Ok, so, I'm flipping through my old issues of the Spirit, and I come upon the lovely issue #... well it's the 13th issue, but since they're not numbered, I'm gonna call it the 8/25/1940 issue. Also known as "That One Where the Spirit Traumatizes Two Orphans." It opens with a pair of orphans sitting on a bed fantasizing about being in a gang (seeleft).
So, I'm left to thinking, how insanely bad can this place be? Right? It's got a church tower with Quasimodo jumping around, three square meals, beds,and everyone wears matching pyjamas! It's gotta be great right? PLUS! It's a STATE Orphanarium! That's, like double the cool!
Unfortunately, for young Billy and Barney (*snort*) that's not really good enough for them. They need to be the most feared and violent criminals known to America, wanted by G-men, the FBI, the police, and Boy Scouts:
And, thus they decide to carry on in the grand tradition of Baby Face Nelson, Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Pretty Boy Floyd. *sighs* Oh Johnny, how you led me astray... Go back to Burton, he treats us right.
Now, pay close attention to the faces of these two innocent youngsters. This will be an important hint of foreshadowing to come. See how Barney is half in shadow and half in light.... wow that's like some film noir stuff there, the interplay of shadow and light creating a tableau upon which we see the moral dilemmas of the characters presented in black and white bleeding into a pervasive gray... That's right. German Expressionism, baby. Except, we have colors. And a spotlight shining through the window. Whatever. I'm right.
Anyway, it's like important or something.
Now, no sooner do they leave than they decide to whip out some cigars and celebrate...Poor Barney, that face! No wonder he was given up!? Clearly, he's the reason why sweet, beautiful Billy is in the orphanarium! He's giving the kid a cigar AND talking bad to the Spirit! PLUS! his head was TOTALLY in shadow back in panel number 2! Dude, that's, like, comic-code for EVIL! This mook's no good, Billy! Stay away!
Knowing this, because the Spirit is a very intelligent fellow (he did manage to build a secret underground chemlab underneath his tessera... er grave... all on his own), he realizes instantly that Barney is a bad seed and there is no point in trying to redeem him. So, the Spirit leaves Barney to the fates, and takes sweet, adorable, cherub-like Billy with him to his secret underground lair. Now, in modern times, when a man in a mask took a small waif-like boy by the hand and led him through an abandoned cemetary, certain things were expected to happen. But, this is SO not the case here. The Spirit would NEVER...
Besides, he's altruistic and stuff, he's going to take that little boy to the authorities, and get him a new home and parents and stuff, after he gives him some hot cocoa and a good stern (but moral and fatherly) talking-to abut good, clean fun and the dangers of smoking. Right?
Sure. After, he drags Billy into the sewers.
But, the sewers! That's where Barney's gang is! He's there to rescue the misguided tyke isn't he?
Oh.. guess not.
Gee, kinda cold-hearted to use a 13 year old boy as bait for a gang. And, damn. To use the kid as an object lesson against the Criminal Element. Smart thinking, Spirit. Smart.
See how only Billy is allowed to have parents? No adoption for poor misguided Barney. It's back to Miss Hannigan, and the brush, and Rooster's closet for him! (Unless Spirit just left the kid to rot in the sewers). Serves the damn kid right. Secondhand smoke and all.