Mike Richardson is having a pretty good year. The comics company he started in 1986 has survived two decades of industry peaks and valleys and is in the midst of celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Over those two decades, the company expanded in a variety of successful directions, including movies based on Dark Horse characters such as The Mask, Barb Wire, Hellboy, and Mystery Men, toys, a comic book store — Things From Another World — and even a nonfiction book publishing division, M Press, which put out my book, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life.
The tallest man in comics is also one of the busiest. In fact, he and I never connected during the book’s research phase, although we tried. I knew Richardson had some things he wanted to say about Eisner, so he was one of the first people I asked to participate in a conversation for this Interview Series.And he knows something about research himself, having authored the book Comics: Between the Panels.
This was actually the second time I interviewed Richardson; the first was closer to the company’s 10th anniversary, in 1996.
In the interview that follows, the Dark Horse entrepreneur talks about the impact that Will Eisner had on him as comics creator and as a businessman, as well as revealing details of his company’s plans for future Eisner book projects and collections.
(Want more Richardson? Here’s a QuickTime movie link to an interview with the man on the Dark Horse Comics site.)
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Mike Richardson (left) with Will Eisner in undated photograph
(Courtesy of Mike Richardson).
ANDELMAN: Tell me about the first time you actually met Will, because you obviously knew who he was by that point.
RICHARDSON: Oh, of course. I was a huge Spirit fan. When I first discovered the Spirit, it was back in the 1960s during the comic book boom that was spawned by the Batman television show and probably had already begun before that, but it hit its zenith probably during that show. Everyone was publishing everything, and being the collector of everything, and I mean everything, that was comic book, I used to scour the stands and look at every single book and especially look for new things, because I always wanted to feel the excitement of a new discovery and picked up this big thick comic. It was a 25 cent reprint of The Spirit.
ANDELMAN: Was that the Harvey book, or was that the…
RICHARDSON: That was the Harvey book. The comics at the time were a dime or twelve cents. I think they were still a dime, though, maybe twelve cents, but anyway, the fact was, I could get two comics, or I could buy that one. I remember it as plain as day. It was like looking at the cover, looking at the way the logo was done, which I had never seen anything like, looking inside it and seeing just a comic book just unlike… It immediately struck me. I compared it to like the first time I heard The Beatles and the first time you saw Muhammad Ali, I mean those moments where you know something special is there, and that’s the way I felt about it. Of course, years went by, and then Denis Kitchen and Jim Warren started republishing the stories.
I remember attending a comic book convention back East in 1988, probably Chicago. Dark Horse was started in 1986 when there were a thousand other comic book publishers. Then we had Black September, and they all left the market all at once — but we survived.
Anyway, through that process, Denis Kitchen was one of the few publishers at the time that was actually receptive to new publishers coming into the business. He was one of the people that I liked and stayed in touch with and admired what he was doing and found him to be someone that you could talk to, and he was a man of his word.
But anyway, Denis came walking through the convention with Will Eisner, and Will stopped to talk to someone, and I grabbed Denis and asked if he would introduce me. He did, and Will actually sat down and talked to me, which was amazing. When I met Stan Lee for the first time, somebody introduced me to Stan, and Stan said, “Just what we need, another publisher, “and walked off. So I sort of expected similar treatment, because Dark Horse was only a couple of years old, and there were a million other publishers, so there was no reason to think Dark Horse was anything special. But Will actually sat down and talked to me, and I thought that was amazing.
Promotional art for Mike Richardson’s comics history,
Comics: Between the Panels.
Two of the giants of the industry, of all the people and all the bad behavior that went on in the comic industry during that time, the two giants of the industry, the first time I met them, both of them sat down and talked for some time. One was Will, and the other was Jack Kirby, who the first time I met Jack, he sat down and talked to me for over half an hour. I thought that was always interesting, and I have always had that in my mind ever since that these people who really didn’t have the time and didn’t have the need to talk to some brand new publisher nonetheless did and were very nice and giving of themselves and their time.
So that was the first time I met Will, and after that, I would see him at conventions and always stopped and said hi. I would get him to go to have breakfast and started pursuing him. When I started Dark Horse, my goal was, I had a list of people that I had to work with at some point and Will Eisner was right at the top of the list.
ANDELMAN: When you mentioned how Eisner and Kirby treated you on meeting them the first time and that made a big impression on you, do you keep that in mind over the years as you are meeting with people?
RICHARDSON: Absolutely. I absolutely think of that. These were two people that had no need to stop and talk with me. But not only did they stop and talk, they stopped and listened and talked and exchanged ideas. That was the great thing about Will. And Jack was just a great guy. Will was actually different in that he was out there, he was interested in the exchange of ideas. He wanted to learn everything he could. He wanted to stay current, also.
ANDELMAN: Do you remember anything you talked about that first time you met Will? Because what I have heard in stories like this is that people are usually surprised by what an interest he has taken, especially in a publisher. I know with Denis, he was fascinated with the independent distribution system.
RICHARDSON: When Will first talked to me, I do remember what we talked about. He was interested first of all in this thing called the direct sales market. He thought it was great that publishers like myself could get involved and have greater control of the distribution. The non-returnable market — which is the direct sales market — saved the comic book industry at the time, and he was interested in that. He was also interested in the fact that Dark Horse had publicly pronounced itself to be a creative rights company. In other words, we were interested in getting into business with the creator, not taking and owning his work.
ANDELMAN: That must have been something that he was particularly interested in.
RICHARDSON: He was, and he said that was geared to his own interest. The interesting thing in that conversation was that Will was asking me questions. Many people in all professions tell you what they want you to hear. Will was asking questions. That was the way Will was all the way through his life. He always asked questions. I always thought that was fascinating, because you got into very interesting conversations with him, and it was a give and take. It wasn’t a lecture, although for me, I was interested in hearing everything Will had to say. There was so much knowledge there. I wanted to hear what he had to say, and we would end up in these fascinating conversations about the future of the industry, how things could change, and during the dark times, during the bleak times in the ’90s about how do we get things out of here.
I remember one breakfast I had with him at a convention in Chicago when the market had fallen to its lowest point. The comic industry had been taken over by girls in tight suits and companies that were doing all kinds of dark and aggressive story lines. We were sitting at breakfast and Will, always being upbeat, said, “Well, the good thing about this downturn is maybe it will clear out all the bad publishers and retailers.” I jokingly said back to him, “What if it gets rid of all the good ones?” The smile went right off his face. He sat there quietly for a moment and then he said, “I never thought about that. I am going to have to think about that… Well, I am sure it won’t.” He was such an optimist, that side never occurred to him.
ANDELMAN: He just believed in natural selection. You told me in a previous conversation that Will was one of the reason you got into comics publishing and that Will was the model that you tried to follow in terms of…
RICHARDSON: I got into comics because of my love of comics, which explained why I loved Will and his work, and he was one of the giants. Like I say, you have those moments where it’s like the duckling that is imprinted upon first sight. You see certain things at certain ages, and they stay with you. And of course, that 25-cent giant comic which, in both format, design, and content, was so different from all the other comics out there, fueled a lifelong interest in Will’s work. And getting to know Will increased that desire to know him and know his work better.
Mike Richardson, publisher of Dark Horse Comics.
As far as him being the model, he was exactly the model because Will is one of those people who controlled his own work all through his life, and he also ran his business. He worked on both hemispheres of the brain, I guess. He was able to be successful business-wise and he was able to be successful creatively.
I never meant to start a company. What I wanted to do was do comics, and when we first started Dark Horse, we were doing our own comics. We were writing our own comics and finding people to work with us, and evidently whatever we did caught on. Dark Horse took off and suddenly I found myself to be a publisher and later president of a large company. But I still write comics, I am still involved in the creative things we do, and so Will was the perfect example for me because he found a balance that worked both ways.
People tend to try to put publishers on one side and creators on the other side, and I have always resented that because I always thought of myself as a creative person that ended up publishing. I have tried to run the company in a financially solid way. My problem is that I tend to side with the creators against myself, because, again, I was an art major, I was an artist a number of years before I started Dark Horse, and so I constantly find myself siding with the artist to my own detriment, but that’s the way it goes. Because of that interest in the artist, I think that Dark Horse has managed to find that balance as Will did that has kept us alive after the big companies that were around when we started have come and gone. You take Marvel and DC out of the picture, and how many of the hundreds if not thousands of comic companies have come and gone since 1986?
ANDELMAN: What was the first work of Will’s that Dark Horse published, and how did that come about?
RICHARDSON: We have done a number of his books. The major breakthrough with Will was Last Day in Vietnam. I pursued Denis hard, and we have done reprints. I talked Will into letting us do Hawks of the Sea, which was his very first work. Will at first was not necessarily excited to see that republished, reprinted. He had seen it in the larger form. He wasn’t that happy with it. I actually asked him if we could shoot it down to a smaller size and told him we would put it in a nice format, which he did. He wasn’t sure we could shoot it down; we shot it down and showed it to him, and he said, “Wow, it looks pretty good.” He had this great drawing he had done, a pirate illustration that had no connection to the book, but I asked him if we could use that on the cover, and he said yes, and what we ended up with was a book that he was pleased with.
ANDELMAN: You are saying that he resisted that for quite a while.
RICHARDSON: It’s not that he resisted, it’s just that he wasn’t that excited about seeing it. I think he probably did it more due to my persistence in wanting to increase the Dark Horse library of his work as to any real desire to see it done. What is interesting is that after we did that, then we started talking to him about packaging some of his other less known work, and he became more receptive to it after he saw how Hawks came out.
ANDELMAN: One of the bigger projects that you took on was the Will Eisner Sketchbook.
The Will Eisner Sketchbook, published by Dark Horse Comics.
RICHARDSON: Yeah. That was such a great project, and we were so excited by it. I think it’s one of the nicest things that we have ever done, and I know Will loved it. He was very excited.
ANDELMAN: How did that come about? What was involved in that? It seems like it must have been a huge project.
RICHARDSON: We have done a number of sketchbooks, and Diana Schutz suggested we approach Will about it, and I thought it was a great idea. Will was all for it, and we decided to really give it a first-class treatment, and it evolved as we went. To this day, I love picking it up and looking inside it. I was intimidated by Will because one day he called me and said, “Hey Mike, pick any drawing out of that. I want to give it to you as a gift.” We had all the stuff here, so I couldn’t choose. I finally did and sent it back to him, and he wrote me a wonderful note.
ANDELMAN: What piece is it?
RICHARDSON: I had the piece where the Spirit is tied down on the floor. I felt I needed a little bondage, so he’s down on the floor, and his assorted villains are sitting around him. He is laid out, arms outstretched. I would tell you exactly where that came from, but I can’t remember. It’s off one of his covers.
ANDELMAN: Did you ever seek out specific advice from Will, or was it a more casual relationship, that when you would see him, you would make conversation?
RICHARDSON: Oh, no. I talked to Will, I would call Will and talk to him about different things, but Will never said, “Here’s some advice for you.” I would end up in a conversation with him, and I would start talking about something. I would get the benefit of his experience, and he freely gave that, but he would never say it like, “Now here’s what you do.” He would discuss it with me, and I would listen to what he had to say, because he had been there and done that and because he had such a great perception of the industry — not just the creation of the work but also of the business side of things. I would call him and say, “Hey, you know, I was thinking this…” or, “What do you think about this?” And we would end up in a discussion. And by the way, even in those discussions, he was always asking questions, too, because, again, he liked the exchange. He really loved to talk about comics and talk about them in an intelligent way. The time would just pass when I talked to Will.
ANDELMAN: You had him out to Milwaukie at some point.
RICHARDSON: Yeah, we had this idea. There is a Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, and it has been going on for some twenty-five years, I think, maybe longer. One of the ladies who knew me suggested to the festival’s board that they think about approaching me about comics art, because she had seen my art collection. At first they pooh-poohed the idea. These are the society ladies that were used to thinking of art in different terms. But Sandy Hagerman invited them to come down to my office. In my office, I rotate my art collection on two of the walls, and the greatest comic artists in the world are framed there, so there is Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, Al Williamson and Will Eisner, Paul Chadwick and Adam Hughes and on and on. It’s a who’s who of who is in comics, and when these people came in and they saw the comic artwork framed, one of them exclaimed, shocked — and I can’t overstate the shock — “This is art!” Well, bingo.
They became very excited about it, and based on my art collection, they created a three-day show and comic art museum. I was told it was the largest turnout they had ever had.
In the course of that, they wondered if I could bring anyone to talk to the civilian public about comics. I wanted to get two people. I wanted them to be interesting to listen to, and I wanted them to be contrasting, so Will was the first one I called. He seemed hesitant to make the trip. I said, “You know what?” There will be tens of thousands of people that come here, and they have never heard of comics, and you will have a chance to talk to those people. “Will said, “I like that idea.” The idea of talking and preaching to the unconverted really excited him, so he and Ann came out.
Contrasting him and someone who also is knowledgeable and fun to listen to talk about the comics industry is Harlan Ellison. Harlan came, and I suggested that we have a panel discussion that I would moderate with Harlan and Will and audience participation. On top of that, I said, “Let’s sell tickets,” which they had never done before. The first night was pretty much sold out; the second night was nearly sold out. Two very good turnouts, raised a lot of money for the Festival of the Arts, and we also did a series of posters by four key artists in the industry, one by Will, a terrific poster, basically promoting comics as one of the true American art forms. Since I started Dark Horse, I have always told people that comics, like jazz, is one of the few American art forms. I said that in front of Will at the Festival, and Will interrupted me. “Mike is 100 percent correct with that,” he said, “but I want to add one thing to the front of that. It’s one of the few American art forms, like jazz, created by immigrants.” Which put a whole new reflection on it, and of course, I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it’s absolutely 100 percent true.
ANDELMAN: I understand on that trip that Will got a tour of Dark Horse.
RICHARDSON: Oh, yeah. We took Will through Dark Horse and toured the town with him and had a wonderful, wonderful time with him and his wife Ann. Just a great time. We put him in a hotel on Lake Oswego, and it was just great. I will never forget the time. It was a close and rewarding time that we spent while he was here. It was one of those great things that you always wish you had time for or always wish the right circumstance would come up, and in that case, it did.
ANDELMAN: Do you recall anything about how he was perceived by other people at Dark Horse?
RICHARDSON: Oh, I can’t tell you how much respect people had for him. Many of them knew him, including my mother. She was eager to meet him, and had lunch with us. She told Will that she read The Spirit in the newspaper supplements when she was a kid. My mom graduated high school at the age of 16 so was a college freshman at the age of 16 and won a national art search by one of the major magazines, Life or Look, and won a scholarship to any college in the country. You know those contests they used to have? Well, she was the national winner for her art, and she was a pianist and just incredibly talented, and the reason I am bringing all that up is that she was also a fanatical comic book fan. So one of the reasons I became such a fan myself is that first of all, they weren’t prohibited in our house, we were encouraged to read them, and I attribute my ability to read when I went into the first grade because of my desire to know what was in those books, those comic books that were around the house.
ANDELMAN: Any interesting exchanges amongst the three of you at the Festival? I know Harlan is pretty outspoken, claiming to be the world’s number one fan of Will. I know you might take issue with that, and other people might.
RICHARDSON: Yeah. Harlan loves Will, and I can’t even, again, I can’t overstate his affection for Will. I think that it was such a great time. Harlan tends to be a little harder on the audience than Will. That led to a few exchanges, including Harlan sending one unfortunate young man out of the auditorium. Another time, Harlan told a story and warned everyone, “If you are easily offended, please, please leave. I am going to tell a story that may offend some people; if you are easily offended, please leave. I just want you to know.” And he told a story, and a woman stood up and told him, “How dare you tell that story? I find it offensive.” Again, Harlan sent her packing, too. Actually, security took her away as Harlan explained to her that she was not the smartest person to stand there and listen to something after she had been warned.
ANDELMAN: I remember his eulogy for Will at the memorial was just a tour de force of Harlan. Earlier when we were talking about the Will Eisner Sketchbook, you said to me that you thought that all of Will’s work should be available and that that’s still a goal of yours.
RICHARDSON: Yeah. I think that because of Will and who he is, even some of the humorous stuff that he did that probably isn’t among his best known creations — and probably doesn’t stack up with some of his other works — needs to be preserved for archival reasons. I worry that some of it will go away. I think that we need to be able to see all of his work and have it available to those people who care to know about comics and their history. So it’s our intention to publish as much of Will’s work as we can, as we are allowed to publish it.
ANDELMAN: Do you have other projects coming up that are scheduled at this point or that are in the works?
RICHARDSON: Yeah, we do. We have a couple of things that we are talking with Denis Kitchen about, and one of the most solid is to publish an archive volume of the Spirit material that was done by Kitchen Sink in the late 1990s
ANDELMAN: Oh, The New Adventures.
RICHARDSON: Yes, The New Adventures.. We have talked to DC, and Paul Levitz has generously told me that we could number it at the end of their Spirit Archive series, so it will be part of that series even though it will comesout from Dark Horse.
ANDELMAN: That must be several years off now.
RICHARDSON: Yeah, it is several years off, because some of the rights issues haven’t been taken care of over the years, and we are trying to go back and make things right with everyone.
ANDELMAN: That’s a question that I have been asked a lot, and you read that on forums a lot, “Will DC, as part of reprinting The Spirit, will they reprint the Kitchen Sink books?” and there has never been a definitive answer.
RICHARDSON: Dark Horse will.
ANDELMAN: What other of his work would you like to see back in print? You mentioned some of the funny stuff. He did the Gleeful Guides, of course, and a lot of children’s stuff for Scholastic.
RICHARDSON: When the dot.com industry was in full bloom, Will and I were trying to get a project together online, basically novels. Will would illustrate novels, there would be some Flash animation, and put them online, but of course, the dot.com bust and it all fell apart. But he had a number of books that he illustrated. I think all of those should be published in some form, because while some of them were nothing more than sketchbooks, he did quite a bit of work on them. I think some of those are unknown and would be interesting. I don’t have a schedule right in front of me, but we are talking about… We want, as I said, to publish everything that we can of Will’s.
ANDELMAN: Do you still distribute, or produce, The Spirit lunchbox?
RICHARDSON: We do. We have our own toy company. It’s called Dark Horse Deluxe.
ANDELMAN: Are there any other Eisner products in that line besides the lunchbox?
RICHARDSON: We will definitely be doing more products in the future. I can’t tell you what they are right now; I don’t have the schedule with me, but again, much of what we do reflects my interest, and obviously, I have a huge interest in Will’s work and in Will.
ANDELMAN: You also mentioned that you had desperately tried to get the rights to publish The Plot. What was going on there?
RICHARDSON: I can’t tell you what the process was in the selection, but I thought it was a major work, and I thought it was a work that needed to be promoted in a major way, and Will saw it as a very important piece, so I tried hard to get it but didn’t end up with it.
ANDELMAN: As I understood, his reluctance there with you and with DC, for that matter, was that he just felt that that was his…
RICHARDSON: I think he was afraid maybe, and maybe I am putting words, maybe it wasn’t exactly true, but I think maybe he felt that coming from a comic book company, it wouldn’t have been taken as a serious work.
ANDELMAN: Right. That’s what I understood.
RICHARDSON: I believe he expressed that to me when we talked about it, because I was disappointed, because I tried really hard to get that.
ANDELMAN: You understood that it had nothing to do with you or Dark Horse, it was just…
RICHARDSON: Oh, absolutely.
ANDELMAN: …. something else that he was looking for.
RICHARDSON: Oh, absolutely. Look, Will had projects that he wasn’t that sure about that we talked about, and he would say, “Okay, go ahead,” and there were other projects he would say, “No, Mike, I can’t do that, and this is why.” There was always a reason that was 100 percent understandable, and by the way, I understand his reasons for where he went. It didn’t change my disappointment. I expressed that to him, but I was very sorry to lose that. I would have loved to have published The Plot.
ANDELMAN: The other thing I wanted to ask you about is, obviously, more personal to me. Last year, Dark Horse published two of the three definitive books on Will, Eisner/Miller and A Spirited Life.
RICHARDSON: A Spirited Life, what a brilliant book.
ANDELMAN: No sucking up, now.
RICHARDSON: It was a very good book, and we also published what I think it may have been Will’s last work, his story in The Escapist
ANDELMAN: Oh, we’ll come back to The Escapist. Let’s talk for a minute about Eisner/Miller. Eisner/Miller took a little longer, maybe two to three years longer to get into print than it was supposed to, but what was the concept of the book? What sold you on the idea of doing it?
RICHARDSON: I think the idea of having two people who have a tremendous influence on our industry, captured in a book in which they sit down and discuss the industry to me was fascinating. I thought that it would make for interesting reading for those of us who are interested in comics. Obviously, they both have strong opinions. You can see that in the book. They don’t always agree on things, and that makes for some fun reading.
ANDELMAN: Yeah, politically, it was, as it turned out, it was kind of the end of their relationship.
RICHARDSON: I don’t know that that is true. I know that there was a little friction there, but I think that Frank had gigantic respect for Will.
ANDELMAN: Oh, absolutely. Were you frustrated when the book took so long to kind of work its way through?
RICHARDSON: No. I sort of, especially dealing with projects like that where major creators who are very busy have to take time to do certain things, I have learned to just sort of be patient.
ANDELMAN: You must have been pleased to see that book be nominated for an Eisner Award this year. I am sure that is very exciting.
RICHARDSON: Very exciting, yes.
ANDELMAN: And then, of course, A Spirited Life.
RICHARDSON: Brilliant book.
ANDELMAN: Yeah, okay, okay! I try to use all of the professional detachment that I can here, but why was Dark Horse interested in publishing a biography of Will Eisner?
RICHARDSON: I can’t remember if it was Denis Kitchen or Diana Schutz who first asked me if I would be interested. I thought, “This will be the definitive book on Will,” and once again, my interest in Will and all things Will, Once again, I wanted Dark Horse to be the publisher of that opus.
ANDELMAN: Again, trying to be professionally detached, what — if any — response have you had from people that you talked to about the biography?
RICHARDSON: Oh, people love the book. I mean, not only is it informative, but it’s a nice reflection of Will’s life that many of us appreciate having. I am so glad we did it when we did it. I am so glad that it was done. I am glad, for instance, that you took the time to really go in and create this, because how many comic artists and writers and creators, how many of them have their lives detailed for future generations?
ANDELMAN: It was funny to me. Starting this project, as someone who grew up in comics, kind of went away for a while and then came back, when we started it, I assumed that there had to be biographies of other comics creators done as traditional biographies.
RICHARDSON: If you made a list, give it to me, because I know of only a very tiny few.
ANDELMAN: I was amazed at how few there were, so then it became, the notion of let’s do a real biography of a man as opposed to bowing and scraping and sucking up….
RICHARDSON: Again, that’s what made it interesting because it was a biography, it was about his life. There was no attempt to turn it into something that would appeal to the comics market, it was a genuine biography.
ANDELMAN: One of the biggest surprises for people that Will influenced and touched over the years goes like this: “I can’t believe he told you the story about how he lost his virginity — and he let you print it! It’s like, well, it’s a real biography; that’s what happens.
Comics: Between the Panels,
co-authored by Mike Richardson
RICHARDSON: We interviewed Will for another brilliant book, Comics: Between the Panels, by another brilliant author. We could have filled that book up with Will. There were so many great stories. We chose which stories to tell, one of them being the Jack Kirby pal story, which is always one of my favorites, and Will would always laugh when he talked about it and talked about Jack throwing mobsters out the door and Will holding his breath. He had so many stories like that, and again, because of the experience on that and listening to Will tell some of those stories, that’s what made the idea of a biography so interesting to me when the project was offered to us. Immediately, I thought, there are great stories there. There is a great life there. There’s a spirited life.
ANDELMAN: Now, the third book and the final book was Will’s contribution to The Escapist. I didn’t know until after Will had passed and Diana had told me the story of how A Spirited Life and The Escapist books wound up being connected. She had gone out and tried to twist Michael Chabon‘s arm into doing the introduction for my book after he had offered to do it, then had to back off because of his work schedule. Then I guess there was some horse trading… What do you know of that story?
RICHARDSON: Well, my story about how it came about might be a little different than Diana’s, because sometimes two people work along parallel lines. When I was trying to get The Escapist to Dark Horse — no use being coy — DC wanted it badly, and one of the things that Michael told me that was appealing to him about going to DC was that he could team The Escapist with some of the Great Golden Age characters. So it occurred to me that well, maybe we can’t get those DC Golden Age characters, but maybe there are other characters we could get. There are a couple of very well known Golden Age characters, or reasonably well known, that are public domain, and there are others we could get rights to. And then, of course, if you have read Kavalier & Clay and you know Will’s connection to it, in Michael’s mind, all of a sudden it just seemed naturally apparent what a great team-up The Spirit and The Escapist would be. Basically, that’s how I remember it coming about, then saying to Diana, “Let’s talk to Will about teaming the characters up.” Diana may have another story. That’s my memory.
In my mind, it was DC’s, the lure of DC’s Golden Age characters that popped it into my head and caused me to approach Will about it.
ANDELMAN: That’s great. That does expand the story, because I think at that point it picks up with what had happened with Diana and Michael and myself, which is, after I interviewed Michael, I had boldly asked him if he would write the introduction for the book. He didn’t know me from a hole in the ground, but because it was Will Eisner, he said, “Yeah, as long as it didn’t interfere with his own projects” and he needed plenty of notice. With all the production delays on A Spirited Life, a year passed by the time I finally went back to him and said, “Hey, it’s about that time, could you do it?” Michael said, “Well… “I think he was working on scripts for Kavalier & Clay and Spider-Man II and he said, “I don’t think I am going to be able to do it.”
So I went to Diana, all dejected, and she said, “Oh, he’ll do it; I’ll twist his arm; I’ll make him do it.” And then I didn’t hear anything for a while. Then, suddenly he did it. After Will died, Diana told me that what had happened was that she had talked to Michael, and he said, “Well, you know, I would really like Will to do a story with the Spirit and the Escapist… ” Until then, Will had kind of resisted, but he had been so supportive of me and the project that Diana told him, “Look, Michael’s willing to do the introduction if you would do this,” and Will said, “Okay then, I’ll do it.” And I was just astonished to hear that after the fact. He had been so great to me all that time, but that was wild. So you explaining what happened before that, I appreciate that. It’s a great thing. Any other incidents or times that you had with Will that you would like to touch on?
RICHARDSON: The biggest thing for me is whenever, for instance, I was at a convention, and I was tired, and person after person after person came to me. I can’t imagine how tired Will used to be as they shuffled him from this thing to that thing to this thing. That was the amazing thing about Will — he always seemed so upbeat and stuff, but what I will always remember about Will is whenever I saw him, he would come walking in, he would always have a big smile on his face, as though he was glad to see me, and I always had a big smile on my face, I know, because I was always really happy to see him. I like seeing everybody, but Will was special, and like many people whose lives Will affected, I really miss him. I have his picture right over my desk, and he has a big smile on his face there.
June 19, 2006 at 8:01 pm
I’m curious if anybody is going to collect and reprint his “underground” books, like How to Avoid Death and Taxes.
I know that particular book is really out of date, using a lot of old stats but it still is neat to read.
June 20, 2006 at 8:09 pm
I understand there is a complete, but unpublished, last issue of Spirit The New Adventures (Kitchen Sink went under before they could publish it); I hope this can be included in Dark Horse’s upcoming reprint.
June 22, 2006 at 12:48 am
Jamie Coville— Dark Horse Comics has the right to publish Will Eisner’s various “Gleeful Guide” books, such as “Death & Taxes.” You might try writing DH editor Diana Scgutz ri see what the schedule looks like.
—Denis Kitchen, agent for Will Eisner estate
Rodrigo Baeza— I would also very much like to see the unpublished material from KSP’s aborted New Adventures of The Spirit included in Dark Horse’s eventual collection. It will be available to them. Keep in mind that Gary Chaloner has already (ironically) converted his “Spirit” story from the planned #9 into a “John Law” story published by IDW. I say “ironic” because the original 1948 John Law story was converted by Eisner into the 1950 “San Saref” Spirit episides which many consider to be the definitive “Spirit.”
—Denis Kitchen, agenbt for Will Eisner estate
June 22, 2006 at 12:51 am
Typo fix– the Eisner Dark Horse editor referenced incoherently earlier was supposed to be “Diana Schutz.”
October 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm
I first got exposed to Will Eisner’s work when MOCA LA and the Hammer Museum put on the show Masters of American Comics in 05-06.
I remember being mesmerized by the work.
thanks for the interview and history-