Someone on Facebook last night mentioned they hadn't heard of THE SPIRIT until recently. I started writing a comment with a brief history of the strip only to realize there's nothing brief about THE SPIRIT!
Will Eisner, of course, began the strip in a unique 8 page version that was the lead strip in a 16 page Sunday newspaper insert in 1940.
And THE SPIRIT has never really been gone for long since. Although the original newspaper series that had begun in 1940 ended in 1952 with the now-classic Wallace Wood Outer Space stories, the character returned in several unauthorized reprints from IW/Super Comics just a few years later. Harvey Kurtzman’s HELP! magazine reprinted a story in the early ‘60s. Former SPIRIT scripter Jules Feiffer had an Eisner SPIRIT story in his best seller, THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES in 1965 and a New York newspaper printed an all-new Spirit story in early 1966. Harvey comics released two quarter comics mixing reprints and new material later that year and there was a limited edition collection of the SPIRIT daily newspaper strip. In 1970, the fanzine CAPTAIN GEORGE’S COMIC WORLD reprinted yet another full Eisner story. Jim Steranko’s 2nd HISTORY OF COMICS followed suit. Meanwhile, Eisner was introduced to the concept of underground comix and the Spirit turned up on a cover of Denis Kitchen’s SNARF. In 1973, Kitchen published the first of two undergrounds starring the Spirit, again offering both new and old material under great new Eisner covers. For the fan market, there were 4 or 5 collections called THE SPIRIT BAG, which offered annotated black and white SPIRIT reprints from the beginning, and 4 or 5 volumes of THE DAILY SPIRIT, reprinting the non-Eisner newspaper comic strip from the 1940s.
Warren Publishing ran a newly re-colored (by Rich Corben) SPIRIT story in one of their mags which led to their long running black and white SPIRIT magazine and several color special editions. When that mag finished its run, Denis Kitchen teamed again with Will for even more magazine issues, several trade paperbacks, and later a long color/b&w comic book run reprinting the whole series in order. As that came to an end, Will finally agreed to new SPIRIT stories by others, which have continued to this day from various publishers. The Spirit has even recently returned to the newspapers in an all-new adventure with DICK TRACY! Along the way, Eisner did an all-new giant sized 3 page SPIRIT tabloid, a jam issue with many of the most popular 1980s cartoonists, a team up with Michael Chabon’s Escapist, and DC reprinted the entire run of “official” SPIRIT stories in more than 20 hardcover editions. Oh, and don’t forget the two movies—a failed TV pilot from the 1970s starring future FLASH GORDON Sam Jones, and director Frank Miller’s startlingly bad misfire major motion picture.