|Will Eisner is regarded as one of the most influential figures in comics, or sequential art, as he termed it. Born in Brooklyn in 1917, he began his 70-year professional career as a teenager. In the late 1930s, he and Jerry Iger opened one of the first comic book studios; employing such future luminaries as Jack Kirby (the co-creator of Spider-Man and Fantastic Four) and Bob Kane (Batman's creator). In 1939, Eisner launched The Spirit, a Sunday newspaper serial concerning a masked avenger notable for possessing no superpowers. During World War II, Eisner started a new venture, writing and illustrating instructional comics for the U. S. Army, and later produced educational comics for other audiences. Eisner coined the phrase "graphic novel" in 1978 to refer to a new serious work of his, A CONTRACT WITH GOD, concerning a Jewish immigrant's moral downfall after he believes that God has abandoned him. Subsequent graphic novels, often incorporating autobiographical elements--particularly his youth in the tenements and his experiences of anti-Semitism--included THE DREAMER, DROPSIE AVENUE, TO THE HEART OF THE STORM, and his final book, THE PLOT, an exploration and condemnation of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In 1988, the comic book community created a now-prestigious set of awards bearing his name, given out yearly for excellence in the genre. Will Eisner died on January 3, 2005.