THE SPIRIT'S MYSTERIOUS DISCS AT OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY ARCHIVES
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
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
Story Disc #2 - "Adventures of Carrion's Buzzard"
(two parts) ; "Adventures of Scalppel's Rock" and
"Who Killed Cox Robbin" are broken into three
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
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
d .. "Adventures of Scalpper's Rock"· 5/19/46
e .. "Who Killed Cox Robbin?" - 8/4/46 "Who Killed
f .. "The Unknown Hand" - unknown
g .. "The Optical Illusion" • 5126/46 "Magnifying
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
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
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