Cover image for Fagin the Jew
Fagin the Jew
Eisner, Will.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, [2003]

Physical Description:
122 pages, 6 unnumbered pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN6727.E4 F34 2003 Graphic Novel Central Library

On Order



A graphic novel adaptation of the story of Oliver Twist from Fagin's perspective recasts the character as a complex and troubled anti-hero who struggles with prejudice, poverty, and anti-Semitism. Original.

Author Notes

Will Eisner was born March 6, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY. As a child he worked for printers and sold newspapers. He attended De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where his artwork first appeared in the school newspaper. His first job was at the New York American, but he lost that and found a job with WOW What a Magazine! in 1936. He created two features for the magazine, Harry Karry and The Flame. After the magazine went under, for a short time, he freelanced and drew stories for Comic Magazines before he and friend Jerry Iger formed a the Eisner-Iger studio. The two went their separate ways when Eisner joined the Quality Comics Group to produce a syndicated 16-page newspaper supplement. It was there that Eisner created his most well known character, the Spirit.

In 1942, Eisner was drafted into the army where he produced posters and strips for the troops. After the war, he continued the Spirit strip until 1952. It was during this time that he created the American Visuals Corporation, a commercial art company that created comics for educational and commercial purposes. Some of the company's clients included RCA Records, the Baltimore Colts, and New York Telephone.

Eisner had given up on the Spirit strip, but still produced new material for it from time to time. He chose to focus his efforts on a more mature storyline and so produced A Contract With God, which was published in 1978. It was the beginnings of the graphic novel.

Eisner also taught cartooning at the School of Visual Arts in New York, in addition to writing Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling. The Eisner Awards, one of only two comics industry awards, are named for Eisner and were established in 1988. Eisner's work was showcased in the Whitney Museum's 1996 "NYNY: City of Ambition" show.

Will Eisner passed away on Monday January 3, 2005 at the age of 87 after undergoing quadruple bypass heart surgery.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Comic-book pioneer Eisner, creator of the masked crimefighter the Spirit in the 1940s, recently has made a series of graphic novels portrayingewish life in America. Now he tackles another aspect ofewish history--or, more precisely,ewish fiction--by reinterpreting Oliver Twist and focusing on Fagin, Dickens' sinister ringleader of a band of young thieves. Eisner's Fagin is forced into crime by poverty and prejudice, and Eisner envisions the character's youthful attempts at honesty and self-betterment being repeatedly thwarted by anti-Semitism. Moreover, Eisner appends a redemptive ending for Fagin. In its revisionist view of a classic literary villain, this is theohn Gardner Grendel of graphic novels. Eisner's renditions, if livelier and more expressive, are as caricatured as George Cruikshank's original illustrations of Fagin and, of course, eschew offensive nineteenth-century stereotypes. If Eisner's starkly melodramatic, agenda-driven narrative lacks nuance and so relies on coincidence that Dickens himself would blush, his heartfelt apologia for Fagin should be strongly considered forewish-studies collections as well as for graphic-novel collections. --Gordon Flagg Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Comics legend Eisner (A Contract with God) here sets out to resuscitate the reputation of Fagin, ringleader of the thieving boys in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. In early 19th-century England, Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal had the opportunity to thrive-but Moses Fagin is a lower-class Ashkenazic Jew, expelled from central Europe. As written by Eisner, Fagin gains depth and humanity, and he could have found success on the right side of the law had not persecution, poverty, and bad luck hindered him. As a boy, he is taught dishonest street tricks by his father; when his parents die, he has a chance at a better life as the servant of a wealthy Jew. But after being caught in a tryst with a woman above his station, Fagin is drawn back into the ways of the street and is eventually transported to a penal colony for ten years, returning a broken man. When Oliver is brought into his gang, Fagin develops genuine affection for the boy, and when Fagin is condemned to die, Eisner, unlike Dickens, gives him a chance at dignity. Illustrated in the same masterly black-and-white style as the books in DC's "Will Eisner Library," this is strongly recommended for adults and teens. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.