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Matt Seneca, who is fast becoming one of my favorite writers on Sequential Art and Visual Culture, posted an essay on Eisner’s Ebony White character over at his blog, Death To The Universe.

Here’s an excerpt:

Racism was a part of the world once upon a time, and as such it was a part of comics. And it’s hardly left the world, let alone America, let alone American comics — but at least there are certain things you can’t do in public anymore, and this is most definitely one of them.

Ebony White will always ensure that The Spirit isn’t presented in the grand fashion the work’s aesthetic value merits. In a way that’s poetic justice, a casual racism that no doubt endeared Eisner’s work to a populist audience in its day now preventing it from getting over to the world at large in ours. And there the story would end, if Ebony White wasn’t such a good character.

In full here.

It’s an excellent read and ties well into our discussion in the comments of the Milestone Comics feature posted earlier this month.

I’ll be getting into The Spirit in the reviews soon after we resume our daily review schedule with DC’s Golden Age. Until then, Seneca’s essay will give you a little to think about.

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3 Comments Post New »

  1. Chris D. wrote on at February 15, 2011 3:55 pm:

    Fantastic post Ian!
    I’m glad to see some more information to followup to our previous discussion.

    Matt did a great job of breaking down the history for those of us unfamiliar with The Spirit and it was very much appreciate. It’s funny that I actually very much disagree with the editing of Mark Twain’s work believing that it should stay intact and properly reflect the times in which it was written, but when first seeing The Spirit I was surprised that such a publication was allowed to exist. It’s unfortunate the knee-jerk reaction that I initially had when first seeing the Spirit pic with Ebony White. I obviously hold an unrealzied prejudice to the type of media that I so love when feeling that a novel should be allowed to exist unadulterated by today’s P.C. society, but at the same time wishing a comic like this to be changed to rid any such racial references. It’s great to hear that jokes were not made on the crutch of racism as well.

    On top of that I do enjoy the fact that he points out the very obvious stereotypical women in comics.

    I also welcome any further discussion on art from such an experienced fan since I’m constantly striving to learn to appreciate the differences.

    I can’t wait for your review on the Spirit! :-)

    Again, great post. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


    Ian replied on February 15th, 2011 at 3:59 pm:

    Thank Matt! hehe. But I figured you’d appreciate me sharing it.

    You make a good point about twain/eisner. Something about it being visual makes it both easier to take out of context and capable of provoking such simple gut reactions.

    You should subscribe to his blog with your rss reader, he’s consistently posting some great long form writing about comics.


    Chris D. replied on February 15th, 2011 at 4:15 pm:

    I will do that! (both of your suggestions)


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