Research Task: ‘The Spirit’

For this research task, I was asked to look at the images below from different films from the 1940s and 1950s and how the use of long shadows, extreme expressionistic angles, reflecting images of glass, mirrors, and metal, and other distorting effects was seen a lot in movies of that time, especially with directors like Orson Wells, John Huston, Robert Aldrich and Billy Wilder. (see images below)

[top left] Orson Welles (director), Citizen Kane still Bridgeman Images.
[top right] John Huston (director), The Maltese Falcon still Bridgeman Images.
[bottom right] Robert Aldrich (director), Kiss me deadly still Bridgeman Images.
[bottom left] Billy Wilder (director), Double Indemnity still Bridgeman Images
Will Eisner, Li’l Adam, The Stupid Mountain Boy in The Spirit (20th July 1947) © The
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The comic strip above called ‘Spirit’ was influenced by the above effects of the 1940s and 1950s movies.

Next, I was asked to look at the ‘Spirit’ page and consider the following questions:

● What does the first panel establish in terms of place and atmosphere? – Pouring with rain, miserable, wet and windy, stormy, nighttime, someone is awake in their office (working as a cartoonist).

● How does the page progress from panel-to panel? The scene goes from showing outside to inside the building, the scene gets closer and closer with each panel until we see what is happening inside. There is more context with each image, in the second image you can now see the sign of the office/shop up close.

● How does the use of sound effects inform you what is happening in each panel? The monotonous ring of the telephone is heard through all panels showing a never-ending call, he hasn’t picked up. From what I can see, the man could be either dead or heavily asleep from being overworked? There’s a bang in the same room as the man slumped over the desk that has gone over. This could be from him crashing onto his desk out of fatigue or a person has shot him? I thought this might be the case as there is more of a curfuffle happening in the next room (look at the crashing/movement clouds in the 4th panel.

● How is the effect of weather created and used to add atmosphere? Looks like one of those buildings where the wind would howl through. The weather really does make the situation unsettled and a lot darker (literally) than if it was set in the day.

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