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What is the name of Big Arky's wife in the 21 May 1950 section? (Answer at bottom of the page)

Article by Douglas Nasluchacz

In the 1940's Will Eisner was working with an idea to break into comics in a unique way. He and his associates would produce a comics book section for the newspapers that would appear each Sunday. This comic section would contain 4 to 5 stories, each 7 pages long. Mr. Eisner would be the editor of the entire package, as well as writing and drawing some of the features.

This is how The Spirit was born. Mr. Eisner wanted to create not just a comic book, but create well crafted stories using a regular cast of characters. The Spirit became a vehicle for exploring every type of story: crime drama, love stories, mysteries, horror, comedy, human interest, drama, black comedy, and more. In what other writers would find constricting, Will Eisner created hundreds of 7 and 8 page stories, telling the story with efficiency and craftsmanship.

Picture opening your Sunday paper to the comics section and finding a comic book dated June 1940. The first story pitted a young detective, Denny Colt, against a fiendish villain, Dr. Cobra. Yet within the first 3 pages, the hero is dead! Or is he? A man dressed in blue suit and wearing a blue mask and gloves confronts Police Comissioner Dolan and gains information on the Dr. Cobra. He captures the villain and makes an uneasy alliance with the police department. The Spirit reveals himself as Denny Colt, who had not died but was just in suspended animation from one of Dr. Cobras experiments. Upon awakening in Wildwood Cemetary, he established a base there and using his newly gained anonimity, he took up the mantle of fighting crime.

The Spirit meets Dolan

And all this in 7 pages! What makes the Spirit unique is that he does this with no gimmicks or powers. He is a man who has gained his freedom from society. His wealth comes from his estate and the reward money he gets from capturing criminals. Will Eisner calls his hero "middle class crimefighter". The Spirit was to fight his way through more than 600 adventures. The Spirit even went to the moon in adventures drawn by the late, great Wallace Wood.

The Spirit as he appeared in the 1940s

The advent of World War II did not stop the Spirit, though it did mean enlistment for his creator. During the war, the newspaper syndicate kept The Spirit going by having ghost writers and artists to continue the strip till Eisner returned. But, the best stories of all are those which Will Eisner penned and drew. Eisner developed a style that can best be described as cinematic in nature. Through the use of shadows and different camera angles, the reader is drawn into the moody atmosphere of the story. The splash pages became famous for working the title The Spirit into the background or scenery.

The splash page to 'The Return'

The Spirit worked mostly out of Central City. But his adventures took him around to the globe to exotic places. He met strange characters, beautiful (but deadly) women and fought crime evreywhere he went. The life of Denny Colt and the citizens of Central City were never boring. Throughout the stories certain themes would always be revisited: the love between Ellen Dolan and the Spirit, the annual Christmas Spirit stories, the Octopus (a master criminal who was never seen but recognized by his distinctive gloves) men from Mars, people and women getting caught up in crime and stories about the struggle of the common man.

Merry Christmas one and all!

Unfortunately, all good thing must come to an end. The Spirit, who fought the IRS and won, ceased publication in the 1950's following the Trip to the Moon stories by Eisner and Wood.

However, although the Comics Book Section featuring The Spirit had finished, the character would return many years later. Click here for further information.

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Quick Link

A page giving a concise history of the pulp character Doc Savage can be found here.

Click here to goto Will Eisner's site!

Trivia Answer: Mona.(For more information, click here)