Re-imaging a Will Eisner comic book hero is the equivalent of telling Zeus you may want to take another stab at Perseus and yet Darwyn Cooke stood up and took the challenge.
Now five issues into his run on "The Spirit," CBR News spoke with Cooke about what it is that drew the critically acclaimed creator to the title and why he loves both writing and drawing Denny Colt in a monthly series.
"It is fun working on 'The Spirit' because Denny Colt is human," explained Cooke. "His world is very real to me, in a romantic sort of way. Without the burden of a universe of continuity, and without superpowers, characterization becomes king. It is fun to develop the new characters like Ginger Coffee and Hussein Hussein, and it has been fun to see how easily the strip translates to today's world. I believe it's a testament to the timeless quality of the world Will created."
Cooke, who won an Eisner Award in 2005 for "DC: The New Frontier" as Best Limited Series, said he is surprised the book has received such high praise critically while at the same time, sales figures have been "modest" at best.
"Our response to the book has been modest, but enthusiastic. There are, of course, a healthy number of detractors," explained the Toronto, Canada native. "It's inevitable when you tackle something as venerable as The Spirit. The most rewarding responses have come from the younger readers who haven't seen much of the original strip but are enjoying the book all the same. Our real mission here is to introduce Will's great characters to a new audience.
"I actually expected far more negative critical response but somewhat higher sales. Shows what I know," said Cooke.
Cooke, who admits writing and drawing a monthly series is a heavy workload, says he is committed to the project through at least the end of 2008.
"I'm in for two years, and then who knows? As long as it's fun and we dial up the creative challenges as we go, I'm in. My role as full time artist may end at some point, though. It is a massive job on a monthly schedule."
Since its debut in December, Cooke has featured many of Eisner's classic Central City characters – including Ebony White, The Octopus, P'Gell, Commissioner Dolan and his daughter, Ellen – and says even more are on the way in the months ahead.
"Most notable is Sand Saref, who I'm saving to kick off the second year. That is a great character and Denny's only link to his past. I'm really looking forward to that story," said Cooke, who is also writing "Superman Confidential" for DC with fellow Eisner Award winner Tim Sale as regular artist.
"We have several ambitious stories lined up for the next eighteen issues. Over the rest of 2007 we'll be seeing more of the Octopus, Silk Satin, Hussein, The Pill and we'll learn the secret about Elvarro Mortez," Cooke continued.
Mortez apparently returned from the grave himself in "The Spirit" #3.
In the issue entitled Resurrection, Colt reveals, "I don't waste a lot of time on looking back at what might have been. For me, the past is just that. The past. And then someone says a name. A name from the past that you can't ignore. Y'see, the last time I heard the name Elvarro Mortez... was the night I died."
Cooke also said to expect more from Colt's sidekick, Ebony White, who along with a now internet savvy Ellen, has seen his portrayal updated for 2007.
"A couple of our stories also spotlight Ebony and Ellen so our readers can get to know them better as characters," explained Cooke.
"Oh yeah, there's going to be a gang war, as well," said Cooke. "Issues #11 and #12 will be the first two-part story we do. Mortez will become a major player in our world."
Cooke says after he and Sale wrap Superman Confidential, there is the possibility he may pick up another writing gig.
"There are several I'd enjoy writing," said Cooke. "But nothing commercial springs to mind. On the art side, it's a different story. Geoff Johns and I will one day do another GL story and I would really like to do an issue of 'Jonah Hex' for my buddies Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Justin [Gray]."
Cooke says work has wrapped on the New Frontier animated direct-to-DVD movie, so he's "pretty much full-time with the Spirit now."
"I think it [New Frontier] will be a winner," explained Cooke. "For its budget and category, not to mention its running time, it still captured the epic feel of the book and managed to tell a clear and exciting story. I've noticed different press items on the web describing my involvement in the picture and they vary wildly. For what its worth, I did a rewrite/polish of the brilliant Stan [Berkowitz] script, designed the main characters, worked with the talented Glenn Wong on the entire lineup and storyboarded about 10 per cent of the picture for the director, David Bullock. We're all pretty excited to start seeing the footage come back."
He would love to get involved in another animated picture now that this one is complete. And it is another that he has a history with.
"I heard they're planning a Spirit animated project. I hope they get in touch with me to be involved. That would be a fantastic opportunity," said Cooke.
The Spirit #6 is in stores May 16.
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