Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Black and White Wednesday: "The Winnah!" by Eisner w/Feiffer

Whaddya say we truck on back to the Golden Age via the Groovy Age today, Groove-ophiles? This one is a wonderful trip down Memory Lane for Ol' Groove. One of those cold, rainy days just before Christmas back in 1974. A little extra spending money made for a very interesting trip to book section of my beloved Mac's super-store. Yers trooley, mind you, was raised by parents who grew up in the 40s/50s and who had cut their teeth on comicbooks and radio shows. Hearing about the Golden Age of those two media was always a favorite pastime, and any time Young Groove got the chance to actually get his hands on any three-dimensional, real-life forms of those memories, said nostalgic stuff was seized upon with relish. So, on this day of days, I found the second volume of Pyramid's The Shadow reprint series (The Black Master--the first Shadow pb I ever saw--oh, those Jim Steranko covers!) and the sixth (again, the first I'd seen) ish of Warren's b&w Will Eisner's The Spirit reprint series. I don't remember much else about that day except a visit to my maternal grandparents and hearing Neil Sedaka's "Laughter In the Rain" on the car radio...






Being 11 years old, it took Young Groove a while to make it through that Shadow novel, but I devoured that issue of The Spirit right away. (The only Spirit story I'd ever read, up to that point, was the one reprinted in Jules Feiffer's Great Comic Book Heroes, but Ol' Groove doth digress...). That moody cover, perfectly setting up the first story in the ish ("Showdown" featuring a great battle-in-the-dark between The Spirit and his arch nemesis The Octopus) is still an all-time favorite cover (kudos to penciler Eisner and painter Ken Kelly). All the stories in that ish were cool: "The Wedding" and the "Job" being a romantic two-parter featuring supporting characters, "The Lamp", "Glob", "Wild Rice", "Taxes and the Spirit" (stories about a genii, a caveman, a kidnapped-rich-girl-turned moll--right in tune with the then ongoing Patty Hearst saga in the news, and tax collectors). You can see right there that this comic was very, very different than the usual reams of super-heroes and monsters. But my favorite story of the issue (and yes, it's still my fave) is "The Winnah!" by Will Eisner himself (aided and abetted by a young Jules Feiffer--hey, the guy who wrote the book that turned me on to The Spirit--whoa!). "The Winnah!" is the story of two brothers, boxers, the older one worshipped by the younger one, and neither of them very good at making life-choices. It was like watching a classic movie on paper--and the kicker? The Spirit isn't even in the story! He's only mentioned on the last page...







Man, does Ol' Groove ever LOVE The Spirit!

16 comments:

  1. You didn't see that Spirit reprint at the back of Volume 2 of Steranko's History Of Comics...?

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    1. Never got my hands on copies of History of Comics. I've tried on ebay a few times with no luck.

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  2. Eeeh! The Spirit is there, watching the fight, on page six!

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    1. True, but he isn't mentioned and doesn't speak. The point is, the hero of the series doesn't do anything in this story. I always thought that was so unique.

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  3. It's amazing sometimes how similar our reading histories are. That issue of The Spirit was my first too, and like you I only knew him from Feiffer's book and this mag was a revelation. I now knew what the hubbub was all about and I knew where Mike Ploog got his inspiration. Likewise that Shadow novel was one of two I picked up (the other was "Mox") and was all I knew of the Shadow (save for the great DC comics) for many years.

    We live in a golden era of comics reprints these days with stuff like this available in all manner of formats. But as you suggest, getting stuff like this back in the day was like panning for gold, it was rare and truly fantastic when you got a bit of it.

    Rip Off

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  4. Either is just great! Everything on his pages help tell his story. In addition to the to the shadows and hoe his characters act, his expressive lettering adds so much! By the way, I was in Will's class at The School of Visual Arts for three years in the 80s and he was a great teacher and man.

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    1. I meant Eisner. Auto correct. Lol

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    2. Auto correct. The bane of texting and commentary.

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  5. It's hard for people today to understand how important 'nostalgia' was in the last 60s and early 70s. (Time of remarkable social upheaval and rupture.) The 30s, 40s and 50s were more 'real' to people of the 70s, than, say, the 80s are to us today.

    I like to say that I'm a displaced person in time. I grew up in the 70s, but listened to old time radio shows, collected 78s, read pulp reprints and constantly watched old movies and serials (on PBS, of all things) on television. 1940 was more a point of reference for me than the actual time, and that's just because so much of this material was out there.

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    1. I am very nostalgic about a lot of eras. But as a 20 something in the 80s I find that I look back on that decade more fondly than any other. From the Reagan presidency to the music to the movies and TV shows it was a great time to be alive. And comics such as the Claremont/Byrne/Austin X-Men, Golden's Micronauts and, later, Byrne's Fantastic Four were in full bloom giving us great memories to look back upon.

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    2. The unusual thing about the Spirit though is that you don't actually need any kind of nostalgia to appreciate it.
      I first read Eisner's work as a teenager at the start of the '80s with the reprint of Bring in Sand Saref in Masters of Comic Book Art, and without any particular interest in or connection to the the 40s - twenty years before I was even born! - it was fresh and appealing straight away.

      -sean

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  6. Hi Groove, I remember buying the Spirit at the local News Agency off the shelf! Loved it, never looked back, bought the rest as they became available. I don't recall "why" I bought it since I would have been spending all my time in front of the spinner rack and a large section of "men's" magazines was between the two. But I suspect it was due to Steranko History Volume 2.

    Regarding Steranko's History of Comics: it blew my mind when I saw them on display at the bookstore at the local mall. "What was this???!!!"

    I finally understood what the "golden age" was and could put all those D.C. 100-page Spectacular reprints into context. I learned that Fawcett's Cpt Marvel was the biggest dude on the comic block, not Superman! I learned about the "second bananas" like Quality's Plastic Man, Blackhawks, Ray, Condor, Doll Man, the Spirit and Quality' stable of the best artists in the business and Lev Gleason's Daredevil. As important there are these simply gorgeous, full page (and the pages are BIG!), works of art done for the History's. Notably there is an Everett "Torch vs. Sub Mariner" and a Kirby "Cap and Bucky fighting the Red Skull and Nazis" dedicated to Jim. IMHO this is Kirby's single best piece of art. Well, I sound and feel like a kid again. I can't encourage you enough to get your hands on them. You can "buy them now" on ebay for like $15 - $30. There's way, way more to the History of this passion than Stan and Jack... and it's more / less unknown of forgotten. Heck, if I buy anything off ebay it's a Quality Comic on the cheap, all thanks to Steranko. I wish I could thank him in person!

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  7. Groove, I was about the same age when I discovered The Spirit. I think #2 of the Warren edition was my first, and I managed to track down 3 or 4 more later on.

    I also discovered those Shadow paperbacks around that same time, I think mine was #8 (Mox). Of course, I had nearly every issue of the DC run, so it was really neat to check the original source out. Never managed to pick up any more of that collection though.

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  8. I've always been amazed at how Eisner and company were able to cram so much storytelling and innovation into 7 pages weekly for 12 years.

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