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By Douglas Wolk
From February through April, DC’s The Spirit series will have a guest writing team: Michael Uslan and F.J. DeSanto, the producers of the Frank Miller-directed Spirit movie that’s opening this month. Uslan hasn’t written many comics since he became the producer of the Batman movies (aside from the Batman graphic novel Detective No. 27 a few years ago), but he wrote stories for The Shadow, Beowulf, Detective Comics and other series back in the early ’70s, when, as he put it at a recent interview in New York, “I was a Junior Woodchuck at DC Comics. They didn’t have the term ‘intern’ then, but it was me and that skinny kid—what was his name?—Paul… Levitz! Levitz! I don’t know what happened to him, but he was a Woodchuck too.”
The difficulty with creating new Spirit comics, DeSanto noted, is that the character is so closely identified with Eisner: “It’s not like Batman, where you have 70 years of Batman stories by so many different creators that you can do The Dark Knight or you can do the Brave and the Bold cartoon—it’s Eisner, and that’s it.” So, before they started writing, he and Uslan made a list of elements of Eisner’s work they had to incorporate into every Spirit story.
“They had to have cinematic storytelling, influenced heavily by Hitchcock,” Uslan said. “In terms of the heart of the story, they had to be influenced by Frank Capra. There had to be humanity in these stories. They had to be character-driven. Eisner’s humor had to be there. Eisner’s violence quotient had to be there. Eisner’s over-the-top villains had to be there, and Eisner’s femme fatales”—the three issues Uslan and DeSanto have written are built around Plaster of Paris, Silken Floss and Lorelei, all of whom also appear in the movie, and they’re connected by a plot involving Eisner’s foremost villain, the Octopus. Drawn by the former Shadowpact team of Justiniano and Walden Wong, they’re full of other little nods to Eisner’s work; the first page of their first issue echoes the first page of the classic Spirit story “Ten Minutes.”
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