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Book Review: The Spirit – The Movie Visual Companion by Mark Cotta Vaz

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In The Steranko History of Comics, Volume 2 Will Eisner said, “Doing The Spirit was like making movies. It gave me a chance to be an actor, producer, author, and cameraman all at once.” So it’s no surprise people have been trying to adapt the material to the silver screen for years.

Writer/director Frank Miller is an obvious disciple of Eisner’s whose influence is most readily evident in Miller’s comic-book series Sin City. The film adaptation, which he co-directed with Robert Rodriguez, has circled back and influenced The Spirit (2008).

Miller, who wrote the book’s introduction, emphatically states he wasn't going make “a piece of reverential, self-important tedium, but an artwork as ambitious and vigorous as its source. Come hell or high water, this movie was going to take chances, and offer something new. Damn the torpedoes. If I was doing this, I was going for it.” It’s too bad the film didn’t receive a better reception because The Movie Visual Companion is a fascinating, detailed look behind the scenes, revealing the great deal of the work that went into the film’s creation.

Vaz rises to the level of historian with this book. He goes back to the beginning and reveals enlightening background information on Eisner and the comic book’s creation. He then documents the journey of the material to movie theaters and the involvement of participants, like Miller and producers Deborah Del Prete and Michael Uslan. Vaz gets the story of the film’s creation from the participants through a combination of exclusive interviews. Quotes from actors Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Dan Luria and Eva Mendes are taken from electronic press kits.

As the name implies, The Movie Visual Companion shows how the film came into fruition. Eisner’s brilliant work can be seen throughout and at times it is paired with the sketches and storyboards Miller drew. There are a number of photos from all three aspects of production. The on-set shots of the costumed actors surrounded by green screens reveal how much work was done in post-production.

The only downside to the book is the glossy pages capture the oil on your fingertips and can be seen on black images.

Regardless of the film’s final outcome, The Spirit: The Movie Visual Companion is a fantastic read/look for fans of the filmmaking process that I highly recommend.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS