Superheroes rule pop culture right now and as usual Balladeer’s Blog readers have been letting me know it’s been awhile since I ran a blog post on the subject. Will Eisner’s iconic superhero the Spirit – who debuted in June of 1940 – rose from the grave of his secret identity, Private Investigator Denny Colt, after his apparent death when he got saturated in some chemicals of the supervillain Doctor Cobra.
Fan arguments still rage over whether or not the Spirit had any superpowers beyond his initial chemically-induced state of suspended animation which let him survive and rise from his grave days later. I’m of the school of thought that says the Spirit DID have superpowers, largely because I grow bored with alleged “super” heroes who are just regular shlubs who slap on a costume and fight crime. To me that’s more of a Pulp hero.
I don’t think it’s outrageous to attribute paranormal abilities to the Spirit. Just going by Will Eisner’s original stories let’s approach it this way:
GREATER THAN HUMAN STRENGTH – Taking this hero’s origin story at face value with no ret-conning necessary, when Denny Colt came to in his coffin he dug his way to the surface. It would require much more than the strength of a normal human to burst through the coffin lid AND force his way upward through six feet of soil. For all I know The Big Bang Theory guys may have once done a calculation on how much actual strength it would take to accomplish this feat.
EXTRAORDINARY RESILIENCY/ HEALING ABILITY – Early Spirit stories often show his body taking the kind of punishment that no non-powered human being could survive. The villains occasionally point out how impossible it is that the hero just keeps coming after all the damage they inflict on him. And again, taking his 1940 origin at face value his body would have had to have “healed” from the invasive procedures of embalming or similar treatments, before he woke up in his coffin.
Many fans feel that Frank Miller’s 2008 movie The Spirit took that too far by making his durability front and center and more like Wolverine’s notorious Healing Factor. Personally, I’m okay with it.
ROGUES GALLERY Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of B.C. Boyer’s neglected 1980s superhero the Masked Man. For Part One click HERE
ECLIPSE MONTHLY Vol 1 #8 (May 1984)
Title: Phantom Man
Villains: The Architectural Terrorists
Synopsis: With Barney McAllister having withdrawn himself from his partnership with the Masked Man, our hero is instead out on patrol with reporter Dan Drekston as they search for the Architectural Terrorists who are plaguing the city.
Barney is back at the offices of the Daily Horn newspaper, where his boss J Judah Johnson (a pastiche of J Jonah Jameson) orders him to do an interview with Lenny Winchester (Denny Colt) aka the Phantom Man (The Spirit).
We’re told that Phantom Man was a famous superhero in the 1940s who fought crime in Middle City (Central City). Unlike the Spirit, who does not age thanks to Dr Cobra’s chemicals, Boyer’s homage figure Phantom Man is old and grey-haired now. His selfish son and daughter plan to send him to an old folks home if his interview with Barney doesn’t generate enough interest for a lucrative biographical book deal.
As if the Masked Man himself wasn’t already enough of a Will Eisner/ Spirit shoutout, B.C. Boyer lays on the pastiches with a trowel in this issue. Phantom Man’s late wife was Helen Doyle (Ellen Dolan), the daughter of Festus Doyle (Commissioner Dolan). His former sidekick was Blackie (Ebony).
As the story continues we learn that this hat, suit and tie wearing masked hero’s archenemy was the Cephalopod (The Octopus) and two other members of his Rogues Gallery were called Mr Maggoty (Mr Carrion) and Swyn’ll (P’Gell). Continue reading
Will Eisner’s superhero the Spirit was – among many other things – sort of a male version of model Betty Page.
With ads for the release of the sequel to the bondage “romance” Fifty Shades of Grey hitting us non-stop now here’s a look at the Spirit in some of his male victim pics.
Call me a sexist if you want but I hate stuff where the women are the victims. The Spirit’s super-resiliency from Doctor Cobra’s chemicals made him the ultimate male bondage pinup in place of the many, many Irving Klaw-styled Betty Page imitations.
As seen in this collectible mini-bust the Spirit’s well-known tendency to get himself tied up, abused and/or seduced by beautiful ladies even merits its own line of merchandise.
I understand this particular item comes clean-faced like this or with our hero’s face peppered with lipstick marks – next to ropes and chains one of the most common Spirit motifs when it comes to dangerous women.
The implied and often overt kinkiness of the sexy Femmes Fatale in the Spirit’s Rogues Gallery of foes is a subject that still doesn’t get the attention it deserves even today. For example: Continue reading
In recent years Halloween has become just as much about superhero cosplay as about horror, so here’s a masked crime-fighter who combines elements of both. Will Eisner’s superhero the Spirit – who debuted in 1940 – rose from the grave of his secret identity Denny Colt.
The Spirit’s secret HQ lay underneath Wildwood Cemetery and his Rogue’s Gallery of foes included gangsters and supervillains as well as supernatural and sci-fi menaces.
The art and narrative innovations that Eisner introduced in his Spirit stories cannot be overstated.
After the original 1940-1952 run of the character the Spirit has been kept alive over the decades in various reprint series and new adaptations.
There was even a made for tv movie about the Spirit in 1987 with Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones as Denny Colt/ The Spirit. I reviewed that item HERE . The 2008 theatrical film version directed by Frank Miller is better known. Continue reading