Mr Flibble Talks To... Making The Novel Graphic
Ask any professional comic book artists to list their ten biggest influences, and you can bet that Will Eisner will be right up at the top. His creation - The Spirit - created much of the artistic language still used in comics today. And that was before he moved on to bigger and better things. Mr Flibble talks to the man who created the graphic novel...
23 February, 2001
Will Eisner
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How did you get started in this business?

Well the driving motivating force was malnutrition. (Laughs) I got started quite early, just after high school, I graduated when I was about 18, and I had a job with a newspaper doing what we used to call 'pimple ads,' which were these small advertisements which sold cures. I wrote the copy and drew [them]. I had ambitions to go into stage design, but that wasn't very viable. Remember when I was out there with my big black portfolio it was the tail-end of the depression. It was '36, '37. We were still in this hole. Opportunities weren't always all that great, but there were still chances.

I tried fashion illustration. (Laughs) I got thrown out of that; I remember the art director - to whom I showed my fashion illustrations - looking at my work, calling somebody in and standing and laughing and laughing. Saying those were the funniest faces they'd ever seen. After a while I got the idea that my skills were wrapped around two things. I could write and draw.

So what was your first professional job?

My first professional job was for a magazine called 'Wow' Which I was able to destroy within about two or three issues. (Laughs) I usually went into magazines that died shortly afterwards. But 'Wow' was really based on a British juvenile magazine concept - a lot of stories and text, and a few cartoons and illustrations. I sold them a comic strip called Scott Dalton, which was a four or five page thing, and after that a thing called Hawks of the Seas. Both of them were predicated on classic literature - Hawks of the Seas was predicated on Raphael Sabatini stories, Scott Dalton was based on the historic, explorer-type stories and so forth.

When the magazine collapsed after a couple of issues, I was out of work - but I had become aware then that there was a marvellous opportunity; there was a frontier. Pulp magazines were dying, and the pulp publishers were looking for a new venue. Comics had suddenly burst on the scene through Superman, so they saw an opportunity; and I realised that there was going to be a need for new and original material.

The thing that particularly interested me was that it was complete story material that they could use and needed, and that was the thing I could offer. So while I was out of work, I talked to the editor of 'Wow' magazine, who was also out of work - he was a mature man and he could do the selling. I proposed that we started a studio 'packaging' - the way packages work in television today.

We did it and were almost instantly successful, found customers almost instantly. Sold some material to a publication that rang in England called Wags, which was an insert. Within a year we had a very viable production studio.

Unlike today, there was no comic book industry, there were no schools teaching comics, nobody knew anything about the comic book concept or formula. I was drawing on my years of reading short stories and my interest in the theatre, stage design and so forth. The people that I was hiring were people who were coming from other fields - because there was no precedent.