Home Videos FAQ Meetings Join Radio
Library Links

This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

Click here to return to the index of selected articles.

by Rick Payne © 2012
(From Radio Recall, October 2012)

I talked to the Cartoon Library staff at Ohio State University and wound up solving a mystery with an unexpected result.

They indeed have a few transcription discs that are from the archives of Will Eisner. They've been listed in their online inventory catalog for some time. The library has four 16" discs. The labels call the show "THE ADVENTURES OF THE SPIRIT" and have "copyright Will Eisner" printed on them, so they are legally protected ... Eisner was pretty keen to protecting his materiaL

They were recorded by Columbia Electrical Transcription Service. They have ID numbers, but not matrix numbers in the sense we think of them. The first disc has the standard openings and closing spots, plus several promotional spots. This one-sided standard disc was kept in house by stations as a way of reducing the cost and possibility of error in recording the body of each program. Many serialized shows did this; Lum & Abner, Betty and Bob, and some of the early 1930s Macgregor & Sollie programs used this device.

There's a separated recorded closing spot for Fridays, indicating the shows ran more freqently than once a week. So far so good .... The other three discs each contain two stories, but curiously each side has several bands of content.

Story Disc #1 - "Dolan's Deadly Desk" and "Adventures of the Rubber Mind" are broken into tour bands/chapters.

Story Disc #2 - "Adventures of Carrion's Buzzard" (two parts) ; "Adventures of Scalppel's Rock" and "Who Killed Cox Robbin" are broken into three bands/chapters.

Story Disc #3 - "The Unknown Hand" (two parts) ; "The Optical Illusion" and "The Great Tidal Wave" are broken into three bands/chapters.

And now ... the rest of the story. These are NOT transcriptions for The Spirit radio series. In 1948, a television producer named Allen Cartoun created a series of five-minute television programs featuring the Spirit. Cartoun's name is printed on the transcription disc labels, with the text "The Spirit is a copyright feature of Will Eisner & is produced for television by Allen R. Cartoun Associates."

I researched his name and found an online blog by Ken Quattro ("the Comic Detective") about the rumored Spirit radio series. He didn't have all the iInformation from the OSU Library, but we've made that issue of those holdings more clear.

Before you get too excited, the "shows" consisted of televising individual panels from the comic strip, accompanied by prerecorded dramatizations by radio actors. In other words, this was Clutch Cargo without the moving mouths. What the library has, are the soundtrack recordings ... still pretty neat, but not quite the radio shows.

The stories mentioned above probably are derived from the following Spirit Sunday inserts (Let me know if you can correct these):

a .. "Dolan's Deadly Desk" - 5/5/46 ~The Head in the Desk"

b .. "Adventures of the Rubber Mind~ - 6123/46 "The Rubber Mind"

c .. "Adventures of Carrion's Buzzard" - 4/21/46 "The Case of the Balky Buzzard"

d .. "Adventures of Scalpper's Rock"· 5/19/46 "Carrion's Rock"

e .. "Who Killed Cox Robbin?" - 8/4/46 "Who Killed Cox Robbin?"

f .. "The Unknown Hand" - unknown

g .. "The Optical Illusion" • 5126/46 "Magnifying Glass"

h .. "The Great Tidal Wave" • 6f2i46 "Tidal Wave"

There was indeed a Spirit syndicated radio show in the early 1940s although OSU has none of those discs. What we can conclude about these TV show discs is that they had no connection with the actual comics printed when the shows aired since they were based on 1946 stories, and televised until 1948.

The mention of a 16" disc certainly led many to assume it contained radio shows. The folks at the library are excited to know what they have, and it fits well into the Eisner chronology. The discs will be recorded for preservation; hopefully. I can determine the names of the actors when I hear them.

OSU is all about copyright protection, particularly for donated material from a high-profile collection as Eisners, so I wouldn't get too excited about copies being released anytime soon. But at least we've solved another mystery.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rick Payne is an OTR resercher and collector in Gahanna, Ohio You can reach him at oldtix@aol.com.