My dad started collecting comics when he was a kid, and I got to grow up surrounded by the best examples of comic art from the Golden Age forward. I spent uncounted hours with Captain America, Prince Valiant, Batman, Alfred E. Neuman, anything and everything Dad had filed in cardboard boxes, tucked into the dark recesses of the basement storage room.
Any comic in a plastic bag had to be handled with care, but none were forbidden. Dad collects because he loves comic art, not because he has visions of selling high, so I got to drink in all of it, from the time I was little. I even met some classic novels first through Classic Comics: retellings of Uncle Tom's Cabin, She, and Treasure Island with words and pictures.
But nothing came close to The Spirit. A hero without any super- on the front, just a guy in a wrinkled suit and an eye mask. I came back to those stories over and over. I half-expected to grow up into one of the gorgeous women the Spirit was always tangling with: not Ellen Dolan, certainly - she was too good - and probably not P'Gell, no matter how much I might wish it. Sand Saref, though, was more like it, and Silk Satin...I could understand her. The Spirit had everything - great, absorbing stories, dimensional characters, and the most expressive artwork anywhere in the comic world.
The man who created The Spirit, Will Eisner, died on January 3rd (registration required).
If you've heard of graphic novels, Eisner's the reason. If you think comics might be something more than just junk food for pre-adolescents, you can thank Will Eisner.
And if you want to see some of his work, check out MOCCA in New York, May 21 through September 19.