Will Eisner original Spirit artwork --- "Bring in Sand Saref" (1/15/50)

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"Bring in Sand Saref" (Dual story: 1948 John Law, Detective and January 15, 1950 Spirit)

Will Eisner has made available, through this agency, the original artwork to a cornerstone story.

This episode has been reprinted more often than any other Spirit story. It is also one of the most widely admired of the Spirit stories. But, ironically, it did not begin as a Spirit story. There is a fascinating story behind the story's evolution. If you have a copy of Eclipse's one-shot John Law comic book from 1983, see Cat Yronwode's accompanying text there, or refer to pages 88-98 in The Art of Will Eisner (Kitchen Sink Press) for a more detailed version. I will summarize the genesis below.

In 1948 an always-ambitious Will Eisner founded what turned out to be a very short-lived comic book company. It went under after publishing just two titles: Kewpies and Baseball Comics. One of the canceled titles, already assembled, was John Law, Detective. Unlike Kewpies and Baseball, Eisner personally wrote and drew John Law during what was, arguably, the peak of The Spirit era. But when his comics company failed the John Law artwork remained on the shelf. The character John Law looked much like The Spirit but Law had an eye patch instead of a mask. He smoked a pipe. His sidekick was Nubbin, a white shoeshine boy, instead of Ebony. A bald, bulbous-nosed Police Commissioner named Bunyon was Dolan's counterpart. And the beautiful villain was named Sand Blue. Nearly all of the pages for the 1948 John Law comic book were eventually recycled: "The Half-Dead Mr. Lox," "Ratt-Gutt," and the classic 2-part "Sand Saref" adventures all appeared in altered form as Spirit stories in 1950.

The original art for "Bring In Sand Saref" is, consequently, very unusual. When Will Eisner converted "John Law" into a "Spirit" story he expanded the original eleven-page "Sand Blue" adventure into two seven-page stories by adding introductory pages. He literally redrew the three primary cast members (by this point in 1950 Sammy had replaced Ebony as The Spirit's sidekick) by rubber cementing the new art over the old, and re-lettering where necessary. These paste-overs can be peeled back to reveal the underlying first versions. When this story was reprinted in Warren's Spirit Magazine #8, a portion of the original splash page was once again pasted-over, to omit a large balloon and to insert the present title. So this story is something of an archeological dig for the right Indiana Jones collector. The good news: this story is one of the best Spirit stories of all time, it is all-Eisner, and the purchaser gets, in essence, two stories in one.

[My personal archival suggestion is to remove the added Spirit art, and adhere these original elements in registered position on to a clear hinged overlay for each page, much like an animation cel. In this manner the "Spirit" overlays could be lifted to reveal the intended "John Law" version underneath. The pages could then be read and appreciated on literally two levels.]

The bad news is that because of the changes noted there is a fair amount of staining on every page where new material was added, and some collectors regard paste-overs as a flaw regardless of pedigree.

The potential purchaser has to ask himself if this legendary story's value is seriously offset (or arguably enhanced) by the alterations described.

Scanning note: the images presented here are scanned from Help! magazine #13 (one of the many reprints). The "pushpins" were Harvey Kurtzman's added graphic element and not part of the originals! We did not scan from the Harvey, Kitchen Sink or Eclipse reprints, where the added "gray tones" or color would be misleading. These original pages are still in Will Eisner's possession, not this agency. If a serious prospective purchaser wants more information we can provide a more detailed page-by-page description and/or ask Will to provide photocopies from the originals.

Price. If "Bring in San Saref" did not have the alterations noted, I am confident the story would easily command $25,000 or more in the marketplace. If I owned the story I would personally mount this story (as described in brackets above) with overlays, and would regard the added art as a value-added bonus. But I am not a particularly traditional or conservative collector. And as much as I value the aesthetics and history of this story, neither can I in good conscience disregard the stains and paste-overs. On balance, my feeling is that this story should bring more than an average Spirit story, but still considerably less than the story would bring if unadulterated in any way. ---Denis Kitchen

Complete 7 page story..................................................$17,500