The Spirit ran as an 8-page insert in the Sunday comics section from 1940-1952. Eisner's rumpled masked hero (with his headquarters under the tombstone of his supposedly defunct true identity, Denny Colt) and his gritty, detailed view of big-city life (based on Eisner's Jewish upbringing in New York) both reflected and influenced the noir outlook of movies and fiction in the 1940s.
The strip is especially notable in at least three other areas. First, it was the story of people, often the little people overlooked in the city's maelstrom. In many of the finest episodes of The Spirit, the nominal hero makes a brief, almost incidental appearance while the story focuses on a real-life drama played out in streets, dilapidated tenements and smoke-filled back rooms.
Second, along with violence and pathos, The Spirit lived on humor, both subtle and overt. He was machine-gunned, knocked silly, bruised, often amazed into near immobility and constantly confused by women.
Equally important, Eisner's workshop was the stomping ground for later comic illustrators as varied as Wallace Wood and Jules Feiffer, who learned both art and storytelling at the hands of a master.
Following the end of' The Spirit Eisner spent many years producing illustrated training guides for the U.S. Army. Since his return to the civilian world in the late 1970s, he has authored a string of graphic novels that tell the history of New York's immigrant communities, particularly the Jewish, in some of the finest artwork ever penned in a comics context. Following A Contract with God, he published The Building, Dropsie Avenue and The Heart of the Storm.
His most recent work has been the retelling, in a graphic context, of novels and myths, including Moby Dick. In 2002, at the age of 85, he published Sundiata, based on the part-historical, part-mythical stories of a West African king, "The Lion of Mali."