Celebrating 75 years of the masked criminologist
I still vaguely remember it. Standing by the magazine section while my mom did the grocery shopping. This magazine just caught my eye. I was only about 7 yrs old at the time. My knowledge of super heroes was restricted to just the popular ones (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc.). But something about it, just intrigued me.
It was the Spirit. Reprinted by Warren Publishing at the time. He didn’t wear a standard superhero costume. Just a blue suit and hat. White shirt. Red tie. And of course a mask to signify, at least to my young mind, that the Spirit was a superhero.
Honestly, I didn’t understand what was going on in the stories. But there was something about Will Eisner’s art that just sucked me in.
After a short run, Warren stopped publishing the Spirit and I really didn’t think of him.
Fast forward to the early 80’s, and I’m still reading comics. My 2 favorites at the time were the New Teen Titans and the Uncanny X-Men, like most people at that time. But one day, I walk into my local comic shop, and there on the shelf was the Spirit again. This time published by Kitchen Sink Press
Again I was captivated, but unlike my first exposure to the Spirit, this time I really read, and re-read, the stories. It wasn’t just the art this time, but the story as well. I was hooked, and next thing you know, I’m collecting the Spirit on monthly basis. My tastes went from the ordinary, to a little more sophisticated.
When the Spirit first appeared, in his first story, he didn’t have a mask. The way Eisner tells it that his publisher wanted someone who looked more like a superhero. So Eisner just simply drew a mask on as history was born.
The Spirit really didn’t have any super powers. He could take a beating and he could give one as well. And of course he was a master detective.
This is just a little sample of the Spirit’s first story:
While seeming so simple on the outside, the stories were complex and thought provoking. The Spirit actually became a launching point for to explore more of Will Eisner’s work, starting with A Contract With God.
The Spirit had a cast of characters assisting him in his adventures:
I collected the Kitchen Sink series right up until it ended in 1992. My Spirit fix would solely have to rely on my back issues.
Then in 1998, Kitchen Sink Press came out with a new anthology series: The Spirit: The New Adventures. And to kick off this new series, the first issue was written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. It’s been years since these 2 worked on a book together, which I believe was their epic Watchmen. Having Moore and Gibbons reunite on Will Eisner’s Spirit was such a strong start. Unfortunately the series only lasted 8 issues.
The next time the Spirit would appear in the Escapist #6 in April 2005. The Escapist was created by writer Michael Carbon for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Sadly, this would be the last time Will Eisner would draw the Spirit. He passed away in 2005.
But the Spirit would live on!
DC Comics got the license and started to reprint all the Spirit stories in hardcover. As well as a new series written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, of DC: The New Frontier fame. Cooke updated the Spirit for modern times, while not taking away what made the Spirit the Spirit. Cooke was seriously channeling Will Eisner throughout it.
Cooke ended up staying on for 12 issues with the 12th a retelling of the famous Spirit story about Sand Saref. An amazing way to end his run. The book continued until issue 32.
Since then, DC Comics did try several times to relaunch the Spirit, but the series never really caught on. Then the Spirit did a crossover with the Rocketteer published IDW.
And now it was recently released that Grendel writer/artist Matt Wagner would be doing a new Spirit series for Dynamite Entertainment this July at San Diego Comic Con. This new series will be launched in conjunction of the 75th anniversary of the Spirit. So this is something I can not wait for.
I really wish I had the opportunity to meet Will Eisner and to thank him for his immortal character.
So in closing, all I can really say is thanks Will and Happy Anniversary to The Spirit!