This page is for the comic series. For the 2008 film, see The Spirit.
When confronting escaped criminal Dr. Cobra, criminologist and private investigator Denny Colt is caught in the evil scientist's experimental liquid and put into a death-like coma. Believed dead by his friend Commissioner Dolan, head of the Central City Police Department, Colt is buried the next day, only to rise from his grave the next night very much alive. After catching Dr. Cobra, Denny Colt decides to remain dead and take up the job of being The Spirit, so he can go after criminals and crimes beyond the reach of the police.
The Spirit, which premiered in June 1940 and ran continuously until October 1952, was the brainchild of Will Eisner, arguably one of the most important men in the history of comic books. Originally, it was created and distributed as a weekly insert for more conventional newspapers, rather than as a traditional comic. These stories have been reprinted by many publishers in numerous comic book and graphic novel series.
Eisner's intent was to have a series that focused on characters and storytelling, rather than to create a "super-hero comic book". In fact, the mask and gloves that are The Spirit's trademarks were a concession to his publishing partner, who didn't think the series would sell without having a bona fide "masked hero". One of the effects of this is that often The Spirit is a guest in his own series, sometimes only appearing at the very beginning and very ending of the story.
In addition to comics, the character appeared from 1941 through 1944 in a conventional Newspaper Comic strip, in a 1987 TV Pilot (which did not produce a series) and, as of December 25, 2008, a theatrical release movie written and directed by Frank Miller.
The Spirit does not have any super-powers nor does he have any special training. He is an excellent fighter, and survives mostly on force of will and luck. In fact, the strip is fairly realistic in that there are very few instances of extra-normal powers. People get hit and they bleed. People get shot and they die. (There are, however, over the course of over 500 stories, a few appearances of witches, a couple of aliens, one man who can fly and, when appropriate, Santa.)
The Spirit was licensed to DC Comics between 2007 and 2011. The 2007 series was written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, who distilled elements of the previous series, and set it in the modern day. DC Comics later rebooted the series to fit into their First Wave DCU universe; the 2010-2011 series was written by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, having taken over for Darwyn Cooke, and was set around the 1940s or 1950s.
IDW published a four-issue miniseries in 2013, crossing over The Spirit and The Rocketeer. Dynamite Entertainment picked up the license in 2015, and crossed over The Spirit and The Green Hornet (set in 1966) in 2017.
We currently have a Character Sheet under construction.
- Adaptation Distillation: The Darwyn Cooke reboot.
- America Saves the Day: In one issue, The Spirit
- Badass Normal
- Belly Dancer - Plaster of Paris
- Celibate Hero: In spite of being a total Chick Magnet, the Spirit gulps, aw-shucks-ma'am, and hem-haws his way through whenever a Femme Fatale, or even Ellen, latches onto him. The idea of being embarrassed to the point of rigidity (not that kind) by female attention was a common trope seen among male characters in the 1930s and 1940s.
- Chick Magnet: It's the closest thing The Spirit has to an actual superpower
- Christmas Episode - Issue closest to Christmas nearly every year in the original run. Usually ended with a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Clark Kenting: A Domino Mask is about as much a disguise as Clark Kent's glasses, but in reverse. As long as he's wearing his mask it doesn't matter what he wears, he'll instantly be recognized. If he really wants to be in disguise he takes his mask off. Denny Colt became the Spirit after being declared legally dead and the Spirit doesn't have a secret identity, he's the Spirit full time.
- Clear My Name: For a few early stories, The Spirit was framed for the murder of a tight-fisted millionaire who'd taken several Levels In Jerkass. However, it soon proven to be a suicide by pointlessly elaborate contraption.
- Clothing Damage: The Spirit suffers a torn shirt and shredded suit on a regular basis.
- Coat, Hat, Mask
- The Commissioner Gordon - Commissioner Dolan
- Cool Mask
- Costumed Nonsuper Hero - Enforced (see main description).
- The Cowl
- Crossover: With everyone from Batman and Doc Savage to Cerebus and Omaha the Cat Dancer,
- Death by Origin Story - The Spirit himself, though he didn't stay dead. He was put into a death-like coma for 24 hours and used being declared dead as an advantage. Alvarro Mortez AKA 'El Morte' in the DC reboot is a better example. He was unfortunate enough to die TWICE before confronting the Spirit personally.
- Deadpan Snarker: Denny can get as snarky as another superhero from a rival company in battle, but in the reboot it's Ebony White who plays this to the hilt, delivering caustic comments while almost never, ever changing his dour expression.
- The Driver: Ebony White.
- Expressive Mask: The reboot tries to avert this as much as possible, instead using shadows, angles, and the Spirit's signature hat to give the mask an illusion of movement, but sometimes they play it straight just for sheer comedy. Once Darwyn Cooke stopped drawing the book it got more noticeable.
- Faux Death - See "Death By Origin Story".
- Fedora of Asskicking
- Femme Fatale and The Vamp abound. - P'Gell is the best example of The Vamp and Sand Saref the best example of Femme Fatale. (There's no chance of P'Gell ever reforming, but we hope for Sand.)
- The Faceless - The Octopus, and actually The Spirit himself as well.
- Averted with the Spirit in the reboot. Denny's unmasked face is show in the flashback to the night of his "death" and several times in the Cooke-helmed isssues in intimate moments with Ellen after.
- The Greatest Story Never Told - Eisner liked to use this trope on occasion, but one that really stands out is "Gerhard Shnobble", which can be a somber Tear Jerker for some.
- Hard Head
- James Bondage - The Spirit seems to spend far more time tied up (and stripped down) than any man or woman really should...
- Lady in Red - P'Gell, again. Often, but not always, seen in a slinky red dress. (Starting with her first appearance.)
- Meaningful Name - As seen above, Eisner loved these. For instance, one story had a gangster named "Blacky" Marquett.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed - "The Dictator's Reform" actually begins with the disclaimer: "Any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely intentional."
- Odd-Shaped Panel
- Pirate Girl - Long Jane Silver and her all-female crew.
- Punny Name - Her name is Plaster and she's from Paris.
- Actually, most people's names are puns, even the Octopus's real name is a reference to a medical bath. More info on the other wiki.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend - For quite a while, Ellen Dolan clearly thought of The Spirit as her boyfriend, while The Spirit himself spent much of the time avoiding her and denying it.
- Averted in the reboot where Denny and Ellen are clearly in a committed-ish relationship. The Spirit still flirts with every skirt that crosses his path like a bastard though.
- Shirtless Scene: Like you wouldn't believe.
- Sidekick - Ebony White, Blubber (for a VERY short stint), and later, Sammy. In some stories where Ebony is featured, he has his own sidekicks.
- Theme Naming - Good old fashioned Mook gangster names like Knuckles and Tumblers.
- Uncle Tomfoolery. Verging on outright Ethnic Scrappy.