Will Eisner Week: Who Is The Spirit?

Learn about what is considered one of Will Eisner’s greatest creations. I still vaguely remember it. Standing by the magazine section while my mom did the grocery shopping. This magazine […]

Learn about what is considered one of Will Eisner’s greatest creations.

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 superheroes 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:

  • Commissioner Dolan – Police commissioner of Central City, where the Spirit was located.
  • Ellen Dolan – Daughter of Commissioner Dolan and major love interest to the Spirit
  • Ebony White – The Spirit’s African American assistant and chauffeur, who drove around in a cab. Though Ebony was a character of the times, looking back now, it was an extremely racist character.

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.

In 2015, Grendel writer/artist Matt Wagner started up a new Spirit series for Dynamite Entertainment. This new series was launched in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the Spirit. 

Even comic publishers understand the importance of the Spirit. He’s teamed up with Batman, the Rocketeer, and Dick Tracy.

Hell, the Spirit isn’t even limited to the comics. He’s had 2 movies. One was a TV movie with Sam Jones of Flash Gordon fame. It was a little campy, but still true to the character. And major studio film by Will Eisner’s so-called friend Frank Miller. The film was just a horrible mess and a bomb at the box office. Not even close to the character. At least you can get the TV movie on DVD.

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 I hope you readers check out some of the Spirit’s comic book adventures. 

Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

About Brian Isaacs - Executive Editor / Publisher

An avid comic collector/reader for over 40 years and self-proclaimed professor of comicology, Brian original started up the site Pendragon’s Post to share his voice. Well that voice has been shared, and evolved into The Fanboy Factor. Brian is an advocate for remembering comic roots, and that we don’t forget what was created in the past, and encourage everyone to read it as well. When not swimming in geek culture, he can be seen corrupting..introducing his young son to comics, much to his wife’s chagrin.