Posted on Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
One of the enduring examples of the graphic novel as a form is Will Eisner‘s A Contract With God, a collection of short stories that is often called the first graphic novel. It isn’t that, but it is a wonderful book, and a great example of why Eisner is considered a master of comic book storytelling.
Now, and this was probably inevitable, there is a film version in development.
THR says that producer Darren Dean is behind the adaptation, which is being written by four screenwriters, each of whom will take resposibility for one of the short stories that makes up the novel. They are: Alex Rivera, who wrote and directed Sleep Dealer; Tze Chun, who wrote and directed Children of Invention; Barry Jenkins, who wrote and directed Medicine for Melancholy; and Sean Baker, who directed and co-wrote (with Darren Dean) Prince of Broadway.
That’s an interesting lineup — all are writer/directors, and all have made films that deal with immigration or or immigrant subcultures within cities. When I think of A Contract with God I wonder how a film could be made that didn’t feel outrageously old-fashioned, but knowing at least the work of Rivera, Chun and Baker, I could see how the sensibilities in their films might translate well to Eisner’s work. And we don’t know how hard and fast the adapted stories will stick to the original Eisner tales. Updating and changing them might be a great way to present an alternate version of the novel.
Here’s the wiki synopsis of A Contract with God:
The work consists of four short stories — “A Contract With God”, “The Super”, “The Street Singer”, and “Cookalein” — all set in a Bronx tenement in the 1930s, with the last story (“Cookalein”) also taking place at a summer getaway for Jews. The stories are semi-autobiographical, with Eisner drawing heavily on his own childhood experiences as well as those of his contemporaries. Utilizing his talents for expressive lettering and cartoonish figures, he links the narratives by the common setting and the common theme of immigrant and first-generation experiences, across cultures.