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Will Eisner Original Spirit Art: Ward Healy p.6 (1948)

Will Eisner Original Spirit Art: Ward Healy p.6 (1948)
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    WILL EISNER (1917-2005) • Original Spirit Art

    March 26, 1948. Page 6 from “Ward Healy”

    Eisner Tackles Political Corruption! Will Eisner’s expressive acting gets a bold chiaroscuro boost with backgrounds by Jerry Grandinetti in this handsome page featuring Commissioner Dolan taking on corrupt city officials from the 1948 Spirit story “Ward Healy.” City politics were one of Eisner’s passions, and being well aware that his editors were jaded newspapermen, he lampooned the worst type of city sleaze with the corrupt goons managing the public’s construction purse in this story.

    Everyone is afraid of Ward Healy’s political party influence – even Dolan. When he bumps off surveyor Honest John Sliderule and replaces him with bumbling Transit O’Plumb, Healy thinks he’s in the clear to overcharge the city and skim his take on the construction materials. He sends O’Plumb off on a tunnel project, where his incompetence makes a profitable mess for Healy. Meanwhile, Spirit investigates the receipts to prove Healy’s malfeasance.

    In the end, when it looks like Spirit and Dolan have the receipts, Healy fingers an associate to take a rap for bumping off Sliderule and tries to strongarm Dolan into forgetting about the receipts, telling him that O’Plumb is the key witness and long missing. Except the crooks’ plan to sideline O’Plumb backfires when his incompetence finds him tunneling straight into Dolan’s office. While the page-count restrictions make Eisner resort to cartoon logic in the storytelling, the characterization of cheap, bumbling, incompetent, and venal political bosses more than make up for it. And then there’s all that peak Spirit artwork to admire!

    Eisner’s sleazy surveyors slump, whine and plead with each other to figure out who’s taking the fall for a recent caper. Their body language is top-form Eisner, whose exquisite attention to gesture, facial expression, and rumpled wardrobe turns the comics page into a theatrical display. Commissioner Dolan outsmarts the party goons in the bottom three panels, leaping from indignation to satisfaction as he turns the tables on their scheme.

    Eisner’s technical powers are in their prime here. Delicate pen work alternates with confident brushstrokes creating playful and expressive characterization. From the feathering in the crooks’ cheap suits to the fine crosshatching indicating the bags under Dolan’s eyes, Eisner shows a vast capacity for detail. But it’s his mastery of body language to convey meaning that makes this page a keeper. Look at that bottom tier. In the first panel, Dolan’s wide set thighs, tense shoulders, stiff elbows and tilted forehead show a man ready to explode. His pipe smoke takes the place of a word balloon to indicate his smoldering rage. He anchors the center panel with furious indignation: clenched jaw and dagger sharp eyes calling a criminal bluff. Even the tuft on his bald pate is spiky. And in the last panel, when he lands his reversal, his posture relaxes to radiate self-satisfaction, while he bobs his pipe in his grin. These details are delivered by well-chosen lines rendered with total confidence. This wonderful page makes a fantastic introduction or dynamic addition to any collection of 1940s comic art.

    Medium/Size/Condition: Brush, pen, and ink on Bristol board measuring 16.5 x 22.5 inches (42 x 57 cm). Some White-out around balloon tails in panel 8. Rubber cement discoloration along the top and bottom margins outside of image area, but overall in excellent condition.

    Further reference: Much other Eisner art, plus out-of-print graphic novels, Spirit comic books and magazines, signed serigraphs, his Famous Cartoonist Button, and numerous other Eisner-related items are accessible from our sister store Steve Krupp’s Curio Shoppe. Just type his name (or The Spirit) into our search bar.

    Provenance: The Will Eisner estate is exclusively represented by the Denis Kitchen Art Agency, an affiliate of Steve Krupp’s Curio Shoppe and Gallery. This drawing is warranted to be an authentic original created by Will Eisner, and sold on behalf of his estate. Note: Image is © Will Eisner Studios, Inc. Reproduction for commercial purposes requires permission.

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