The Spirit: "The Origin Of The Spirit"

"The Origin Of The Spirit"
June 2nd, 1940

Denny Colt pays a call on Commissioner Dolan, who has been having a lot
of trouble with Dr. Cobra. The criminologist and private detective
smiles and asks his friend why they don't build stronger prisons. It
just so happens that Denny knows where the evil doctor is. Dolan is out
of his chair and is pushing the young man towards the door, but Denny
wants to make a deal. If the Commissioner gives him an hour's head
start, Denny Colt will get Dr. Cobra for him. Dolan agrees, but knows
that the scientist is one tricky character.

In the alleys which run along Chinatown, a furtive figure makes its way
through the shadows, and down a manhole into the gutter. Dr. Cobra is
telling his assistant, Leeng, to add more chlorine, when Denny Colt tells
them that the experiment is over. The scientist has had enough of the
authorities interfering with his experiments, but as Leeng climbs down
the ladder, he already has a knife poised for the intruder. A left cross
stops the would-be attacker, but Dr. Cobra is as sly as his namesake, and
his sudden leap drives the private detective against the wall. Denny's
gun goes off, the bullet shattering the vat containing the greenish
liquid, and the deadly contents engulfing the criminologist.

The private detective falls to the floor, while Dr. Cobra and his
assistant make their getaway through a secret passage. In the
underground lab, the only source of illumination comes from the chemical,
and the body of Denny Colt does not move. Minutes later, the sounds of a
siren is heard, and Commissioner Dolan arrives at the scene. Dolan and
his men see the signs of a struggle, and find Denny's lifeless body in a
pool of water. Once the coroner has declared him dead, Denny Colt is
laid to rest, and his obituary appears in the newspaper. The following
evening, in Wildwood Cemetery, one of the tenants decides to check out
from its place of rest. An hour passes, and at the office of
Commissioner Dolan, a shadowy visitor makes his way through an open
window. He's got a story to tell the Commissioner and Dolan has no
choice but to listen.

Since there is a reward being offered for Dr. Cobra, the mysterious
visitor would like to claim it, and the Commissioner is to have it ready
in three hours. Although he remains in the shadows, Dolan's visitor
identifies himself as the "Spirit", and makes his way out through the
window he had entered earlier. The Commissioner had recognized the
"Spirit's" voice and calls for "Happy" the Coroner. Dolan's pipe
trembles as he asks "Happy" if he was certain that Denny was dead. The
coroner figures that after twenty years of plying his trade, he should
know a dead man when he sees one. Outside the office, "Happy" tells
Officer O'Rourke that the Commish hasn't been the same since Colt died.
Minutes later, Commissioner Dolan is outside, and after hailing a cab,
he's on his way to Wildwood Cemetery. At the graveyard, Pokey and Gimp
are walking along the moonlit path. Each man had received a message
inscribed onto a tiny tombstone, and the one who had summoned them now
steps from the shadows with gun in hand. As Pokey and Gimp make their
way into the tomb, Dolan remains out of sight.

Within the semi-lit tomb, the Spirit of good and of evil demands to know
where Dr. Cobra can be found. Although Pokey and Gimp claim that they
know nothing, the Spirit knows that they are lying, and that the
scientist will be caught at midnight. As the two startled thugs run from
the tomb, the sound of the Spirit's laughter is heard, and Commissioner
Dolan now has his chance to learn the man's true identity. The face of
Denny Colt smiles at him, and although he is officially dead, the private
detective is very much alive. The chemicals from the vat had placed him
into a state of suspended animation. After his premature burial, Denny
recovered, and escaped from his own grave. When asked why he calls
himself the "Spirit", the criminologist tells his friend that there's no
time to explain. Knowing that Pokey and Gimp will be going to warn Dr.
Cobra, all Denny has to do is to follow them.

The fog comes rolling in from the sea at the waterfront, and underneath
the quays, the two thugs have delivered the Spirit's warning to Dr.
Cobra. The scientist snuffs out a candle, and now knows that his liquid
had worked on Denny Colt. Pokey and Gimp want to take it on the lam, but
Dr. Cobra tells them to wait. The Spirit comes climbing down a ladder
beneath the dock, thinking that there's no one to be found, when a rough
hand grips itself around his throat. A deft use of judo sends the
would-be attacker flying from his perch. Elsewhere, Dr. Cobra has
decided that the time has come to leave, but Denny Colt has come
a'calling. Pokey comes at him with a knife, but is sent crashing into a
wall instead. The unconscious thug is now at his feet, the Spirit
continues his search for the elusive scientist.

Climbing onto the docks, the private detective vows to catch the running
Dr. Cobra, who makes a sharp turn, and heads for an overhanging ledge on
the path. Now laying in wait for the Spirit, the knife is ready, but the
scientist hadn't counted on the bullet from Commissioner Dolan's gun.
The Spirit's life has been saved, but that's nothing since Dolan knows
that spirits are supposed to be immortal. When asked about his plans,
Denny tells his friend that he will remain dead, and take up the task of
being the "Spirit". Since there are criminals and crimes beyond the
reach of the authorities, it will be up to him to reach them. As for
food and money, Denny will live in Wildwood Cemetery, and be collecting
his rewards. He presents the Commissioner with his calling card, a tiny
tombstone which reads, "The Spirit, Address: Wildwood Cemetery". As he
takes his leave, Denny is reminded by Dolan to remain within the law...
or else. The Spirit bids his friend goodbye. Dolan is lighting his pipe
when an officer comes running up. When asked about the sounds of
shooting, he calmly tells the policeman that he's just captured Dr.

This story was reprinted in The Best Of The Spirit trade paperback

Among those who assisted Will Eisner during the run of The Spirit were:
John Belfi, Phillip (Tex) Blaisdell, Chris Christiansen, Jack Cole,
Martin DeMuth, Jim Dixon, Jules Feiffer, Lou Fine, Dick French, Jerry
Grandenetti, Abe Kaenegson, Jack Keller, Robin King, Alex Kotzky, Joe
Kubert, Andre LeBlanc, Marilyn Mercer, Klaus Nordling, Ben Oda, Bob
Palmer, Don Perlin, Bob Powell, Sam Rosen, Aldo Rubano, Sam Schwartz,
John Spranger, Manny Stallman, Manly Wade Wellman, Al Wenzel, Wallace
Wood, and Bill Woolfolk.

In this story, Denny Colt hasn't yet taken to wearing the blue domino
mask worn as the Spirit.

For a seven page story, the tale moves at a quick clip.

What Dr. Cobra wants with chlorine in this particular vat of chemicals, I
don't know. Maybe he was going to go for a swim?

The scientist has dark hair, glasses, wears a goatee, and speaks with a
European accent.

Leeng is a baldheaded African-American who is shirtless, wears red pants,
and has no shoes.

Denny Colt becomes immersed in the work of Dr. Cobra and that yellow
liquid has me hoping that the criminologist was out cold before he had
fallen into it.

Another lawman who returned from the dead was Jim Corrigan. His
alter-ego, The Spectre, would dispense justice in his own way.

Boston Brand was a circus aerialist who was shot dead, but after making a
bargain, he returned as Deadman.

Midnight was Quality Comics' version of the Spirit.

Steve Chung
"The Review Of The Spirit"