Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Collector's Spirit by Will Eisner

I bow to no man in my love and appreciation of Will Eisner's legendary SPIRIT. In fact, one of my earliest comic collecting memories is trying to make sense out of the humorous and yet obviously more adult than normal stories in the Harvey reprint comics of 1966. Over the years (and due to the fact that Eisner amazingly but wisely retained the copyrights), the former Denny Colt has turned up in a lot of reprint venues, leading up to DC's current plans for a post-Eisner relaunch of the series. The Spirit appeared in two underground issues in the early seventies, followed by a healthy magazine reprint run from Warren Publications, a continuation from Kitchen Sink, a long series of comics that reprinted the entire post-1945 run and most recently DC's expensive, full-color archive editions (of which I managed to get the first seven before I went broke!). What I never see mentioned, however, is this 1972 attempt at a chronological reprinting. I know it says "monthly" but they weren't and I don't know how many of these sets of ten Spirit sory reprints were made but I know I have the first two. I remember seeing them available via mail-order in those mostly Comic shop-free days but I got mine both at the same time at a head shop operated in the basement of a staid old Cincinnati bookstore. Apparently published by Will Eisner himself (there's no real indication on them as to who published them, actually), each bag contained ten stories reproduced in black and white scans from the printed color versions. They were folded over but without staples (I've heard there's even a "bootleg" bag with a story accidentally left out of the run!). The real attraction, here, however, is the back page of each section which offers Eisner's obviously typed, ongoing annotations on the strip. These brief "letters" give a fascinating insight into the development of concepts and characters that I've never read in any of the other Spirit reprints. I'm surprised DC didn't use these for their "definitive" version.

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