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GEM Celebrates Will Eisner Week With New Exhibit

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Geppi’s Entertainment Museum [GEM]’s celebration of Will Eisner Week 2017 will culminate in the opening of a brand new exhibit on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Staged to commemorate the centennial of Will Eisner’s birth, Will’s War: Will Eisner's WWII and Military Comic Work will be presented with Benjamin Herzberg, who collaborated with Eisner on his books Fagin The Jew and The Plot. Also partnering for the exhibit is the Will Eisner estate and the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The nearby facility is where Eisner worked when he created the central character of the exhibit, Joe Dope, during the second world war.

Will Eisner (1917 - 2005) is often regarded as the founding father of the Graphic Novel genre and viewed as one of the greatest advocates the art form has ever had. The comic industry’s most prestigious awards, The Eisner Award, which is recognized as the “Oscars” of the American comic book business, is named after him. Eisner’s long running strip, The Spirit, which ran from 1940 to 1952, remains celebrated for its experimental content, design and form. In 1978, Will Eisner popularized the term "graphic novel" with the publication of his book A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories, which was then followed by three decades of extraordinary work, much of it examining topics in comics form that had never before been dealt with in that medium. His cartoons, comic book stories, graphic novels and other work is among the most celebrated in the history of the field.

Much of this grand master’s work from the World War II period and later for the military, though, is not as familiar to the comic book world in general or even to his many, well informed, dedicated fans. Having served as Eisner's assistant for his last two graphic novels, collected Eisner's art and memorabilia for decades, and serving on the advisory committee of the Will Eisner Week, Herzberg is well placed to change that situation for the better.

Serving as guest curator for the exhibit, he has assembled this first-of-its-kind presentation of Eisner’s work for the military during and after World War II (including his efforts on P.S. Magazine), his subsequent military-themed work such as the graphic novel Last Day In Vietnam, and more.

The exhibit will showcase 20 of Eisner’s never or rarely seen before "Joe Dope" posters. Created in 1942 by Eisner, the fictional clumsy character taught G.I.’s about preventive maintenance and army safety lessons in strong, visual, accessible, everyday language. Also on display will be one of the only three remaining WWII era Eisner paintings, and pages of Eisner’s original art for his classic graphic novel Last Day in Vietnam, as well as a large selection of original P.S. The Preventive Maintenance Monthly, the long-running U.S. Army magazine created by Eisner on proper equipment maintenance.

“Preventive maintenance of army equipment seems mundane to most, but it makes a real difference in combat situation, and it is likely that Will Eisner saved thousands of lives of soldiers with his posters and instructional comics. He learned during that time how to communicate and engage his reader effectively and created a new comics grammar in doing so. So many contemporary comic book artists owe to what Eisner did then, and don't even know it!” Herzberg said.

“Anyone who has been to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum knows that Will Eisner and his legacy hold a special place in our hearts. We’re honored to host this new exhibit at the occasion of Will Eisner’s Centennial, which shines a light on some of his lesser-known work, and we’re excited to work with Benjamin Herzberg, the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground and the Will Eisner Estate to make it happen,” said Melissa Bowersox, President of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.

This marks the second significant Eisner exhibit for GEM in less than two years. In fall 2015, GEM hosted 75 Spirited Years: Will Eisner & The Spirit, the largest exhibit of the Eisner’s signature character during his diamond anniversary year.

As part of kick-off of Will’s War: Will Eisner's WWII and Military Comic Work, GEM will host a spotlight panel discussion about the exhibit on Sunday, March 5, 2017 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The panel will be moderated by GEM’s Exhibits & Collections Manager, Michael Solof, and will include the curator of the exhibit, the current editor of P.S. Magazine, and high-level Military personnel from Aberdeen Proving Ground. Call 410-625-7060 or email somike@GEPPISMUSEUM.COM for details.

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