Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Name of the Game on Graphic Novel Thursday

Today I will be writing about Will Eisner's 2003 Graphic Novel "The Name of the Game".

Having read a good amount of Scott McCloud books ("Understanding Comics", "Zot") I have this second hand knowledge and fascination with Will Eisner. McCloud, and every one else in comics, has a deep fondness for Eisner's innovations, the forefront being the American graphic novel. Until Eisner's "A Contract with God" there were few if any serious pieces of graphic literature. Considering the importance of Eisner in comics history, he also created "The Spirit", I thought it was about time I read some of his work.

"The Name of the Game" follows the history of the Arnheims, a wealthy German-Jewish family who emigrated in the 19th century. The story while often a mix of drama and family tension focuses on the generational divide through three generations of Arnheims. It begins with Isidore Arnheim, an industrial man who inherits his father's corset factory. Isidore is a capable business man who married well and saw importance in social status.

Isisdore leaves the company to his gallivanting son Conrad after forcing him in to a marriage with a financiers daughter. Conrad is a shallow and boorish man who seems to create tragedy all while destroying his families original business. The story continues on to Conrad's daughter's Rosie husband Aron, who despite Rosie's hopes becomes a man similar to Conrad.

The main focus and theme of "The Name of the Game" seems to be the high society desire to impress others and remain at the top socially. This pursuit ultimately leads to the dramatic as every generation instills different pressures on the one below through arranged marriage and inheritance issues. This synthesized drama leads to unhappy marriages, abuse, and in many cases, death. By the end of the story, I was left with a slightly sick feeling about the effects of money and social privilege on people. The industrious generations of Isidore and his father lead to the spoiled and lazy generation that still enjoys the family's success.

I really enjoyed "The Name of the Game". It is a wonderful story of the hidden drama of the American wealthy well illustrated by Eisner. It is an easy suggestion for anyone interested in reading Eisner or a critique on the history of American society.