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Who appeared as The Spirit in the section published 31 December, 1950 ? (Answer at bottom of the page)

Will Eisner

(Eisner at work in 1941 on some dailes of The Spirit)

Born: Brooklyn, New York, March 6, 1917

Eisner's first comic book work appeared in "Wow, What A Comic" in 1936. It was whilst doing work for that title that he met Jerry Iger and in 1937 they formed one of the first comic book shops which produced work for the many comic book publishers which had sprung up. Among their staff working in their shop were Bob Kane (of "Batman"), Bob Powell, and Lou Fine. The work was produced mainly for the Quality, Fiction House and Fox lines of comic books.

Eisner decided to split the shop in 1939 when he was offered a syndicated newspaper comics section of his own (which would take all of his time to produce).

The syndicated comics section became the "Comic Book Section" and the first Spirit story appeared on Sunday 2 June, 1940. This sixteen page insert, developed by Eisner also contained two other strips: "Lady Luck" and "Mr Mystic".

With the addition of a daily Spirit strip in 1941, Eisner's creation started to take off - the Sunday sections were also being reprinted in Quality's "Police Comics" (eventually the character would also receive his own comic in 1944 which reprinted the sections and lasted for 22 issues). The Quality Comics line was published by Everett "Busy" Arnold - he was the man who persuaded Eisner to start the Comic Book Section and who also owned the original copyright on The Spirit. Eisner had stipulated before starting work on the feature that his ownership was acknowledged in the contract signed with the newspaper syndicate and that if the feature were ever terminated then all copyright for the feature would revert to his name - this was unheard of at that time and is still an unusual occurance in the syndication markets today!

In May 1942 Eisner was called into service. First stationed in New Jersey followed by a posting to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Eisner drew for the camp newspaper. Before long his work on the newspaper drew him to the attention of Washington and he was sent to there to work on their military peridicals.

During this period the inventory of material that Eisner had managed to build up for The Spirit sections before being called up had been exhausted: Manly Wade Wellman and Bill Woolfolk did the scripts and Lou Fine the art. It was whilst Eisner was in the Army that the daily sequence was eventually discontinued in 1944.

(Eisner in the Army)

When he was demobbed in 1946, Eisner went back to The Spirit feature with the Christmas Spirit story of 1945 in the 23 December section. A few weeks later Eisner retold the origin of The Spirit (13 January, 1946) and began a long run on the feature for a few years, with assists by Klaus Nordling, Jerry Grandenetti, Jules Feiffer, Andre Le Blanc and others. The success with his American Visual Corporation, which produced educational comic books for government, business and the military, forced Eisner to relinquish The Spirit to others.

By 1951 Eisner could see that The Spirit section was floundering, and a meeting with artist Wally Wood led to a relaunch of the feature with the Outer Space Spirit series. Unfortunately Wood was unable to produce artwork for the sections on a weekly basis, and despite assists from Eisner himself and a reduction in the number of pages, Wood left after a few months.

The Sunday Comic Book Section was ended unexpectedly on 5 October, 1952. The Spirit was put to rest...

Eisner kept busy during the next 25 years with his American Visuals Corporation (which mainly did work for the army and education), but during the mid 1960s a resurgence of interest in The Spirit emerged. Due in no small part to articles by one-time assistant Jules Feiffer, Eisner was asked to draw a new 5 page story featuring The Spirit as a political satire for the New York Herald Tribune.

The success at this time of the Adam West "Batman" television series continued a resurgence in comic books, and Harvey Comics published two issues of The Spirit reprints (along with a new 7 page story in each issue by Eisner) in 1966/67.

It was not until 1973 that Eisner's association with Kitchen Sink began with the artist drawing the cover to the underground "Snarf"#3. Kitchen Sink published two sets of reprints of The Spirit during the same year.

The reprints continued in 1974, this time by Warren, and it was this publisher who started the magazine reprint series which was taken over by Kitchen Sink with #17 in 1978. During this period Eisner contributed new covers to the reprint series, and in 1976 also brought back The Spirit as a host for The Spirit Casebook of True Haunted Houses and Ghosts.

It was also during 1978 that Eisner's ground breaking "A Contract With God" was released by Baronet - this has been acknowledged by many as one of the first American 'graphic novels'.

Since the late 1970s and for the next twenty years, Kitchen Sink released new Eisner work on a regular basis (along with reprints of The Spirit). Eisner also wrote two seminal books on comic books: "Comic and Sequential Art" (published in 1985) and "Graphic Storytelling" (published in 1996).

Unfortunately, Kitchen Sink ceased publication of all comic book and graphic novels in December 1998. For a short time it looked as if there might not be a publisher for Will Eisner...

However, by the middle of 1999 it had been announced that NBM had obtained the rights to publish some of Eisner's adaptations of classic tales for the American market. To date, The Princess and the Frog and an introduction to Don Quixote called The Last Knight have been released in the USA.

The biggest news came just before the 1999 San Diego Comicon - Will Eisner had signed with major comics publisher DC Comics to reprint all of the graphic novels originally published by Kitchen Sink. The deal also included a chronological reprinting of all The Spirit sections in DC's acclaimed Archive series - something which had never been achieved before!

The Spirit Archives series have proved to be very popular, and the series won the Best Archival Collection/Project at the 2001 Will Eisner awards at San Diego - Will Eisner picking up the Eisner Award!

A year later and Eisner's Last Day in Vietnam (published by Dark Horse Comics) is released - A collection of short stories based on when Eisner was working on P*S Magazine and sent to Korea and Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s to observe battle situations. The graphic novel won the Best Graphic Album of Original Work at the 2001 Harvey Awards! Dark Horse later released Will Eisner's 'Shop Talk' - a collection of interviews with people involved in the comic book industry originally published in the Kitchen Sink Spirit magazine and the Will Eisner Quarterly in the 1980s. The title proved to be popular enough to warrant a follow up series in which Will Eisner will be interviewing the comic book superstars of today.

Later in 2000, DC released Minor Miracles - a new collection of tales from his Dropsie Avenue series. DC are due to release Will's next graphic novel sometime before the end of 2001.

Will Eisner is also prevalent on the internet, with his own site (see banner below) going live in May 2001. The site presents an excellent biography, an overview of his graphic novels as well as previews of new projects.

Despite now being in his eighties, Will Eisner continues to be a prolific creator in the industry and his work enjoys everlasting success!

A recent photo of Will Eisner, courtesy of Bud Plant

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