WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 10: Author Michael Ch...Michael Chabon image by Getty Images via Daylife

Ben Steelman

Dec. 17, 2008

Of all the Christmas Day movies this year, I’m more than a little interested in “The Spirit,” the latest from comic-book-artist-turned-filmmaker Frank Miller. Once again, we’ll see those digitized backgrounds and weird mixes of color and black-and-white, as in “Sin City” and “300,” Miller’s collaborations with Robert Rodriguez.

Mostly, though, I want to see what they do with one of my favorite comic heroes.

I discovered “The Spirit” late, in the 1970s, when a lot of the old strips were finally being reprinted for a new generation of fans. That’s when a lot of us first discovered Will Eisner.

Who’s Eisner? A cartoonist’s cartoonist who never quite reached A-list popularity but was always known to the cognoscenti. Jack Kirby (“The Hulk, “X-Men,” etc.) worked with Eisner back in the 1930s, when he was still Jacob Kurtzberg; later a young Jules Feiffer would understudy for him. Michael Chabon quoted Eisner in the epigram for his novel “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and may have used him as a model for one of his cartoonist heroes. Hundreds of other young pop artists studied his work.

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