I tend to think of Will Eisner as graphic novels' Robert Altman. Like Altman, he's not good at being sweet. Attempts at gentle humour are usually pretty horrible. Like Altman, he's not especially good with irony. No; like Altman, he's at his best when he's being mean.
A CONTRACT WITH GOD was a bombshell in American graphic novel publishing. In truth, it's a collection of short stories -- but it was created and offered as a whole original permanent work, by a book publisher as opposed to a comics publisher, a germinal event in the American medium.
And it's nasty.
These are four stories about unpleasant people who think they are owed by the world, and have things taken away from them by the world. They're from a New York before it became owned by Disney and news billionaires, and specifically an ethnic New York of lost opera singers and troubled Jewish businessmen. A New York that doesn't forgive a thing.
These are people who shout out their little "I Want" up into the sky, standing in the canyons between tenements, getting nothing but cold starlight back and hating it. Mean, real, wonderful little stories.
Warren Ellis has written around thirty graphic novels, comics, prose fiction, journalism, videogames and screenplays. Sometimes he take photographs. He also creates and co-creates websites, including this one. He has awards and stuff, he's been in big magazines and newspapers, and he's been published in Nature, which he always mentions because it makes him laugh. He's on the web at warrenellis.com and diepunyhumans.com.