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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 21 (Review/Retrospective)

The end is nigh. Even if I didn’t know that these wonderful hardcover collections from DC comics were finishing up soon (with the last of the weekly strips collected in The Spirit Archives, Vol. 24), I could probably get a sense that things were winding down from a quick read of The Spirit Archives, Vol. 21. Up until this point, The Spirit has had five years of quality following Will Eisner’s return from service in the Second World War. It’s very hard to think of any comic (then or now) that has enjoyed any four consecutive years of quality that measures up to the work by Eisner on The Spirit at the very height of its game.

And it is, I must confess, very easy to get caught off-guard by the slow (but steady) decline in quality in The Spirit. After all, off-peak Spirit by Will Eisner is still better than most of its contemporary comics. And, to be fair, the vast majority of modern comics. There is some great stuff here – some truly fantastic, great stuff. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of evidence that Eisner’s creative energies were ebbing just a bit. The end was fast approaching, and this collection features the first truly noticeable stumbles.

Somebody's a fan of the Great Train Robbery...

Somebody’s a fan of the Great Train Robbery…

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 15 (Review/Retrospective)

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 15, finds Will Eisner in the middle of a very strong run on his most iconic creation. While this collection of stories doesn’t necessarily do anything new or radical, it does offer an example of a master storyteller at the height of his powers, crafting entertaining and exciting pulpy adventures on a weekly basis. Indeed, this run of stories offers a fairly efficient cross-section of what the strip was capable of at its best, perhaps more than any of the volumes surrounding it. While it might not be the very best collection of Spirit stories written, it is a pretty handy introduction to the character and his world.

Doesn't somebody want to be wanted?

Doesn’t somebody want to be wanted?

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The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

Join us the December as we take a dive into the weird and wonderful Will Eisner Spirit Archives, the DC collections of the comic strip that helped define the medium.

It’s hard to overstate the impact that Will Eisner had on comic books as a medium. The writer, entrepreneur and artist is known as “the father of the graphic novel”, with A Contract With God regard as one of te very first examples of the format. Eisner made massive in-roads into developing comics as a medium that merited discussion and attention, trying frantically to break out of the ghetto where the artform is so frequently trapped. While he has made countless pivotal contributions, arguably Eisner’s largest and most influential body of work can be found in The Spirit, the weekly comic strip that the author syndicated across America. Packaged with any number of respected newspapers, it was among the most widely-read comic strips in the country, but it also allowed Eisner the freedom to expand and develop his craft.

DC have collected the bulk of the character’s history in a series of their superb “Archive Editions”, from the first strip published through to Eisner’s last work on the title (with a supplementary volume published by Dark Horse). Here, in the first volume, we can see the artist honing his craft and developing the series into one of the most important in comic book history.

That’s his name!

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