Welcome one and all, to this week’s Fabulous Find. I had to really dig through a lot of stuff to uncover this gem, dating back to 1977, it’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit Portfolio. It was published by Collectors’ Press, publisher, Richard Pryor, out of Carmel Valley, California.
For some reason I find myself short on words, so forgive me for a less wordy post this week. The portfolio is packaged in a blue, thick, hard paper cover with the Spirit drawn inside the Logo by Will Eisner. The ink that is used is gold. Take a look:
And maybe if I enlarge the logo it might show up a little better, so let’s try that …
The color in the close-up is the true color of my Portfolio, if you care. The other image was snagged off the internet, as my scanner is not big enough to scan the complete portfolio, which measures 12 1/4 by 16 1/2.
The Portfolio came with one page explaining the Portfolio, which contains ten (10) plates, representing the essence of The Spirit’s adventures during the twelve (12) years it appeared in the Sunday newspapers. Within those years, there were about five hundred and fifty (550) stories completed and published. It also has a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Publisher, Richard Pryor certifying that the Portfolio is one of One Thousand and Five Hundred (1,500) copies, serially numbered and signed by Will Eisner. My copy is numbered; 122 0f 1500.
As I mentioned there are ten art plates, with plate number one (1), signed and numbered by the artist. In addition, there was a separate page (plate 11) containing the roughs done for plate five (5) and as an additional bonus, the inside covers contained roughs for plates one (1) and seven (7). Quite a nice package for the money.
Each plate is entitled: plate one; “The Hideaway”, showing the Spirit at Wildwood Cemetery, plate two; “The Scene of the Crime”, plate three; “The Women”, with the Spirit climbing out of a pit, with the various women looking on, plate four; “The Duel”, plate five; “Dead End”, with the Spirit at the end of a pier, facing off against four armed thugs, plate six; “The Convention”, plate seven; “The Rescue”, plate eight; “The Chase”, with the Spirit and two thugs crashing through a skylight, plate nine; “The Capture” and plate ten; “The City”, a horizontal plate showing the Shadow racing through New York with the City in the background.
I was able to capture a couple of the plates for the internet, so let me show them to you now. Here is plate one:
And plate 4:
And finally plate 5:
Pretty nice, eh? So what could possibly make this any better? Glad you asked. Back ten years or so, I’m pretty sure at a Motor City Con here in Novi, Michigan, I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Eisner. We chatted briefly, even though there was a pretty good line stretching out behind me. I had brought my Portfolio with me, intending to ask him to sign it for me.
He seemed genuinely surprised to see the Portfolio, as it was almost twenty years old at that point in time. He graciously signed the cover of the Portfolio for me, then surprised me by opening it up and looking at his work. Oh, here’s his signature on the cover, if you care about these kind of things. I sure do:
He seemed to get a lot of enjoyment in reviewing the plates. He remembered signing all 1,500 of them, as a matter of fact. He then surprised me, by asking if I’d like him to sign each of the plates that were not originally signed. Wow! How could I turn down that offer? Well, the answer to that, of course, was I couldn’t! So folks, each of my ten plates are signed by the wonderful artist, Will Eisner, plus the cover of the Portfolio, as you saw above, plus he even signed and entitled the plate 11, rough for The Dead End!
I wonder how many other Will Eisner’s The Spirit Portfolio’s have each of the plates signed by the artist? I suspect, there can’t be many, if there is even another! So forgive me for bragging, just this one time. Needless to say, this signed Portfolio is one of my favorite collectibles, and maybe, the most valuable in my collection.
And one final bonus for my readers, a picture of Will Eisner, from about the time I met him during the nineties:
Well that’s it for this week. I guess I “spoke” more than I planned to, as I guess, I got a little carried away. Anyway, please return next week for a new RETRO REVIEW and be sure to check back in two weeks for the next Fabulous Find. Be seeing you …
Well, you never know what you’ll find on the internet. Thanks for the fond memories of WILL EISNER’S THE SPIRIT PORTFOLIO, a project I started 40, yes 40, years ago. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience working with Will Eisner….a gentleman, supurb busnessman and an incredible creator and artist. That is an amazing encounter you had with Will at the convention. I doubt anyone else has a fully signed Portfolio! I’m just now working on a fanzine (my first published project was a fanzine HEROES ILLUSTRATED in 1964) detailing my Collectors’ Press imprint and my publication of projects by Eisner, Wally Wood, Burne Hogarth, George Evans, Neal Adams, Al Williamson, Jack Davis, Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, Barry Smith, Mike Kaluta, Jeffrey Jones, Jim Steranko and…well, many, many more. You might have heard of a few of them? Thanks again for the blast from the past. Richard Pryor
Richard, wow, thanks for finding my post and taking the time to leave me a comment. I’m honored. I might even own one or two of your early sixties fanzines in my collection, as well. Mr. Eisner, truly was a gentleman, and as I wrote, he gave this fan more time than he had to! It was a pure pleasure interacting with him. I do have a few more portfolios in my collection, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple more weren’t from you and your business. I have always thought your portfolios were the top of the bunch. A lot of other publishers had simple paper covers or sleeves, or even some put out portfolios that were simply xerox pages, but your “hardcover” covers were and are still awesome! Thanks again for stopping by and feel free to check out my others posts, if you’ve got the time or interest. Be seeing you … greg
I’ve been digging into your older posts…just like reading a treasured fanzine as a kid. Great stuff.
Thanks again, Richard. I appreciate your comments! – greg
Good evening mr Turner.
My name is Gerard Mooij and I work as in a large thriftshopcompany in the Netherlands.
In a collection I found mr Will Eisner’s portfolio the Spirit in very good condition.
The first drawing is signed by mr Eisner.
As I read your article I realized I had something special. But I am not a collector. So I would like te sell it to someone who is. Do you know someone and what would you say it is worth.
kind regards Gerard Mooij the Netherlands, Dordrecht.
Hi Gerard, Mr. Eisner signed the first print in all of the portfolios, so I would have been surprised if you didn’t find his signature on the first print in the Spirit Portfolio! My suggestion is to contact the helpful staff at Back To The Past, the home of my blog you found. They can give you an idea what they would pay for it, or maybe work out a consignment deal of some sort. In regards to the value, you could always check to see what the portfolios are selling for on eBay.com. That is generally where I go to try to establish a value of my collectibles. Check the sold listings as well as current sales. Hope that helps! – greg