Cool, man. I never got properly schooled in Eisner. I got too swept up in Toth and Kirby, somehow Eisner never penetrated the way the other older dudes did. If/when I color it that negative space will remain a priority
No kidding? I love The Spirit, but I think it's important to try and see his work in B&W (when he had the option, later in life, he usually chose monotones over full color).
The four-color process does him NO favors, and I consider it bloody tragic that DC has chosen to reprint his work in an approximation of the way it appeared in print during the late 1940's, rather than printing it in a way that best showcases the work, with either new coloring or no color at all.
Next time you're in a place with back-issue stock, look for Kitchen Sink editions of The Spirit, either the comic-sized editions or the magazine edition (magazine is nice 'cause it's bigger) and see if you find something to like. They're usually pretty affordable, too. He did some amaaaazing work, but it looks so awfully ugly in bright, flat color.
I should say that I am more or less familiar with his later work like A Contract With God and all his B&W graphic novels. And there's no doubt that's some sexy inking. He was certainly a master. That Big Artist's Edition of the Spirit caught my eye. (If I had the space and money it might join my MAD artist's edition some day). I'll take your word for it and try to dig up some cheap editions of the Spirit.
I got that Artist's Edition. It's pretty tits, I must say, but like the Wally Wood it's a bitch to shelve.
His later works show more polish, but I liked his old pulp stories more. In his later life he was very much about proving that comics could be used to tell all types of stories, in any genre, with as much drama and intensity as any other storytelling format. So the stuff he's known for later in life tends to be dramatic and serious and very "real", as if he was cutting out a lot of the fantasy elements in order to boil it down to human interactions.
And that stuff is brilliant, it's one of the reasons the industry's highest honor is named for him. But The Spirit was FUN. Pulp detective action with a slight Batman/Dick Tracy flavor, usually self-contained stories or short arcs, brimming with creative layout and storytelling ideas, you can see where he's developing all the techniques he became famous for, but here they've got a raw vitality.
Plus, because he was putting out a new story every week from 1940-1952 (with a bit of a break for the war, but then he also did some new stories in the 50's and 60's), he did a LOT of them. I've been collecting Spirit reprints for over two decades and I still find new ones from time to time (it's hard to get a big run of the Kitchen Sink stuff 'cause it was small press, and as with all collecting it's get harder to find new stuff as the years go on and you fill in the gaps). It's why I'm so irked by the decision to try and reprint his work "as it appeared", because the color is so damned UGLY, and his work is so beautiful.
Look specifically for the Kitchen Sink Press stuff. Magazines if you can get 'em, but otherwise there's something like 80+ issues of the comics-format reprint. In NYC, not sure where to suggest... so few guys hold back issues 'cause space is premium. But ask around.