I recently read the 2007 DC trade paperback The Spirit Book One by Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart. I was pleasantly surprised that in updating the character of the Spirit they had stayed within the...errrr...no other word to use but spirit of the original. Kudos to this book's team for bringing the cast of the Spirit into the 21st Century with a new/old look.Read The Spirit story here.
Not that I didn't find some things to complain about, but they are relatively minor. Also, there were 22 pages per story. I wondered why Will Eisner could jam a whole plot into 7 pages but it takes modern guys three times the pages to tell their tales.
Here's the original art from a Spirit episode from February, 1947. Will Eisner employed other artists to do most of the drawing, but he gave it the final touch, a gloss that told us instantly he was the HHIC, Head Honcho In Charge. This story about race track touts uses several characters, but is told in a concise fashion. Even though art styles have changed in the 63 years since this was drawn, anyone who wants to draw comic books and tell stories would do well to get a bunch of Spirit stories and see why Eisner could do what he did so economically.
The artwork is from Heritage Auctions--thanks to them for posting it--and was sold for $11,950.
November 2010 Archives
Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine has run an old Spirit story from 1947 in glorious black white, with scans from the original artwork. Pappy writes:
Win Wiacek takes a look back at one of Kitchen Sink's Eisner hardback editions:
Eisner found himself re-enamored with graphic narrative and saw a willing audience eager for new works. From producing new Spirit covers for the magazine (something the original newspaper insert had never needed) he became increasingly inspired. American comics were evolving into an art-form and the restless creator finally saw a place for the kind of stories he had always wanted to tell.Read the full article here.
He began crafting some of the most telling and impressive work the industry had ever seen: first in limited collector portfolios and eventually, in 1978, with the groundbreaking graphic novel A Contract With God.
If Jack Kirby is the American comicbook's most influential artist, Will Eisner is undoubtedly its most venerated and exceptional storyteller. Contemporaries originating from strikingly similar Jewish backgrounds, each used comic arts to escape from their own tenements, achieving varying degrees of acclaim and success, and eventually settling upon a theme to colour all their later works. For Kirby it was the Cosmos, what Man would find there, and how humanity would transcend its origins in The Ultimate Outward Escape. Will Eisner went Home, went Back and went Inward.
This fictionalised series of tales about the Jewish immigrant experience led to a wonderful succession of challenging, controversial and breathtakingly human stories for adults which changed how comics were perceived in America... and all because the inquisitive perfectionist was asked to produce some new covers for old stories.
This glorious oversized hardback (still available through internet retailers) features two full Spirit adventures, fully re-coloured by the master (who was never particularly pleased with how his strips were originally limned), pencil sketches and a magnificent confection of those aforementioned covers - plus some really rare extras.
Andrew Wheeler (a 2008 Eisner Awards judge) takes a look back at Will Eisner's The Spirit Archives Volume 1, as he reads a book a day:
The great foundational classics of a genre often look small and unimpressive several generations later -- the fact that they were foundational meaning that later works have been built up on top of them, and even far above them. Serial works suffer from this more strongly than self-contained, compact stories: a serial story is a journey, and the beginning is neither the end nor the high points along the way, but just the place where it all started.
A short master class segment from the Brazilian documentary "Will Eisner. Profession: Cartoonist".