year did Will Eisner get full copyright of The
Spirit? (Answer at bottom of the
Spirit first appeared in 1940, his
relationship with the police was uneasy - Initially
wanted for the murder of Eldas
Thayer (who killed himself), the
charges seemed to be dropped sometime over the course of
the next few months and a friendship between Police
Commissioner Eustace Dolan and The Spirit grew.
By 1949 though, Will Eisner was anxious to try something new, and this started with the 17 April section Dolan Walks a Beat.
"The motivation behind these stories was an attempt to get out of something I'd put myself in ten years before," Eisner relates to Dave Schreiner. "It would have been wonderful if I could have eliminated the mask. The question was: 'How do you have a man walking around the street with a mask in a quasi-believable setting?' How do you ask the reader to believe these stories when you've got a guy wearing a mask everywhere he goes?"
'Dolan Walks a Beat' has Eustace Dolan suspended as Police Commissioner due to the machinations of Mr Stain; a corrupt newspaper publisher whose paper ran a campaign against Dolan. Instead of retiring, Eustace Dolan takes the job of patrolman whilst The Spirit is arrested for 18 petty misdemeanors by acting Police Commissioner John J. Beagle.
Freed from prison by one of Stain's henchmen, The Spirit manages to escape a deadly trap and is able to persuade Stain to publish a retraction of the allegations against Dolan. The Governor reinstates Eustace as Police Commissioner and appoints The Spirit as 'special deputy'.
The following weeks' section sees The Spirit and Ebony moving out of Wildwood Cemetery and into Central City to be closer to police headquarters.
The Spirit soons becomes exasperated by the paperwork involved in his new job.
Breaking police regulations to apprehend some bandits, The Spirit finds himself on the police wanted list.
The 1 May section, 'The Hunted' (aka 'Wanted') sees a manhunt on for The Spirit as Commissioner Dolan disappears at the start of the story to attend a police convention.
Whilst her father is away, Ellen Dolan takes in a destitute blind man called Edward Lamb. Lamb asks Ellen if she can pawn a ring he was given by his mother as he has no money to live. Ellen obliges by taking the ring to the Eagle Pawnshop.
After Ellen leaves the shop the pawnbroker checks the police list of stolen goods - the ring is on the list. Phoning the police, he is interrupted by The Spirit who takes the ring and tries to leave, but the shop is surrounded by some crooks who are working for Lamb.
Ebony discovers that Lamb is not blind and when Ellen returns with the money Edward Lamb reveals that he is blackmailing her for some police files on him in exchange for him getting the ring back before the police know.
Returning to the pawnshop, Ellen announces that she cannot go through with the scheme. Fortunately by this time The Spirit is able to break free and apprehends Lamb and his men.
The following weeks' section, 'Hamid Jebru' resolves the dangling plot threads of the past few weeks very quickly in a couple of panels: the charges against The Spirit are dropped and Commissioner Dolan tells him "You're back as an unofficial deputy" which is how it has remained since - with a couple of exceptions! One which immediately springs to mind is the 5 February 1950 story, "'Nickles' Nerser" in which The Spirit is framed for attempted murder and a familiar poster appears:
As for Eisner's idea to drop the mask: "... The mask makes The Spirit an outlaw, and there's something romantic about an outlaw. We're always fascinated with the unruly. We love Robin Hood-types, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. We've always enjoyed that type of thing, and have always invested our so-called friendly outlaws with some kind of costume that could identify him."
However, Will mentions that: "I don't think I was at any time comfortable in this thing. I wasn't like a writer doing a standard superhero, where issue after issue there were standard devices to use and standard stories to tell. I was constantly stretching for stories and for ways to tell stories."
It is to our good fortune that Will Eisner strived to use new techniques on The Spirit as he contributed a great deal to the medium with these weekly sections.
Trivia Answer: 1952.(For more information, click here)