Originally conceived in the 1940s by Will Eisner, The Spirit is the alter ego of Denny Cole, a police detective presumed dead. Upon revival from his looks-dead-but-isn’t-really state, he decides to become an independent crime fighter with a very classy suit for a costume and a simple Lone Ranger-style mask. The stories were told in newspapers and comic books until 1952, and they are available today in a variety of hard- and soft-bound collections.
The contemporary version places the character in our time and uses flashbacks during the main story line to describe his beginnings, also in the present day (no weird time travel or anything like that). All of the supporting cast from the ’40s are there: Commissioner Dolan, arch-enemy Octopus, and Silk Satin (although her role is slightly different than the original), as well as a number of minor figures.
I am not old enough to have read the original series in its time, but my local library happily provided a nice copy of The Best of The Spirit, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is my opinion that Cooke’s modern interpretation of the character is very consistent with the flavor of Eisner’s creation. There is plenty of enjoyable tongue-in-cheek dialogue in both versions, and The Spirit’s basic personality has not been altered for our modern world. Although the artwork is much more detailed now than it was then, I believe it is more due to improved tools and technology than to artistic skill. Cooke clearly took pains to draw everything in a fashion similar to what Eisner had done.
The biggest difference that I noted was the hero’s abilities: he gets beaten up and taken advantage of much more frequently in the 1940s than he does in our century. Today’s Spirit has better aim, more cunning and greater foresight than he did 70 years ago. Even so, the stories are well crafted with believable characters, strong plots and satisfying suspense.
Rated: Moderate. Actually, this one was pushing my buttons after reading the original work. Although the art and stories were very similar to Eisner’s efforts, the use of foul language in many of the tales was a real turnoff. Plus, I just don’t like big, bold swear words in my comics.