A Brush With Will Eisner

Mark Bunker sent in this nice memory of recently departed comic legend Will Eisner:

Eisner has long been my favorite comic book artist. The only comics with which I haven’t parted are my Spirit issues from Warren and Kitchen Sink. I marvel at his story telling abilities and the wide range of tone and subject matter he would explore within what would seem a limited superhero genre.

While I was in college, Denis Kitchen came to campus for a comic book expo. I dragged one of my friends along from the drama department. Holly had no interest in comics but I had to introduce her to the work of Eisner. It was one of two introductions for her that day because I insisted on meeting and talking with Denis Kitchen and introduced him to Holly, who would soon after become his wife.

I went on to do some acting and writing including a few radio dramas for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison. The woman in charge of the statewide radio drama department had worked in the 40′s for another hero of mine, Carlton E. Morse of “One Man’s Family” and “I Love a Mystery” fame. She told me they had some money left over for a radio series and I pitched her “The Spirit” as a possibility. She was interested.

I wrote two sample half hour shows. The first was the Spirit’s origin with a wrap around of the “Death, Taxes and the Spirit,” the story of IRS agents investigating Denny Colt. The second script was based on “Meet P’Gell.” I laid out a series of thirteen stories taken from my favorite Spirit adventures. All would have been faithful adaptations that I hoped would bring greater attention to Eisner’s stories which were just starting to be reprinted by Kitchen Sink.

Okay, one wasn’t so faithful. I wanted to pay tribute to Eisner’s fondness of spoofing 40′s movies and radio shows by having one broadcast done completely as a Jack Benny show with Jack and the gang doing their version of “The Spirit.” It would have brought together two of my favorite passions at the time…and allow me to do my Benny impression again .

Denis gave me Eisner’s address and I approached him with the idea. Unfortunately, he had just signed a deal to bring the Spirit to the big screen as an animated film. As I recall, there was later an announcement from an animation studio about the film as well as another production based on Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo.” While “Little Nemo” was released in 1992, I’m not sure if it was from the same studio although it likely was.

So I never got to do “The Spirit” but I did receive a lovely handwritten note from Eisner thanking me for my interest and explaining the situation. The Spirit film sadly never happened.