Denny Colt, a young criminologist, believed to have lost his life in a fight against crime, was buried in a state of suspended animation. He awoke one day in Wildwood Cemetery, determined to carry on his struggle... his true identity known only to Police Commissioner Dolan. He is feared by criminals of all stripes as the Spirit!For a guy who’s supposed to be dead, the Spirit certainly has a lot of women troubles. The rogues’ gallery consists of Silk Satin, Madame Minx, Pantha Stalk, Powder Pouf, Lorelei Rox, Plaster of Paris, Dulcet Tone, Silken Floss M.D., Wild Rice, Saree, Nylon Rose and P’Gell...
“I am P’Gell and this is NOT a story for little boys!!” is how the best vixen of the bunch introduces her story, "Meet P’Gell." Just how seductive and alluring is the femme fatale? In "Portier Fortune," a father asks about sex of his newborn child, and then the baby responds, “P’Gell,” to which the doctor replies, “Then it’s a boy!!”
Ellen Dolan, the commissioner’s daughter, is the Spirit’s long suffering girlfriend, and she has her work cut out for her with competition from all these dames, in particular the sexy Silk Satin, a somewhat reformed criminal who still leans toward the other side of the law.
A few tender moments with Ellen and Silk aside, The Spirit is a laugh-out-loud comic. Who wouldn’t love the slapstick comedy in the style of The Three Stooges when Denny Colt and other characters get whacked over the head, booted in the rear or fall down a flight of stairs? Or the sharp wit, as when a man with a knife sticking through his shirt says to the Spirit, “Er, sorry to bother you, but this is the fourth time today this has happened! I’m beginning to suspect foul play.”? And not to mention, as with most comics, the plain absurdities? Our hero never takes off his mask even when he goes undercover in other disguises. He shows up in an operating room wearing a surgeon’s mask and leaving on his trademark eye mask. And though he appears to be killed over and over, he always returns in time to save the day.
One caveat, modern audiences may be surprised by stereotyped role of Ebony, the Spirit’s sidekick. A Wikipedia entry posted an explanation and defense of the character:
Eisner is sometimes criticized for his depiction of Ebony White, the Spirit's African American sidekick. He later admitted to consciously stereotyping the character, but said he tried to do so with "responsibility", and argued that "at the time humor consisted in our society of bad English and physical difference in identity." The character developed beyond the stereotype as the series progressed, and Eisner also introduced black characters (such as the plain-speaking Detective Grey) who defied popular stereotypes.The Spirit Femmes Fatales hooked me and I will be diving into more of Will Eisner’s engrossing noir-inspired comic creation. After all, I know I must have missed half the fun as the original series matured over its twelve year run. Also I need to fill my vicarious thrills quota as he dates all those beautiful women and paints the town red. What a life!