The Spirit 1

Stories written and illustrated by Will Eisner, John Spranger (The Kitchen Sink, 1973)


Stories by Will Eisner. Art by Eisner and John Spranger. Wraparound cover by Eisner. Includes Max Scarrs Map, Caramba, Return to Caramba, The Rubber Band, and Law & Order, plus new interviews with The Spirit and Ebony. Historically significant as the first Spirit reprint series since the influential series original publication in the 1950s. Introduction by comics historian Maurice Horn  (via


In an email essay I explained why I would not be seeking comics that depict Black characters as minstrels.  Many of my contemporaries do but as I state in my newsletter, I don’t believe these books celebrate the Black experience in comics.  

However, I have made one singular exception.  I have added Will Eisner’s “The Spirit” published by Kitchen Sink (1973) to my archive for the sole purpose of discussing the “editorial” one-page comic where he attempts to rationalize the use of the minstrel character Ebony White.


I’ve always been fascinated by this comic for several reasons:

  1. Drawn and Quartered:

The Black intellectual who opens the piece is rendered amazingly well.  It shows immediately that Ebony looks the way he does NOT because Eisner lacks the ability but solely for “comedic effect”.  Also, Ebony is presented as a “visual alien”.  Which means his off putting appearance is meant to set him apart. (Read this article for a thorough explanation).

  1. Saving Face: 

The comic shows how Eisner would rather be credited for depicting Ebony as an unsung hero in spite of his comedic, stereotypical depiction. An idea he’s mentioned excessively in interviews. I guess this is supposed to absolve Eisner of some wrongdoing.  As if one depiction cancels out the other.  And, to a degree, I believe this strategy worked.  So much so, these dueling depictions have made Eisner’s true intentions blurry till this very day.

  1. Fighting the Power

Even though Eisner is mocking Black intellectuals, the comic illustrates how fervently Black contemporaries of the time were beginning to make demands that eventually forced comic book publishers to make changes. Unfortunately, the response of most publishers would be to erase Black characters from mainstream comics all together.  (I discuss the phenomenon here).


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