Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Have You Read Your Eisner, Today?

Even though I knew that DC's The Best of the Spirit was due out soon, I pounced upon three 70s era Spirit reprints that turned up in the used comics box of my local used book store. What a find, too! There were 2 Kitchen Sink Comix issues [#20 and #29], and one from Warren [#14]. (Indiana Jones, eat your heart out.)

For various reasons, I've been undergoing a self-prescribed Eisner-immersion treatment here at Mortlake, and all I can say is that Grant Morrison's storytelling pace is going to seem radically de-compressed to you if you turn to it after reading any of The Spirit comics. Eisner produced the comic as an insert to be included with a newspaper (so technically it's a strip rather than a book), and consequently did not have a whole lot of space to fill. But man, how he makes use of the space he alotted himself. Eisner was a good artist and a master story-teller, who gave us:

Splash pages! Pages so detailed, and so carefully rendered, that they're basically three dimensional.

Atmosphere! The Spirit lives in a graveyard, and there are hints of light, copious shadows, and, of course, there's the famed "Eisner spritz." (His singular way of depicting rain falling.)

Moral conundrums! Common city folk! New York's Jews!

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly: strong, ambiguous, dangerous dames!

These strips were begun in 1940 and produced into the 50s, so keep in mind that there is a particular brand of strong woman to be found here. She's weighed down by sterotypical traits and desires; and Eisner is a pro at depicting the struggle between the "good girl" who loves the Spirit, and the "bad girl" who offers him vitality, danger, and much more fun. So I make no claim to Eisner being enlightened in his views of women (or black people, for goodness' sake). But after reading "Silk Satin," "Meet P'Gell," "Wild Rice," or the two "Sand Seref" stories that close the collection, I thought to myself that Eisner has to have produced some of the more interesting female characters that were written in this period.

I really need to read some of Eisner's Spirit work. I've heard nothing but good things. And I'm sure I should check it out before I read Darwyn Cooke's upcoming Spirit series...
It's definitely good stuff; highly recommended.
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