I suffered my own personal heartbreak on the day after Christmas: I saw “Frank Miller’s The Spirit” — a movie that defies logic, taste, the basics of filmmaking, and, most importantly, the source material, Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
Eisner literally wrote the book on graphic storytelling, and his influence on comic book creators — both writers and artists — is so ginormous that the industry’s awards are called The Eisners. His work on The Spirit — in particular the postwar period — is an unparalleled achievement in artistry, combining the mainstream charm of a newspaper strip with groundbreaking film-style visuals all in service to a smart, taut, O. Henry-style short story. To see his soulful, whimsical masterpiece translated to film as a dreary, awkward catalog of Frank Miller’s personal fetishes is a cringe-inducing experience that diminishes two comics legends. People reading comics have known this for some time, but now we have box-office returns to prove that Miller, who wrote some influential comics 20 years ago, is now a mannered, self-aggrandizing hack.
Our Breakup Girl comics are heavily influenced by Will Eisner’s The Spirit. When we first set about trying to tell a rich story in only six (later five) pages, I couldn’t help but study the old Spirits which were just seven pages, but pack a punch greater than most of today’s 32-page comics. Plus, Eisner, always stretching the form, found himself creating stories that were more fable than adventure, not afraid to have the hero take a backseat, and that has always been our goal with BG. Looking back I can also see how his characterizations have also played into my writing. Like The Spirit, Breakup Girl is not a wealthy playboy but a “middle-class superhero,” very much an approachable character in her glitz-free New York neighborhood, who’s costume verges on plain-clothes and who’s workaday approach to crime-fighting is full-bodied, practical and plucky.
Now imagine walking into a Breakup Girl movie and seeing Barb Wire instead. Feel my pain.