01 March 2008

Name Game

The Best of the Spirit
Will Eisner

I think one of my favorite things about reading all these old Spirit stories was learning the names of all the characters. They're wonderfully descriptive, for the most part. Then there's the font of awkward that's Ebony White, but we're not going to get into that.

Anyway, like I said, descriptive. Not really of who the person is--we haven't got any tacky Jack-Chick Lew Siffer characters here--but it says a lot about the culture here. For example, from "The Postage Stamp," we've got two lovely ladies, Dulcet Tone and Skinny Bones. Doesn't tell you much about who they are personally, does it? But given the euphemistic names we can tell that they're probably crooks, and it also hints at what life in their criminal underworld might be like for women. Skinny Bones may be a great name, but complimentary it's not.

Actually, I liked women's names in particular. P'Gell is a wonderful example, because it means nothing, but it sounds sort of sexy and exotic. Lorelei Rox (of Odyssey Road) has sort of a wonderful pun for a last name, and I'm a sucker for anyone who knows what a Lorelei is. There's Miss Cosmek, the visitor from Mars. Autumn Mews sounds lovely and dangerous, and Sand Saref is just really cool. It's a font pun! And then there's Silk Satin, whose name is wonderful particularly because it's so girly and she's so tough.

Men mostly get more...well, name-like names. Like Gerhard Shnobble, the man who could fly. Not much of a name. But doesn't it sound hapless to you? Or Carboy T. Gretch and Cranfranz Quayle, the crook and the henpecked husband who switch places accidentally. Great rhythm, and again. Hapless. I appreciate names with real qualities to them. Then there's the main character of "Fox at Bay," Reynard, which is cool because, like Lorelei, it's another reference to a fairy tale--Reynard the fox was a European trickster figure.

But I particularly like Quadrant J. Stet, the accountant. It makes me think of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, like he should be friends with another accountant named...oh...Fiduciary Blurt, or something. I think that's from there. Or maybe I'm just stealing it from Neil Gaiman.

Say what you like about Will Eisner (and I can't really say anyone saying anything bad), he certainly had an appreciable flair for naming. Even Denny Colt paints a picture. It's short and sensible. And probably secretly awesome.

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