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The Best of the Spirit Paperback – November 1, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up–This reproduction of a classic goes back to the heyday of comics, and it's full of complex characters, plot twists, and classic storytelling. While this comic never obtained the status of some of the publisher's series like Batman, it is no doubt excellent in every way and will keep the interest of any comic-book readers who give it a try. Typical of DC comics, the illustrations are dark and full of energy, perfectly complementing the text. Its only real drawback is that the art looks dated, which will turn off some readers who want a fresher look.–Scott La Counte, Anaheim Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Balk at acquiring DC's $50-per-tome series reprinting all of The Spirit because, well, you've just never read the strip? Then this paperback showcasing the strip's essence in 22 vintage stories is your book. The earliest 2, "The Origin of the Spirit" (1940) and "Silk Satin" (1941), respectively introducing the hero and a recurring character, aren't as visually adventurous as Eisner's work after his World War II hiatus from The Spirit. Still, they already demonstrate two of Eisner's strengths in the skewed perspective and the bold, anti-naturalistic color juxtapositions of virtually every panel. In the 20 postwar stories, playing with perspective is subordinated to point of view, and expressionistic lighting justifies the clashing hues. If the changes dissipate the low-rent-cubist elan of the early stories, Eisner compensates with special effects--panels in monochrome and dichrome, special styles of panel framing, visually bracketing one stream of action within another, photo backdrops--and seldom uses any one device throughout the story. Not as easy to see but no less virtuosic than the artwork is The Spirit's complex tone as a piece of pop art that indulges and satirizes the improbabilities of crime comics but doesn't countenance any carping about the heroic and social virtues its protagonist exemplifies. Maybe you do need that big, pricey series. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: DC Comics (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401207553
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401207557
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.4 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David E. Cohen on May 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Eisner's "Spirit" work is landmark watershed etc. no question about it. And perhaps the stories in this volume are cream of that crop (there were so many Spirit stories that it seems impossible to really assemble just a few into a "best of") but be warned that this particular package has its drawbacks. As another reviewer noted, they are reprinted at standard comic book size, while the originals were at magazine size, so the art is a bit cramped and details muddied. That's to be expected but the cheap paper doesn't help any, causing some of the finer lines to look blurry, at least to me. Add to that what could be a recoloring job that seems slapdash, and it's not the easiest read. I'm not sure if the coloring follows the originals, or IS the originals in most cases, but in the case of the character Ebony, Spirit's youthful sidekick, he is definitely recolored. The original was a pretty standard (and admittedly, to current views, extremely offensive) "boy" in his coloring: looking like he's stepped off the stage of a minstrel show. In this volume he's been recolored as a blond caucasian. It's an understandable alteration, given what I assume is the wide -- and not necessarily Eisner- or old-comics- fluent audience for this volume. I'm not really complaining about the recoloring of the character (though I'm not sure why he couldn't have been recolored black but w/out the white lips etc.), but if they recolored that, what else was retouched?

In short, for the price (esp here on Amazon) and convenience, it's hard to beat this as an intro to Eisner and the Spirit. The hardcover archives are much more expensive, even for the better quality, and the old reprints (from Warren & Kitchen Sink) were the right size, but B&W, so these are a good choice to start.
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Format: Paperback
Will Eisner is a genius, plain and simple and his genius extends to far more than his work on the Spirit. Eisner was only 19 when he and partner Jerry Iger opened the Eisner & Iger studio to produce comics for comic publishers. Among the artists they recruited were legends Jack Kirby, Lou Fine, and Eisner's high school friend, Batman creator Bob Kane. Then in 1939 Eisner was approached to produce a weekly comic supplement that would be syndicated in numerous Sunday newspapers. The shrewd Eisner agreed as long as he could keep the copyright to the characters, including the main feature of the supplement, the crime-fighting Spirit. This was quite a coup for Eisner as he knew he would never be able to get the same rights if he had his work published by an actual comic book publisher. And as the owner, Eisner also had creative control which other artists and writers of the day didn't have. Thus Eisner was decades ahead of his time.

This collection from DC comics includes 22 eight page Spirit adventures beginning with the Spirit's origin from June, 1940. Eisner would lose a few years to World War II but returned to his strip when he got back home in 1945 and continued with it until 1952. The Spirit is Denny Colt, private investigator and criminologist. While tracking down the devious villain Dr. Cobra, he is saturated with experimental chemicals and goes into a state of suspended animation, making him appear to be dead. He crawls from his grave and dons a simple mask and the moniker of the Spirit to battle crime in Central City. The cast of the Spirit includes Police Commissioner Dolan and the Spirit's sometimes sidekick, the orphan African American kid Ebony White who provided some comic relief.
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Format: Paperback
The only reason I'm holding one star back is because I'm old. The art in these stories is so nuanced and rich that it should have been presented larger than standard comic book size. But that's the only bone I have to pick with this volume. Younger readers who don't have to squint to read this will be well rewarded.

And with a price like this, there's really no excuse not to treat yourself.

Will Eisner may not have invented the comic book, but he was one of the people who made them good. His talent and influence helped transform the medium from kids' throwaway entertainment to literature. "The Spirit" is Eisner at the height of his powers, and this collection is the best of the best. The phrase "no collection should be without it" has become watered-down through overuse, but in this case it is no less than the truth. If you're at all interested in comic books, this is where you start.
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Format: Paperback
I've always essentially liked Eisner. I have both of his how-to books on comics, and a couple of the B&W Warren Spirit reprints from the 70s. But it wasn't until this collection that I got hooked.

The stories in this collection have the elegance of the best harboiled crime writers, and a stylish approach to visual storytelling that must've inspired what was best about the early Mad Magazine (and other EC titles). While The Spirit himself is pretty much of an affable do-right, the villians are usually very textured and often very funny.

And, for a vintage crime comics fan like me, the fact that this is pretty hard-hitting for the sunday funnies-- with somebody getting plugged in almost every story, and a few unsavory surprises besides-- make this a true addition to the genre. And man, could Eisner draw them dishy dames! I've now pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to get a few of the post-war Spirit Archives.

The only problem with the book is that it's a flimsy trade paperback, and should have been printed to the same standards as the Archives. But, due to the inventiveness of the stories, I can't bring myself to give it less than four stars.
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