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Fagin The Jew 10th Anniversary Edition

Fagin The Jew 10th Anniversary Edition

by Will Eisner

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Comics luminary Will Eisner takes on literary giant Charles Dickens, in this fascinating retelling of the life of Oliver Twist's Fagin! Imagining Fagin's impoverished childhood in the slums of London and his initiation into the criminal underworld, Eisner's story counters the anti-Semitism of Victorian literature as his gorgeous brushwork creates an evocative portrait


Comics luminary Will Eisner takes on literary giant Charles Dickens, in this fascinating retelling of the life of Oliver Twist's Fagin! Imagining Fagin's impoverished childhood in the slums of London and his initiation into the criminal underworld, Eisner's story counters the anti-Semitism of Victorian literature as his gorgeous brushwork creates an evocative portrait of the era. * Now with Eisner's previously unused full-color cover art! * Foreword by Brian Michael Bendis! * Introduction by Dickens scholar Jeet Heer!

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 11/15/2013
First published in 2003, this compelling counternarrative is framed as Fagin's apologia to Dickens and folds in plenty of historical background about Jews in Europe and England during the late 19th century. This new edition adds a foreword from writer Brian Michael Bendis, plus a meaty afterword by Canadian journalist Jeet Heer, with additional sources. Once chided for portraying a stereotypical African American, Ebony White, who was the sidekick to main character Denny Colt from The Spirit (1940), comics legend Eisner (A Contract with God) turned in later life to challenging stereotypes, here of the "evil Jew" Fagin in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. Eisner's reenvisioned character becomes somewhat like Oliver in that his impoverished background makes him more prone to fall into crime simply to survive. Fagin thereby becomes a more nuanced character with a streak of goodness while still part of a heart-jerking melodrama—though Eisner's skill lies in his sepia brushwork more than in his words. VERDICT Several hundred U.S. libraries already own the earlier version of this classic of literary comics, which is excellent fodder for classrooms and discussion groups of tweens through adults. Larger libraries may want this expanded edition also, and libraries without the previous version should snap this up.—M.C.
Publishers Weekly
Eisner, the inventor of the graphic novel format, has been writing and drawing stories about Jewish working-class life since 1978's A Contract with God. This time, though, he's turned to an unlikely variation on that theme, by rehabilitating Fagin, the trainer of young thieves from Dickens's Oliver Twist. In Eisner's version, Fagin grows up in London's Ashkenazi communities, forced into crime by cruel fate and crueler prejudice; most of the book is framed as his pre-gallows plea for sympathy to Dickens (with a tacked-on epilogue in which the grown-up Oliver discovers Fagin should actually have inherited a fortune). Eisner has been drawing comics for 65 years, and his illustrations have become even more gorgeously expressive with time. He's done this book in a sepia wash that makes his carefully researched depiction of 19th-century London look both grubby and glorious, and wholly convincing. But the story errs on the side of extreme coincidence and melodrama, especially in the middle, where Eisner's inventive imagining of Fagin's early life and initiation into petty theft gives way to an awkwardly simplified run-through of Dickens's plot. The constant stream of expository dialogue becomes laughable after a while. No one can convey a story through drawn body language like Eisner can (his drawings of Fagin's partner, Sikes, convey an unnerving mixture of physical cruelty and hauteur); it's too bad his words aren't up to the same standard. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Moses Fagin, "the Jew" of Dickens's Oliver Twist, not only tells his side of the events in the novel, but he also narrates his own formative years in the process. A lower class Ashkenazic Jew, young Moses did not catch many breaks. His father was murdered. His mother died soon afterward. He became houseboy to a philanthropic Sephardic Jew who raised him, but as a young adult, Moses falls in love with the wrong girl and is thrown out into the streets. He takes up with the wrong crowd—or rather he is taken up by the wrong crowd—and he ends up in a penal colony. He has a few spots of good luck, but they are always followed by bad. When he ends up back in London, his story links up with Oliver's. Moses ends up on the gallows in this version also, but an epilogue binds his story even more tightly to Oliver's and ties Moses Fagin's life up more neatly albeit more sadly. Father of the graphic novel format, Eisner produces a book that is as much a social commentary as it is a re-imagining of Dickens's stereotypical villain. The art is recognizably Eisner, expressive and slightly exaggerated without seeming cartoonish. Here it is rendered in sepia tones that reinforce the idea that the narrative is all a memory. Teens with an interest in sequential art would do well to read anything by Eisner. If they have read Oliver Twist in school, this work might interest them even more because of the familiar subject matter. This graphic novel is recommended for most collections and large young adult collections. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P S A/YA G (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for YoungAdults; Graphic Novel Format). 2003, Doubleday, 128p., Trade pb. Ages 15 to Adult.
—Timothy Capehart
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-The father of the graphic novel takes an iconographic character from Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist and gives him a personal history. The scheming but humane criminal depicted in the social novel might have experienced, according to Eisner, a childhood marked by emigration from Germany and the early death of his impoverished parents, a doomed romance, and a sojourn abroad as an indentured prisoner. The foreword explains how these details are historically probable and, indeed, relevant to the literary Jew depicted by Dickens. That Eisner has a mission to explore and redress past stereotyping-his own as well as Dickens's-does not diminish the aesthetic quality of this new telling of a fictional character's life and times. The sepia tones are of course well suited to extending the period mood, while facial and body expressions, costumes, the street scenes, and rooms are all sensuously detailed. This is a work not only for students wanting an alternative view of Oliver Twist, but also for those concerned with media influence on stereotypes and the history of immigration issues.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Dark Horse Comics
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Meet the Author

WILL EISNER is the author of many acclaimed graphic novels, including Last Day in Vietnam and Dropsie Avenue, and is the author of two definitive works on the creative process, Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling. He has taught cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and every year presides over the Eisner Awards presented at Comic-Con International in San Diego. He lives in Tamarac, Florida.

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