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Monday, April 27, 2015

Number 1727: Sam, sci-fi, and the Spirit

Sam is an everyday working man, going home one night to his apartment and finding...monsters. And not just monsters, but metal monsters from another planet, checking out Earth so it may be invaded a thousand years hence. What is an ordinary guy like Sam to do? He goes to the authorities but no one believes him. They even throw him in the mental ward. But then he gets the Spirit to buy in to his story...

Originally published in the weekly Spirit Comic Book Supplement on February 3, 1941, this is an example of author/artist Will Eisner’s unique blend of fantasy, as a break from his usual stories of crime and criminals. He used this type of tale occasionally, and I admire how his vision transcends what would be just another alien invasion story.

Years ago in an article about Eisner I saw this panel from the story:

It was forwarded by the newspaper to Eisner through his partner, Everett “Busy” Arnold. An anonymous reader had clipped the panel and attached it to a note, saying if he saw something like this again he would cancel his subscription. I wonder if the reader was offended by the reference to the crucifixion of Christ, or that the Christian is in a strait-jacket.

This reprint — with that panel still intact — is from Police Comics #40 (1945).









12 comments:

Ryan Anthony said...

I like the stories where the Spirit is a minor player, and for the most part this one was good. I especially liked the line, "But every mind knows that all races come from the same source!" Very advanced thinking for 1941. However, I thought the wrap up, done in just a few panels, was too pat. And, really, the natives of Argo wouldn't call the planet by the same name we do! Didn't Eisner know his Burroughs?

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

For what it's worth, I believe the anonymous reader was an oaf who just couldn't understand that Eisner's panel explains the original ethic of Christianism in a nutshell. Many so-called "christians" really should find a way to get in touch with Jesus. Or, maybe they need the benefit of meting an higher civilization! This panel is great literature, synthesis at its best. I'm glad i could see it (and I'm an agnostic).

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I think I should have used the word "Christianity". I see now that "Christianism" is used for some sort of conservative religious-political attitude... sorry.

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

I'm fairly sure that Eisner were implicitly arguing that society wrongly treated the profound as insanity. But such readings are alien to most of the devout, especially as they so frequently encounter genuine derision.

(On the other hand, I would quote Boppin' Billy Blake: “Was Jesus humble? or did He / give any proofs of humility?”)

Pappy said...

Ryan, a bigger question might be, how come we humans knew about Planet Argo in the first place? In 1941, compared to today, we knew relatively little about the planets in our own solar system.

I'm not sure in 1941 any telescope was powerful enough to detect a planet beyond our own system. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Pappy said...

J D, no need to apologize...I had not seen the word Christianism before, in any context, so you have introduced it to me.

I love to learn a new word, so thanks.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I have enough problems keeping up with burning questions such as, "Is Superman faster than the Flash?" without also worrying about Christian views of mental illness.

For the record, I was raised by a mother who had definite signs of mental illness, but was also religious. The two did not seem to be intertwined, except when, as a teenager I would show signs of rebellion and she would say I was possessed by the devil.

And, also for the record, I am not possessed. Sacrificing goats in the woods at midnight whilst chanting the Latin Vulgate backwards is just a hobby.

Odyzeus! said...

The fact that Eisner was Jewish seems worth noting.

Brian Barnes said...

I find the Christian panel to be a bit trite just because it's an easy comparison. I hate to be negative, but this is a bit below Eisner's usually stunning work. The panel layout is boring and the "what do you think" doesn't work on any level.

The spirit has a glove. With material made from Argo (yes, how that's known is impossible.) There's no more "what do you think." He's got physical proof!

This is the first time I've felt let down by Eisner, actually, though bad Eisner is still good.

And, yeah, Pappy, there's no telescope that can see a planet in another solar system. They find planets by measuring the effect they have on the sun they orbit (how it distorts the light.) That technology didn't exist until very recently.

Gene Phillips said...

It's an interesting coincidence that Ryan mentions Edgar Rice Burroughs in the same breath as the idea of racial unity, even though not with reference to one another. By another coincidence, I recently came across an essay on the early idea of "polygenesis," a race-theory which claimed that the various human races evolved separately.

Although the theory apparently died out in the early 20th century, it might have influenced ERB in his Mars books, where his assorted color-coded races are all spawned by some primeval plant, but don't actually evolve from one another as in classical evolution theory.

Pappy said...

Brian, I stand corrected on the telescope business. I am a layman when it comes to science and astronomy, but I am aware of the measurements you mention. I grew up with images of big telescopes looking at the stars. I still think that way.

Pappy said...

Gene, I remember in the mid-'60s some articles in fanzines about whether Edgar Rice Burroughs was a racist. Burroughs seems fairly well read for his time. He probably based the racial differences in his fiction on faulty scientific information available at the time.

My brother showed me a medical textbook he found, published about 1900 or so, that showed the various ethnic types of the Earth, who were characterized as "civilized," "semi-civilized" or "savages." I assume you can guess the authors were white Europeans, and had a dim view of non-whites, who all ended up in the "savages" group. I don't think that was an uncommon view at the time.