Wednesday, June 2, 2010

That's The Spirit!

As I prepare to teach comics history again, I am mindful that today is the 70th Anniversary of the first public appearance of Will Eisner's The Spirit!
So much has already been said about this work. The years of study, the experimentation, the discovery of the work and the young minds that discovery opened. For me, it was the Harvey Spirit #1, which I bought coverless for a nickel at the used furniture store in my small hometown. This is what I saw that fateful day!

More than a decade later, while I was in film school at UW-Madison, I was shopping at the Book Co-op (A book co-op! What a great time to live in a great town!) and I saw the Kitchen Sink Spirit # 1 and 2 on their underground comic rack.

Then the Warren magazines started coming out, and I started to get it. There was a vast array of comics history and art about which I knew nothing!

Over the decades, other publishers reprinted the work. Denis Kitchen worked with Eisner to get new work in print, including A Contract With God, which allowed so many new possibilities for comics creation and marketing.
Of course, we endured the awful Frank Miller film. The less said about it the better.
And the whole Eisner run  is now available in hardcovers- 26 of them at $50 - 60 a pop. But they're out there!
DC is currently revamping the character yet again. I have mixed feelings about this one. The Spirit shouldn't swear. All that deeply anguished noir stuff just isn't Denny Colt. But there was a black and white Spirit story by Harlan Ellison in the last issue that was well worth the price of admission!

I don't know which is worse, anguish or sass. Both are just a bit, well, off for this character, and more than a bit annoying.
Flawed as it was, I rather like the 80s Spirit TV movie. It's kind of like Rockford Files with a mask, but Eisner did have a hand in its production, and aside from the wooden acting of Sam Jones, who also played Flash Gordon in the 80s film, it has a good look and at least a measure of respect for its source material.