Monday 7 September 2009

The new adventures of the Spirit

I've been waiting a few years for this one as it has periodically been on again and then off again, and finally this Wednesday, Fate willing, it will be here. I'm referring to Will Eisner's The Spirit: The New Adventures. This is entirely coincidental as I had no intention of devoting so much time to the venerable old chap as I have been doing here of late.

I've never been fond of the idea of lots of different artists taking a crack at an old comic strip. The best characters in the old days were like an artist's signature while the characters of today are well, meh. Do what you like with the modern lot, for I don't care a button or a fig. But you can't go messing with the grand old ones. When I first heard that Eisner was letting us whelps muck around with the Spirit, I thought it was a bad idea, and to an extent I still do. But then Neil Gaiman asked for me as the illustrator for the script he'd submitted, and Moore and Gibbons had turned in a real genius job for the first issue of March 1998, three connecting stories and all tipping a big fedora to the original. Gibbons has always been good at pastiches. He had elsewhere done very acceptable ones of Dick Sprang and Will Elder. Also, this was a reunion of the Watchmen guys! We were all off to Grandad's house to leave his 78s lying around.

For the second issue, April 1998, in which the 10 page Gaiman/Campbell piece appears, Eisner himself provided the cover, but it was the only issue for which he did so. (click to see all the covers). And while it was neat to see him put his mark of authority on our story, Eisner's late comic book covers always look too much like the Marvel formula to be entirely enjoyable. And also, somebody is always biting somebody else's clothes.

As for the stories, I was hoping he'd be in there messing around, fussily changing faces and stuff. I was so disappointed he was having a hands-off relationship with the series. I was looking forward to being his humble ghost. I tried so bloody hard to make my pages look like Eisner. It never works out that way of course. But I thought we should all at least be trying. My version of this book would be one in which only an expert could tell who drew what. I think we should all totally subvert our personalities and the best effort would be the one that Will would think he'd done it himself. I flatter myself to think I got close in a few of the details:

That's from a second story I drew, an eight pager that we packaged entirely here at Campbell Industries and that appeared in the seventh issue, Oct 1998. It was the first time we'd done computer colouring, apart from two Bacchus covers, and there are a few technical missteps, including making the Spirit look a bit green, which was my fault because I started interfering after Mullins and Evans had finished the colouring. Hey, maybe the technicians at Dark Horse have even fixed that problem. Fingers crossed. Or maybe they've been as hands off as Will was. This second story is titled 'The Pacifist.' The splash page shows a bullet coming straight for the Spirit, in a frozen image, as the narrator begins his story of anti-violence. We turn the page and find that it's the bullet talking. And for all we know, all of them could all be conscientious objectors. So this sentient bullet proceeds to narrate its entire life story that brought it to this fateful moment. Neil Gaiman was visiting when I mentioned this story idea away back in 1998 and he said he thought it sounded like a great Spirit yarn, as at that point it was just an idea I hadn't decided what to do with. He even suggested the name of the villain, The Black Russian, which is the name of a popular cocktail, and apt since the villain needs to get his gang, a daffy bunch drawn mostly by Pete Mullins, drunk.

Marcus Moore, who worked on the script with me, wanted to give the villain a dog named Herov, but we decided that was pushing the joke too far.

All in all I thought I did well with Commissioner Dolan:



Anonymous Daren White said...

Didn't Eisner draw the cover for your issue of Escapist as well? Spiritastic!

7 September 2009 at 04:15:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous mikel norwitz said...

In general, I am fond of revivials of 40's characters. Frankly, most of the original stories were tripe, but I am charmed by the 'classic' air they lend to their roceedings. The Spirit was different, however, in that his story are enjoyable because of their objective quality and not merely their historical placement. Moreover, the stories were very much 'lightning in a bottle' as even Eisner himself, in his few attempts at one-shot revivals, never captured the feel of the originals.

I've read Spirit stories by some of my favorite comic writers ever, and none of them captured the character even remotely. I'd like to see Joss Whedon take a stab at it, but outside of that, I consider it a lost cause.

8 September 2009 at 11:47:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jody Macgregor said...

"a daffy bunch drawn mostly by Pete Mullins, drunk."

That's not bad work from a guy who was drunk.

8 September 2009 at 18:20:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno Eddie, I was happy to see Eisner draw the Spirit again anytime, Marvel coverwise or not...bit of a lame diss on your part, old boy.

Greg V.

9 September 2009 at 07:38:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Nino said...

I´m not drunk and I like it!

9 September 2009 at 08:58:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Pete Mullins said...


30 September 2009 at 07:05:00 GMT-5  

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