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Keeping The Spirit Up

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DC is using the “First Wave” event to try and give The Spirit another shot at a lasting ongoing series. But will this time be any different than the last?

For DC, starting up a new series starring the Spirit must have seemed like a “can’t lose” proposition. Will Eisner’s most famous creation held a legendary status amongst creators and fans. His original incarnation ran for over 640 weekly issues from 1940 to 1952 as a newspaper supplement. He is now currently housed in a line of popular “Archive” hardcover collections of the original series by DC. 

And the new series did start off well. Darwyn Cooke took the reins and while not doing a complete copy of Eisner’s work, kept true to the, pardon the pun, spirit of the original. Cooke had a vision and enormous talent and created a modern version of the Spirit that could stand up to Eisner’s original.

But, all good things must come to an end. Cooke left the title after issue 12, and then the series went into a downward spiral.

Darwyn Cooke was replaced by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragonés on writing and Mike Ploog on art. All are legendary names in comic book history. While I liked Evanier and Aragonés’ writing on the title, it was an abrupt change from Cooke. Their take was more humorous and whimisical while still being true to Eisner’s original but was a jarring change from Cooke’s hip noir based style.

And Ploog lasted on art with the pair all of one issue before being replaced first by Paul Smith and then by a rotating crew of virtual unknowns on art. This hampered the ability of the series to get a distinct visual style and acted as a detriment the writers’ storytelling. As is usual in books with this much creative upheaval, sales started to plummet.

Late on in the run, stunt creators were brought in to try to improve sales. Michael Uslan was brought in with the thinking that as a producer of the Spirit film, he’d bring in readers. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be a disaster and any improvement was negligible. Dean Motter, Michael Avon Oeming and Ploog return to close out the book, but they were too late to stave off cancellation.

But DC still has faith in the Spirit and will be starting a new series this week. They are trying to give this new incarnation a better shot by doing something the first go round only teased at—tying it into a larger universe where it can interact with other DC characters.

Before Darwyn Cooke’s first issue came out, the Spirit co-starred in a one-shot special with Batman. This set up an unfulfilled expectation that the Spirit would be interacting with members of the mainstream DC universe. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

Well, the Spirit will not be interacting with the mainstream DC universe this time, but he will be sharing the pages with some DC characters. He has been brought in to the new pulp-influenced world of the “First Wave” universe. He has already come face-to-face with the Blackhawks in the First Wave miniseries.

This version of the Spirit will probably be a little further away from the last incarnation DC offered us. But maybe that will not matter if fans appreciate the legendary character rubbing shoulders with Batman and Doc Savage. Will this time be a success for the Spirit? I hope so.

Also out this week:

Firestar #1:

Firestar is one of those rare Marvel characters to not make her first appearance in a comic book. The character made her debut in the Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends Saturday morning cartoon series in 1981. And if the producers were able to get the rights to the Human Torch like they originally wanted, then she might not have existed at all.

The character was brought into comics with 1985’s Uncanny X-Men #193 and immediately received her own miniseries soon after. She has gone on to appear in New Warriors and Avengers and will soon be a part of Marvel’s Young Allies series. This Women of Marvel-themed one-shot will give fans a refresher on the character in time for her return.

Sean McKeever (W), Emma Rios (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Archie #608:

For some people, Archie putting a lip lock on anyone other than Betty and Veronica would have them up in arms. But who Archie is kissing this week could cause even more controversy. The woman he is smooching is African-American Josie and the Pussycats member Valerie Brown.

The world has come a long way in accepting interracial relationships, but there are still enough close-minded people out there that might get upset by this cover. But kudos to Archie Comics for not letting this stop them. Perhaps this issue will strike a blow for greater acceptance of love in its many forms. Of course, it will take a lot more for Betty and Veronica fans to calm down.
 
Dan Parent (W), Bill Galvan (A), Archie Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

DV8: Gods and Monsters #1:

DV8 was one of the most popular Wildstorm titles of the 1990s, running for 32 issues after spinning off from Gen 13. It featured creators such as Warren Ellis, Tom Raney and Humberto Ramos. The antiheroes are returning to comics this week, being brought to you by one of the hottest indie and Vertigo writers around—Brian Wood.

The writer of DMZ, Local, and Demo brings the team back with a tale involving a mystery as to where they have been since their last series. Apparently, they have been living in a prehistorical world where they were treated as gods. DC is advertising this series as an “amazing and tragic story unlike anything set in the Wildstorm Universe before.” With Wood at the helm, how can it be anything but?

Brian Wood (W), Rebekah Isaacs (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Eight-Issue Miniseries.


Marvel Her-Oes #1:

Firestar is not the only “Women of Marvel” offering this week. We are also getting this poorly named one, too. I mean, Her-Oes? Really?

Anyway, this one takes most of Marvel’s female heroes and puts them in a place where female friendships and antagonism has been known to blossom and flourish---high school. This obviously out of continuity series focuses on Janet Van Dyne (the currently deceased Wasp in regular continuity) and her struggle fitting in with the cliques at her high school. This task is made that much more difficult when she develops superpowers. Unfortunately, she isn’t the only one.

Written by comedienne Grace Randolph and drawn by the Perhapanauts’ Craig Rousseau, it will take your typical high school comedy and turn it on its ear.

Grace Randolph (W), Craig Rousseau (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

 

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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