Chicago Spanking Review

Spirit Spanks Ellen Dolan

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Spirit spanking Ellen

[First posted April 2004; extensively revised April 2010]

The Spirit, a comic character of great historical importance, spanks Ellen Dolan, whose modest sins here were fibbing and conniving to lure the Spirit to her college campus under false pretenses. This panel, a reproduction taken from a recent magazine, was originally the cover of the Spirit's comic from December 1, 1940, which appeared in the Sunday comics section of many newspapers of that era. (It's hard for modern readers to appreciate how much bigger and better Sunday newspaper comics used to be). Will Eisner, whose contribution to the comics medium is legendary, came up with the spanking to show how a comic-book hero could become enmeshed in a dull, everyday muddle. Probably he considered this a humorous contrast to the constant string of heroic deeds that seemed to fill the days of comics' other leading men of the period. Eisner, who was not into the scene, was nonetheless very fond of this spanking panel and had the original hanging in his studio for many years.

This has to be one of the two or three most famous comic-book spankings of all time, having been reproduced on many occasions and even inspiring this pastiche by Twigg and Dr. Cylon. It is the sixth of what we've recently (April 2010) decided to call "The Seven Spankings" - those comic-book spankings that were known to us as far back as the late 1970's.

Having seen one of the more recent reproductions, let's go back and take a look at the original cover, together with some other reprints and the spanking as it was shown in the inside.

Spirit spanking Ellen from Spirit #7 splash page Spirit spanking Ellen from the original Sunday papers
Here is the splash panel, as reproduced in The Spirit #7 (May 1993; author's collection).

© Will Eisner

And here is the way it actually looked when it first appeared on December 1, 1940.

Spirit spanking Ellen from Spirit #7 cover Spirit spanking Ellen from Spirit #7 splash page
Here is the cover from The Spirit #7 (May 1993; author's collection). © Will Eisner And here it is from the magazine-size Spirit Magazine #35 (June 1982, author's collection). See what we mean about it having been reproduced many times? We had seen the spanking before 1982, but until then had not owned our own copy, which as you may imagine we were very eager to get our hands on. © Will Eisner

Eisner once described the splash panel this way: "To me, cloth has action. I understand cloth; understand drapery. There's an anatomy to drapery as much as there's anatomy to the body itself. I was using the page to set a tone; the overall concern was maturing away from frenetic storytelling to setting a mood...A strong spalsh catches your eye, seizes and concentrates the reader's focus and gives the reader an idea of what the story is about. In this case, you know it's not going to be a deadly serious story like the one before it. And you're going to at least turn through the pages to look for a similar scene in the story."

In the above, Eisner skirted the issue of the spanking itself. On another occasion, he addressed this by saying, "I recall now thinking that this was another breakthrough in the image of the The Spirit as an adventure-hero who can be involved in a web of mediocrity. It was in retrospect an Archie type of plot."

How much attention Eisner paid to the technical problems of drawing clothing can easily be appreciated from this panel (once you shift your focus from Ellen's behind). The wrinkles in the Spirit's jacket and Ellen's dress are all perfectly placed, and all serve a purpose. Even the cloth draped over the furniture The Spirit is sitting on shows his concern for these matters.

Eisner was not specifically referring to us spankos when he said, "You're going to at least turn through the pages to look for a similar scene in the story," but he might as well have been, for all of us wanted to see Ellen get spanked a second time! Let's indulge ourselves now and do just that:

Spirit spanking Ellen from Spirit #7 inside

The interior spanking, reprinted in The Spirit #7 (May 1993). © Will Eisner

The immediate run-up to the spanking is certainly well-done, particularly that fateful moment when Ellen realizes she's been caught in her own web of deceit, and what The Spirit has in mind for her as punishment (this is a key part of the experience for many women into spanking, by the way). The reader can't help chuckling with enjoyment when he reads Ellen's exclamation, "Eeeeeee!" The spanking iteself is more awkwardly composed than the one on the cover (perhaps it was drawn first), as Eisner, like other non-spanko artists, makes the common mistake of of having the spanking being given with the wrong hand (or having the spankee facing the wrong way, depending on how you want to look at it). Spanko artists know that the spanking is always given with the hand nearest the spankee's feet.

Ellen's facial expression shows her embarassment at being placed over The Spirit's knee and her dread of what's coming next. But don't feel too sorry for her - she has it coming, and The Spirit, though he didn't want to admit it, really cared about her, which makes the spanking o.k. in our book. Fine stuff!

11/05/2010 Update: Spiritworks did another enhancement of this, perhaps the most-significant of all comic-book spankings, which he posted at He had this to say about it:

"It was a very early colorization and photoshop exercise, but you could tell by my labor how much I admire Will Eisner's art, and this piece in particular."   We commented on it there:

"You really outdid yourself on the Ellen-spanking! So much loving detail, and the beautiful highlights around the target area - I'll have to add this to all the reprint versions." So here it is:

Spirit spanking Ellen retouched by Spiritworks

We don't want to drone on forever, but we would like to expand on what we said there just a little. Notice what Spiritworks actually did, apart from adding the logos and showing us separate figures of the Spirit and Ellen: starting from Eisner's good OTK positioning, he makes Ellen's fanny the geometric center of his composition, then further draws attention to this portion of her anatomy by carefully highlighting it, as if to say, "this is where the Spirit about to bring his hand down sharply." The reason this works is because the essence of spanking is the application of stinging swats to the buttocks (and nowhere else) and the consequent humiliation of the spankee.

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