Here’s a transcript of an interview that Mike Jozic did with Will Eisner on March 7, 2000 for Meanwhile…
Just to whet your appetite, here’s Eisner on making movies based on “The Spirit”:
JOZIC: The Spirit has been around for a very long time and he seems to be one of the few costume characters that hasn’t succumbed to various, and sundry, film adaptations.
EISNER: Not yet, anyway. He’s at the threshold of succumbing. [laughs]
JOZIC: Oh, really?
EISNER: Yeah, the people who produced Batman purchased the rights from me about two or three years ago to do a Spirit film. And very candidly, I couldn’t care less about film. I’m totally uninterested in film. If they do a good Spirit movie, I won’t get the credit for it. If they do a bad one, my status as a writer and a cartoonist, will not be diminished. You will not think any less of me if they put a lousy film out. It’s like Shakespeare. There are lousy productions of Shakespeare and there are good ones. It doesn’t mitigate the essential character of the man’s work.
JOZIC: How do you feel about the few productions that have already been done, like the television movie and …
EISNER: The television movie left me feeling very sorry for Warner Bros., I felt sad for them. I sent them a condolence note because they spent all this money and came up with a mouse. And I don’t mean M-A-U-S. [laughs]
Filmmakers very often don’t really, I think, understand the fact that a cartoon strip, cartoon story, or even a book, has a characteristic of its own that, to adapt it into film, requires a great deal of creative application. There are some comics that lend themselves easily…Batman [and] Superman lend themselves easily because they’re both circus characters, and circus is very easy to film. But when you try to take something like The Shadow, or even Dick Tracy, both were failures at the box-office.
Warner Bros. made a very honest attempt to be faithful to the character of The Spirit, and that was a mistake. [laughs] But, I must again emphasise that, personally, I couldn’t care less about film. I’m not interested in film. I wouldn’t be worried about whatever they did with the character because it doesn’t really matter.
JOZIC: At the time the TV movie came out, I had never heard of The Spirit before, and that was actually my first exposure to the character.
EISNER: What was your reaction to it?
JOZIC: I don’t remember the show, but I remember really enjoying it. And about ten minutes after it was finished, I was on the phone to one of my local comic stores asking if they had any Spirit comics in.
EISNER: Well, that was one of the reasons why I agreed to license that film of The Spirit. At the time, The Spirit was being published by Kitchen Sink and they were in need of anything that would help the circulation of the book. So, I thought that would help them sell a lot of The Spirit. They were doing the book on a regular, continuing, basis.