The Best of The Spirit - Will Eisner

Will Eisner is the big name to know in the world of comics. He's often credited as the father of the "graphic novel" (the actual form, not the term itself), the most prestigious award in the comics industry is called the Eisner, and The Spirit (his crime-fighter from the 1940s) is still seen as one of the most innovative strips in the medium. So really I don't have any excuse for not reading The Spirit before now. This particular collection includes stories from 1940 to 1950, showing the origin of the Spirit and giving highlights showing Eisner's mastery of comics.

The Spirit is an odd character: he's not really a superhero, since he doesn't have any super powers. His costume is just his suit and hat with a little eye mask (and it's the same suit that his alter ego, Denny Colt, wore before he became the Spirit). He seems to be just somebody who's a good detective, quick with his fists, and can take a lot of damage without going down. The only difference between the Spirit and Denny Colt, as far as I can tell, is that the Spirit operates outside of the law (but usually directly with the cops anyway).

As in "Dick Tracy," most of the villains in "The Spirit" tend to have wacky descriptive names: Snakey Hyde, J. Rollo Dyce, Dr. Vitriol. The stories are short by today's comic-book standards: 7 pages long, yet each one is a complete tale, without a "to be continued" or cliff-hanger ending. Eisner experiments with different types of storytelling, and it's in the variations that I can see his genius. In one tale, he tells the parallel stories of two men, using parallel imagery and dialogue. In another, the illustrations and text are done like a reader: "a primer for adults, containing instructive and pleasant little moral tales." One story shows the point of view of a man whose vision is deteriorating; another lets us see through the eyes of a murderer. The dialogue is a bit corny and isn't so different from other comics I've read, but the style of storytelling is ahead of its time, and isn't even seen much today.

I'm glad to have finally made the Spirit's acquaintance, and I may check some more out in the future.

Fed to jonathan's brain | May 28, 2006 | Comments (0)


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