Kyle Baker’s review of THE SPIRIT

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You must follow the link, as it’s heavily illustrated, but here is a wee sample:

There is a reason the Spirit has long been one of the most popular cartoon characters in the world. A reason children repeat his well-known catch phrase. A reason Eisner’s stories have so often been adapted into movies, television, and toys since the character’s debut. But Miller has no respect for Eisner’s winning formula, Miller refuses to stick with what works.

Miller seems to think that merely because his own stark visual technique was embraced by millions of fans in hugely successful films and books, we will want to see him do what he is famous for yet again. Miller’s use of heavy black shadows is completely inappropriate for The Spirit’s world, and betrays a complete disdain for the source material, which should be rendered in a more chiaroscuro style, as this illustration shows:


Just click. Not that we agree, but it is really funny. And thought-provoking.

Comments

  1. That is a much more intelligent and ironic defense of Miller than that other chap did with the whole “Ants & Eagles”, and it does take away a bit of the fan argumentation that Miller was completely peeing over The Spirit as a character…

    … but with all respect to Mr. Baker, whose work I adore and own (to adore it some more), it only takes into account that particular line of argumentation and does not deal with the movie on its own merit.

    In other words: he counters SPIRIT geek attack with a smarter SPIRIT geek counter-attack. Smart, yes, but also quite narrow in its focus and most definitely not a review of the MOVIE, only of conceptual and historical links.

    I do have a theory now as to why Miller failed as a director. I re-read all of Miller’s work in the past couple of days, because it has been nagging me a lot (I hate it when something is nagging me)

    I think he wrote some of the best comic book stories in modern history, especially his work in the 80s was years and years ahead of its time, both in concept as well as in structure…

    … and let us be quite honest here, without DKR, YEAR ONE and the KILLING JOKE, neither Ledger’s Joker nor THE DARK KNIGHT as a movie would even exist, and in my opinion, Nolan’s version conceptually still doesn’t come close to either one of source materials.

    But that is the key word: conceptually.

    Looking back on Miller’s oeuvre in its entirety through analytical eyes – and coming from a movie perspective – his downfall today might be grounded in both his weaknesses as an artist and his strength as a COMICS writer.

    Due to the format and the structure of US comic books at the time, perhaps, the compression on key moments within a scene, US artists back then tended to externalise their character’s emotions, and Miller’s work certainly is no exception. If one looks at how Miller draws faces in all of his books, they have not that much subtlety in their emotional expression. That is a trait, I believe, he shares with many other US artists coming up at that time period… and like I said, it may have a lot more to do with the format restrictions of the pamphlet than with anything else.

    His brilliance as artist/writer, however, was that a) he was capable of externalising that emotion through his panel compositions and b) making up the lack of facial expression range with caption work that – as opposed to earlier US comic book work from earlier eras drew the reader right into the character’s head.

    Most powerfully, that was – in my opinion – used in his DD: BORN AGAIN collaboration with Mazzuchelli and his DKR.

    Now, play along with me for a moment here and IMAGINE the books without the internal stream of consciousness captions and let it only work on dialogue alone. Miller was never a good dialogue writer (I’m sorry if I am offending anybody), but his brilliance was born out of the restrictions of the comic book format itself.

    This led to a seamless, very meticulate interweaving of captions/internals with expressive panel design/externalisation and dialogue as the connector between the other two elements.

    Now, here is the problem, though, or in the immortal (rumoured) words by Harrison Ford to George Lucas: “Just because you can write this shit, George, doesn’t mean that anybody should SAY it”

    Harsh words, yes, but let us think about them. The internal emotions through captions, if said out aloud, become by default cheesy and almost unbearable to listen to. Try it with some of Chandler and Hammett. Or even Joyce. Read it out aloud and see it with moving images.

    In later works, especially in SIN CITY, Miller took his strengths and weaknesses almost to their logical endpoint. Brilliantly composed layouts, expressiveness through composition, limited dialogue that was filled up with internal emotional conflict through captions.

    Now, the problem – as I see it – is that movie directing needs the spaces BETWEEN dialogue, the silence and the emptiness that is then filled NOT with VOICE OVERS but with an actor’s expression. His or her facial expressions. Subtlety that consists of looks. Pauses. Everything one can describe in a script, yes, but that needs the actor on the screen to be a three-dimensional human being instead of an element within a composed panel.

    But Miller was too comfortable in what he thought would work in every medium, he apparently – again, from my perspective – stuck with the tools of the trade and never once – despite his allusions on how closely film and comic books are related in interviews – questioned whether his choices in both writing and directing would work in a movie environment.

    His actors became props in panels. His dialogue on its own neither propelled the story forward nor did it give an indication as to why the characters felt in a certain way.

    Like I said, it’s a theory. If anybody would like to poke holes in it, be my guest :)

  2. Oh, and before somebody says it: I DO know Moore/Bolland did the KILLING JOKE and not Miller.

  3. Scratchie says:

    Baker’s piece is funny, but it doesn’t actually address any of the real complaints I’ve read about the film.

    E.g., people aren’t complaining that there are jokes in the film; they’re complaining that the jokes aren’t funny.

    People aren’t complaining that the Octopus is black, they’re complaining that he’s a psychotic super-villain instead of a smart gangster.

    Etc.

  4. Charles Knight says:

    Indeed, I’d guess that 90% of the people who saw the Spirit have never seen the source material. Baker’s defence has nothing to do with the actual (or lack of) merits of the film.

  5. More to the point, it has nothing to do with the content of the negative reviews.

  6. Kyle is not presenting a review of the film. He is satirizing the mentality of those in the comics community who have accused Miller of ignoring the source material, disrespecting Eisner, and worse (and I’ve seen PLENTY of those posts) without ever having read the original comics.

  7. Scratchie says:

    But he’s missing the point entirely. Miller did ignore the source material. That’s undeniable, unless I missed the Eisner strips where Denny Colt got super-powers and turned into the world’s biggest man-whore. Or the ones where Eisner ditched his subtle, character-based humor for subtle-as-a-flying-mallet attempts at satire.

    Just because you can make a checklist of items that have the same name (humor, film noir-style lighting, femmes fatale, etc) doesn’t mean that Miller’s movie bears the slightest resemblance to the tone of Eisner’s work.

  8. Blackeye says:

    Oh, was he joking? I never understood Kyle Baker’s humor anyways. I think it’s interesting that he seems to be running to Frank’s defense. Actually Frank and Kyle did similar things. They both took great iconic characters (Frank=Spirit, Kyle=Plasticman) and totally disrespected them and turned them into ridiculous parodies of what they once were. It is understandable that Kyle would think the crap that Frank cranked out with his version of the Spirit was okay. I bet during the movie Kyle was belly laughing throughout. Their sense of humor seems to go hand in hand. Can’t wait to see Kyle’s version of Plasticman on the big screen. Oh, that was my attempt at humor!

  9. Well, that confirms it.

    Eisner was an overrated hack, too.

  10. I think the difference between Baker’s Plasticman and Miller’s Spirit is Plasticman is almost unanimously looked upon as being excellent. Quality work is always an excuse for taking an established character in new directions. For proof, look at Miller’s work on Batman with Dark Knight Returns. I think if Miller had made a movie that most people, regardless of familiarity with the character, had walked away from really enjoying, then there would be very little talk from people over how much liberty Miller took with the property.

  11. At the end of the day, the people spoke with their wallets. For every, “Dark Knight” there will be a “Spirit” or even “Howard the Duck”. It does not matter if the audience knows the character or not. Batman and The Spirit are about the same age in comic book terms. The Spirit has more of an artist and comic book writer fan base. Some characters appeal to the mass audience. The Spirit does not has that universal appeal. As a character he does not have much going for him. Eisner was about style, you can’t sell style. A good story is what sells movies. Eisner’s non Spirit material can be made into better movies. Now if they did a movie based on, The Outer Space Spirit, now that would rock. Imagine that in a grand scale movie adaptation.

    I don’t want to take pot shots at Baker’s Plastic Man, but was he true to Jack Cole’s vision? I think not. I did not like that version of Plastic Man. Joe Staton did a better job in my opinion.

    Now who in the general public really knows Kyle Baker over Frank Miller. Give Frank credit, he has given more to the industry than Kyle. Every great writer, artist, producer had their share of flops.

    Good try Frank, better luck next time. Miller will bounce back with another hit. Ask Lucas.

  12. At the end of the day, the people spoke with their wallets. For every, “Dark Knight” there will be a “Spirit” or even “Howard the Duck”. It does not matter if the audience knows the character or not. Batman and The Spirit are about the same age in comic book terms. The Spirit has more of an artist and comic book writer fan base. Some characters appeal to the mass audience. The Spirit does not has that universal appeal. As a character he does not have much going for him. Eisner was about style, you can’t sell style. A good story is what sells movies. Eisner’s non Spirit material can be made into better movies. Now if they did a movie based on, The Outer Space Spirit, now that would rock. Imagine that in a grand scale movie adaptation.

    I don’t want to take pot shots at Baker’s Plastic Man, but was he true to Jack Cole’s vision? I think not. I did not like that version of Plastic Man. Joe Staton did a better job in my opinion.

    Now who in the general public really knows Kyle Baker over Frank Miller. Give Frank credit, he has given more to the industry than Kyle. Every great writer, artist, producer had their share of flops.

    Good try Frank, better luck next time. Miller will bounce back with another hit. Ask Lucas.

  13. At the end of the day, the people spoke with their wallets. For every, “Dark Knight” there will be a “Spirit” or even “Howard the Duck”. It does not matter if the audience knows the character or not. Batman and The Spirit are about the same age in comic book terms. The Spirit has more of an artist and comic book writer fan base. Some characters appeal to the mass audience. The Spirit does not has that universal appeal. As a character he does not have much going for him. Eisner was about style, you can’t sell style. A good story is what sells movies. Eisner’s non Spirit material can be made into better movies. Now if they did a movie based on, The Outer Space Spirit, now that would rock. Imagine that in a grand scale movie adaptation.

    I don’t want to take pot shots at Baker’s Plastic Man, but was he true to Jack Cole’s vision? I think not. I did not like that version of Plastic Man. Joe Staton did a better job in my opinion.

    Now who in the general public really knows Kyle Baker over Frank Miller. Give Frank credit, he has given more to the industry than Kyle. Every great writer, artist, producer had their share of flops.

    Good try Frank, better luck next time. Miller will bounce back with another hit. Ask Lucas.

  14. R. Maheras says:

    I don’t think Baker realizes that his tongue-in-cheek random sampling of Eisner’s comic strip excerpts was a kind of visual metaphor for exactly what was wrong with the Miller film.

    Because if you put all those panels Baker used in a sequence — any sequence — that’s pretty much the way Miller’s film appeared to the average filmgoer: A haphazard collection of scenes pieced together in such a way that even hardcore Spirit fans had trouble following what was supposed to be going on. That’s certainly not Eisner-esque, and is just a bad approach to storytelling in general.

    That’s why six of the 15 people at the showing my wife and I went to walked out before the film was even half over.

  15. I can see Kyle Baker’s point, but the same reasoning can be used to dismiss everyone’s criticisms of the last X-Men movie. Find enough relevant X-Men comic panels to throw up next to the scenes that didn’t work in the film and TA-DAH! one can prove that the “movie is just like the comic!”.

  16. Blackeye, do you ever have anything nice to say about anybody??

    It’s always doom and gloom with you.

    I think you’re the perfect candidate to review my next issue of Deposit Man.

    ~

    Coat

  17. Michael says:

    Cute response to the standard Internet hyperbole, but the movie still stinks, and no respect for Miller or love for his previous work can change that.

  18. Children repeat what catch-phrase? All due respect to Eisner, Miller, and Baker, but the Spirit is read by a handful of FANS at best…

  19. Charles Knight says:

    “Children repeat what catch-phrase? All due respect to Eisner, Miller, and Baker, but the Spirit is read by a handful of FANS at best… ”

    Whoosh!

  20. Fanboy Menace says:

    It’s funny to me that in the same year that we finally see the full realization of the work Miller did with Batman 20 years ago – taking the first real steps to show the potential of the character when taken seriously and dragging him out from under the specter of the old “Bam Pow” camp of the 60s TV show – we also see the final product of the over-the-top parody of genres that Miller embraced somewhere back around his initial success with Sin City. From fans I think you are seeing a profound disappointment because they know what groundbreaking work Frank Miller has been capable of in the past. But then again maybe it’s been an over-the-top parody all along and the rest of us are just now catching on…
    http://xrayspex.blogspot.com/2008/03/alan-moore-spoofs-frank-miller.html

  21. Scratchie says:

    OMG that Moore strip is pure gold. WTF. ROFLMAO.

  22. I could read these comments all day. They give me focus. Make me stronger. HAHAHA.
    Look, guys. Nobody went to the movie. That means you won. So you can calm down, now.

  23. R. Maheras says:

    No one won. We all lost.

  24. I liked it. I thought the clones were really funny. And the foot with the head. “That’s just plain damn weird. Don’t you think that’s just plain damn weird?”
    “Get me a tie. And it better be red!”
    And the xerox machine. If I looked like EvaMendez, I’d photograph my ass, too. Funny!

  25. Thomas Magnum, PI says:

    R. Maheras is right, Kyle. We who know and read the Spirit, we the minority, lost. Likewise I agree with Mr. Hart on why the film failed, but he neglected to mention one important aspect of The Spirit that was missing: its humanity. Once I saw that first trailer and heard those nails-on-the-blackboard words, “My city screams,” I knew this wouldn’t feature what made The Spirit great.

    I made a comment on Kyle’s blog that, no thanks to my freakin’ computer, did not make it. The follow-up did. I’ll try the first comment again, and try it here. Essentially I asked this:

    Why are we just pissing on the feet of Frank Miller? OTHER PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN THE MAKING OF THIS MOVIE.

    Deborah Del Prete, who hired an inexperienced director because his properties after the success of Sin City are “hot” so he’s ready to tackle a film solo? Shame on you, Deborah.

    Shame on Lionsgate for jumping on a Spirit 2 and 3 before the film was finished. You think that’s gonna happen? No! Now with two duds in a row their stock has fallen. They’d better hope to God “My Bloody Valentine” breaks even.

    Heidi, here’s a question for you: where the hell was the Eisner Estate in all of this, protecting their character? The Estate is made up of people who were close to the man; hell, Denis Kitchen was practically his surrogate son. Not to mention Judith Hanson, who I’ve seen referred to on this site as the “uber-agent.” Why weren’t they making sure that the jewel of Eisner’s crown wasn’t being mucked up? Did they just take the money and run?

    If so shame on you Denis and Judith. SHAME ON YOU BOTH.

    I hope the $$ was worth throwing Denny Colt under the wheels. Because he lost the most.

  26. Take the money and run sums it for me. Denis should know that, how many creators did Kitchen Sink screw over in 1999. I know the purist will say he was not involved. Time fixes everything. The implosion is long gone from the 90’s, or is it. Now he is holding the candy bar of sorts. When publishers and artists become greedy, this type of movie is the result. If somebody gave you a wad of cash to do a movie on your 60 year old creation and you struggled all your live and had to meet pimpled kids all your life at comic shows to tell you how great you were. Most of them never bought your comics, it’s a no brainer. Frank Miller was that geeky kid at one time and convinced others to fork over the money to the Eisner estate. I say well done. The family deserves it, this is how big the franchise will ever get. Most people are not really big fans of the strip, it was more of visual candy and sweet candy it was. Remember the Cadillac and Dinosaurs candy bars. Denis must still be holding thousands of them. A bit mean Spirited I guess on my part, but money makes the world go around. Kidding aside, Denis kept the flame alive for Eisner. You should thank him the most, Frank bought his books. Oh by the way Roger Glover called Frank Miller and he wants his looks back from the 90’s.

  27. Thomas Magnum, PI says:

    I feel the need!
    The need?

    FOR GREED.
    It’s just downhill for them from here, IMHO.

  28. Thomas Magnum, PI says:

    Out of curiosity, how many creators DID Denis and Judith screw over? Was it at all related to the Don Tobrin scandal? I mean, if you want to call it a scandal.

    You ain’t being mean Spirited at all, brother. Youze bein’ honest, nothin’ wrong with that!

  29. “We WON? We won! We’re winners! Where’s My Frank Miller Lost prize?”

  30. I will tell you only the four walls of any business will know the real truth. I don’t know the full history of Kitchen Sink, but things were not kosher at the end. Ask Jim Shooter and his court case woes with Valiant. A pure case of greed. The end of the 90’s it was not pretty for many publishers including Marvel. I feel a bad wind coming our way once again. As a whole comic book related movies did very good in 2008. Just look at the top 10 movies of the year. Only 2 comic book or cartoon based film were not in the top 10. Now this is what I say to Kyle. Thank your lucky stars that the industry is doing good at the box office. In the end it means more people will buy , “How to Draw Stupid and Other Essentials of Cartooning.” If we keep the greed out, comics will do good. Ask all the publishers who folded.

    530,723,626 The Dark Knight
    318,298,180 Iron Man
    317,011,114 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
    227,946,274 Hancock
    223,749,872 WALL-E
    215,395,021 Kung Fu Panda
    169,937,394 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
    157,583,232 Quantum of Solace
    154,529,187 Horton Hears a Who!
    152,637,269 Sex and the City

  31. Peter David says:

    Brilliant satire, Kyle. I’ve seen so many genuine diatribes that at first I didn’t realize what you were going for. I read the first couple of sentences and I thought, “Et tu, Kyle?” Then I got to the first couple of illustrations, stopped dead, went back and reread it and bust a gut laughing. And now we get to watch much fumfarawing and finger wagging. I was less enthused about the film than you were, and yet, I’m with you on the foot with the head.

    I suppose, in the final analysis, “The Spirit” shows the difficulties of humor and the incredible subjectivity. The comic series had an incredible amount of humor. It was Eisner’s humor. It’s what he thought was funny. Miller wrote the script, so he put in what HE thought was funny.

    Tragedy is easy; comedy is hard. And when comedy doesn’t work, it’s a tragedy.

    PAD

  32. Peter David says:

    “That is a much more intelligent and ironic defense of Miller than that other chap did with the whole “Ants & Eagles”,”

    Yes, although not nearly as entertaining as the guy Scratchie loves. The journalist who referred to comic book fans as junk-food eating, immature, self-loathing, nerds. I can’t imagine why anyone would say that.

    PAD

  33. The journalist who referred to comic book fans as junk-food eating, immature, self-loathing, nerds. I can’t imagine why anyone would say that.

    If one were to take out the self-loathing , such a sentence would pretty much cover everything from sports fans to political party animals, I believe.

    Self-loathing makes comic book fans special ;)

    But to re-iterate, I find some of the criticisms too much of a one-track argumentation and fueled more by emotion than analysis. (I cannot completely detach myself from such a reaction… when I saw Matt Smith being cast as the new Dr. Who, I had a rather visceral and very physical reaction to it, which is best left undescribed)

    However, Mr. David, to counter a broadsword attack with yet another broadsword in defense only exacerbates things, for especially if it comes from another writer, it can quickly become just as vicious as the original attack, and then people feel offended, they stop arguing and go for each others’ throats.

    Which, admittedly, has its time and place, primarily right before a WWF (or whatever wrestling federation is still alive in the colonies) match.

    As for humor… as opposed to drama, which translates through times and often through cultural boundaries, humor often gets stopped by changing times or is taken out behind the shed at a border crossing to be shot or at the very least be thoroughly interrogated Jack Bauer style. Humour is not just bound by subjective taste, but also by cultural values that influenced the writer at the time of writing.

    It is for that reason, I believe, that there are relatively few comedies left that are primarily based on wordplay and more based on … well, shall we call it Apatow-isms? Frat Boy Slapstick (FBS), because in a world where one needs those 2/3rds of Box Office revenues to feed the LA beast, one will be rather afraid of doing something other than what plays even without words.

  34. Fanboy Menace says:

    The funny thing about Kyle’s rebuttal to the criticisms of Miller’s failure with The Spirit is that it’s done via Eisner’s own work. An attempt at justifying the approach Miller used it would seem. But if you stop to consider that Eisner was the man widely acknowledged for creating, exploring, and expanding much of the visual language of comics, it wouldn’t be that hard to find out-of-context panels for a number of arguments would it? You could easily show the multitude of manipulations Eisner used in comic page structure, in color no less, instead of just a single black and white image. Or that not only did Eisner use sexy women (which the studio promoted heavily on, mostly likely drawing criticism that Kyle was trying to counterpoint) we saw a Central City that was effectively portrayed through its citizens in all walks of life with The Spirit often taking a backseat in his own strip to allow for this. Or you could show that instead of noir and one-liners Eisner’s stories ran the range of genres from mystery to comedy to horror to adventure to crime and many times mixed them in new and unexpected ways. Also, you could show how in spite of the early decision by Eisner to portray Ebony White in the popular cartooning style for African Americans in that day he wasn’t just an empty degrading stereotype so much as a fully realized character that was often featured in his own stories as a competent and worthy partner who could stand toe to toe with The Spirit.

    That’s the thing. With someone like Will Eisner who fully explored the medium in his career, it would be easy to single out comparisons with the work of a creator like Frank Miller who has shown to be increasingly formulaic and one-note. This isn’t backlash from a single act by Miller – fanboy kneejerk to a color change of a beloved character’s suit as some would like to easily summarize it, but a building disappointment in his work since The Dark Knight Strikes Again. And the culmination just so happened to land on one of the most respected creators in funny book history and the mishandling of what could have been his greatest tribute. The next time The Spirit gets a shot at the big-time (if there is a next time) I just pray that someone has the good sense to call Darwyn Cooke. He’s the only pro that seems to really get the source material in my opinion.

  35. Likewise I agree with Mr. Hart on why the film failed, but he neglected to mention one important aspect of The Spirit that was missing: its humanity.

    As Mr. Magnum texted, without a doubt sitting at the wheel of a Ferrari that he repeatedly “borrows” from Mr. Masters… I did not mention it because I was trying to analyse just the technical aspects of what I do consider an artistic failure on a massive scale. The rest would be merely my opinion, and as such it would be just as good or as bad as any other opinion uttered.

    Mr. Baker loves the giant foot, e.g. I understand why it would appeal to his sense of humour, giving Mr. Baker’s own works. I understand why somebody would think “You’re as dead as Star Trek” is a funny line…

    (and perhaps would even solicit a laugh from noted Star Trek Tie-In writer Mr. David?)

    … but that again is subjective. My personal opinion of Miller’s works is – having read the entire thing from his 1970s stuff to the latest All Star Batman & Robin issue in a very short time – that Miller’s stories became more and more of a parody beginning with his LEGEND era, especially starting with his Darrow collaborations that I felt were as cold as a machine but which were covered up by Darrow’s art. His Martha Washington series reads unfortunately like a never-finished 1980s Paul Verhoeven movie. It could have been quite a great movie back in the 1980s as well, because the over-the-top parodies in it would have worked, but time has not only passed that by… it passed Miller by.

    His later works remind me very often of Stallone’s career. If all one has seen of Stallone in the past 25 years were his action movies, it would easy to dismiss Stallone as a parody of himself, but it is the same man who won an Academy Award for the first Rocky script (rightfully or not, that is an entirely different debate) on the strength of its humanity.

    Both Stallone and Miller were perfectly in sync with the Zeitgeist of the 1980s, and both never developed from those basic roots that kept them there while the world turned around them.

    But like I said, that is just my personal opinion.

  36. ” I was less enthused about the film than you were, and yet, I’m with you on the foot with the head.”

    Kyle Baker and Peter David thought the clone foot with head was funny. Now THAT is really damn weird, because no one else in the theater laughed, chuckled or even scoffed.

  37. ” … Stallone … is the same man who won an Academy Award for the first Rocky script (rightfully or not, that is an entirely different debate) on the strength of its humanity.”

    Outstanding example. THAT is almost the premise of an Eisner/Spirit story. A loveable schlub gets a shot at the Big Time — for a manufactured publicity event — because the Heavyweight Champion and his crew are confident that he’ll lose.

    I suppose that’s another thing missing from Miller’s SPIRIT film — where were the citizens? Except for occassional cameos, it was just the spirit, some bad guys, and a bunch of cops. Dolan should have just sat back and let the bad guys kill each other.

  38. Scratchie says:

    I think the Stallone comparison is an excellent one. Both Stallone and Miller created classic works that perfectly captured the contemporary zeitgeist, and then proceeded to re-use only the worst aspects of those works as their respective careers progressed and they descended into self-parody.

    The difference between the movie world and the comics world is that you don’t (as far as I can recall) ever see Stallone referred to as someone who “revolutionized” his industry or produced “possibly the greatest motion picture ever”.

  39. Scratchie,

    “I think the Stallone comparison is an excellent one. Both Stallone and Miller created classic works that perfectly captured the contemporary zeitgeist, and then proceeded to re-use only the worst aspects of those works as their respective careers progressed and they descended into self-parody.”

    OTOH, it’s been said that almost everyone who works in any avenue of the entertainment industry for a respectable length of time (whatever one chooses that to be) becomes a parody of him/herself.

    How many writers/artists/actors can you name who REALLY reinvent themselves even after, say, ten years in show biz?

    As for the matter of the SPIRIT film, though I’ve a lot of problems with the film itself, I will defend to [someone else's] death its right not to simply be a clone of Will Eisner.

    Note my comparison with another famous film-travesty here:

    http://arche-arc.blogspot.com/2009/01/spirit-la-mode.html

  40. Kenny says:

    I think this would be a lot more fun if people began comparing The Spirit to Howard the Duck.

  41. Scratchie says:

    Gene,

    Interesting points, but I think you’ve got two false dichotomies:

    First, the idea that the only two options are (a) reinvent yourself or (b) fall into self-parody. How about (c) keep doing what you’ve always done, well.

    Plenty of creative people fall into this category: In film, how about Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Jonathan Demme? In comics: Gene Colan, Steve Gerber, or, for that matter Will Eisner. Those are just names off the top of my head, I’m sure I could come up with a dozen more if I thought about it.

    The second false dichotomy is the idea that Miller’s only two options were (a) attract harsh criticism for his work or (b) make a clone of Eisner’s. The vast majority of negative criticism (professional and amateur) I’ve read has nothing to do with The Spirit’s lack of fidelity to Eisner’s work and everything to do with its failures as a movie.

  42. Scratchie,

    I wasn’t advancing a “dichotomy;” just pointing out that every long-lived talent out there is subject to re-using ideas/tropes/practices that worked for him or her over and over. He may do it well (which in my judgment takes in most of your examples, though I’ve reservations about Demme and Gerber) or badly, but the potential accusation hangs heavy over every such talent. For that matter, some critics took issue with the quality of Eisner’s late works, and did not believe he was doing as well as he did earlier in his career, though that’s not precisely my own view.

    I wasn’t speaking of Miller’s options, but I have seen a fair amount of fan-criticism that seemed to want fidelity to Eisner, and it’s to that contingent that I’m directing my “clone” remark. In advance of the film I saw no one raise the possibility that Miller might make a work that was not Eisner’s SPIRIT but was still good on its own terms. Sadly, he didn’t, though I can see the themes he meant to evoke, and I find those themes as present in his best work as well as his worst– which is why I don’t buy the theory that he’s only recycling the worst aspects of his work.

    I agree with Kyle that the clones were funny, though not too much else was.

  43. Scratchie says:

    Hi Gene;

    I see your point, but there’s a big difference between “re-using ideas/tropes/practices” and becoming a self-parody.

    As for fidelity to the original, there were complaints from fans (warranted, IMO) that Miller threw out much of what made the original Spirit so good, but keep in mind that people who have ever read the Spirit strip formed a small percentage of the potential audience for this flick. Reading movie reviews and comments from moviegoers on IMDB, it’s clear that fidelity to the source material (or lack thereof) was the least of this movie’s problems.

  44. Scratchie,

    One of the most prominent complaints against Miller’s SPIRIT was that it looked like SIN CITY, and while I too had doubts that Miller could translate the appeal of the latter into an adaptation of the former, there was at least a possibility he could’ve done so.

    Quite true that the uninitiated moviewatchers didn’t care about fidelity, but I think another factor keeping them away is that, unlike the films of 300 and SIN CITY, there was nothing all that singular about a film like THE SPIRIT. A guy in a business suit and domino mask fighting crime doesn’t sound like ass-kicking entertainment in the fashion of the earlier two successes.

  45. Blackeye says:

    I just caught an interview with Frank Miller about the Spirit at -Empireonline.com. Now I don’t know Frank but, as I’m watching the interview, it appears he’s having problems speaking. His hands are shaking and he slurs his words. Is this how he normally is? It almost appears as if he is either medicated or intoxicated. Anybody have any insight into this?

  46. Stephen Ely says:

    “It almost appears as if he is either medicated or intoxicated.”

    Or maybe he’s just nervous to be interview on TV.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] A big point of contention amongst my friends, was that it wasn’t “Will Eisner’s Spirit.”  That it was too violent, too silly and too over the top to be anything like the character or the strip that they read and revered.  While I do have a number of the Spirit Archive hardcovers that DC published in order to preserve and perpetuate the Eisner legacy, I don’t necessarily feel qualified to defend the fideltity of the film to the originals.  Kyle Baker, however, took it upon himself  to handle that issue on his blog when he saw the film, and did so deftly.  Baker actually goes line-by-line, toe-to-toe with a number of complaints from the fanbase and shows exactly what original Eisner strips and panels Miller got his ideas from, proving that indeed the film can be viewed as a mostly faithful adaptation of Eisner’s work. (ed: Mr. Baker’s review seems to have been pulled from his own blog, although you can read fragments of it and reactions to it in Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat Archives, and get the gist of what he wrote.) [...]

  2. [...] 48 Kyle Baker’s Review of the Spirit [...]

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