medium. I felt that was a new channel for the use of comics," Eisner said. "I started a company called American Visuals Corporation, which was using comics as a teaching tool for industrial purposes. We had companies like General Motors and U.S. Steel, and organizations who had a lot of employees and were looking for pamphlets to distribute to their employees and instruct them."
That the letters in McCloud's art piece are drawn in the style of his New York buildings might have pleased the complex Eisner, who told MTV News of his special connection to the city after the attacks of September 11.
"Even though here I am in Florida, far, far away, I felt very much as though I was there," Eisner said. "I carry within me, as most New Yorkers do, subconsciously or subliminally I should say, the feeling that New York City is a place that is a confined environment. That's the best way I could put it. You spend most of your life in New York City walking through concrete canyons. There isn't room for physical escape from any real danger. The dangers in New York City are all very close to you."
Eisner died on January 3, 2005.