Monday, August 05, 2019

Number 2371: Pappy gets into the Spirit

I have been spending time excavating in my basement, going through boxes and files.  Some parts of my collection are spread out, and I have had some fun (when not choking from the dust) finding things I thought lost. Such was a copy of Help!, Vol. 2 No. 1, dated February 1962. I bought it off the stands when I was 14, and it was my introduction to Will Eisner’s Spirit.

The episode is the second part of the Sand Saref story, but is actually repurposed from another project by Eisner, a character called John Law, Detective, drawn in 1948, but never published until the early ’80s by Eclipse. Harvey Kurtzman was the editor of Help!, and if he picked the Spirit story to use, he found one of the best examples of Eisner’s storytelling.

After 58 years most memories grow dim, but I definitely remember the effect seeing this had on me. I didn’t know the term “film noir” then, but I recognized how cinematic it is. It appeared in the weekly Spirit Section, January 15, 1950.


Kirk said...

I've always thought of Eisner--at least where the Spirit is concerned--as kind of a cross between Milt Caniff and Al Capp.

Pappy said...

Kirk, Eisner had his influences, but his style was instantly recognizable. (I am also leaving open how many assistants helped him on each story. I don't believe he did a 7-page story every week by himself.)

Daniel [] said...

I'm a little surprised both at the substitution of Sam for Ebony White and at the initial silence here on the matter. In 1962, demeaning, racist depictions of African-Americans were still very common in popular entertainment, even if they were far more often old productions still in circulation, rather than something new. And, of course, later, stories with Ebony White were reprinted in various books and magazines. So I would guess that Kurtzman were behind the replacement of Ebony in this case, even if Eisner did the drawing.

My own first exposure to Eisner's work was about eight years later, in Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes. Actually, I don't know how much that were Eisner's work, and how much it were the work of ghost-artists, but in any case it was work in his style. It was quite a revelation of what a comic-book story could be. Even after my having earlier seen work by Steranko, I was struck by how d_mn'd good some comic-book work had been.