Friday, July 6, 2012

Mystery of the Radio Spirit

     Sometimes its just the incidentals that intrigue me. The flotsam and jetsam of comic book history that float along outside the mainstream issues. It doesn't take much; sometimes it's just a letter.

 November 29, 1941
Miss Enid Hager
The Philadelphia Record
Broad & Wood Sts.
Philadelphia, Penn.
Dear Miss Hager,
Thank you for the copies of the radio scripts of the Spirit show, they were fine. I'm really sorry that I can't get the show on my set here in New York. Your handling of the dialogue is great and the continuity positively absorbing. I am hoping that we can spread this idea around far and wide. Incidentally, I notice that the authorship, 'Will Eisner', is not mentioned after the opening. I'd deem it a great favor if you would include the 'by'-line after the Spirit, since the plots are identical with those in the section. Thanks, and my best regards.
Will Eisner

     This was not the first I'd heard of The Spirit radio program, but the crumbling letter in my hands verified its existence. "At one point," wrote Jim Steranko in his HISTORY OF COMICS 2, "The Spirit became so popular, a radio show recounting his adventures played in cities like Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore."
     Not much to go on, but it seemed to be a simple enough quest. The PHILADELPHIA RECORD was one of the original papers running The Spirit Sunday supplement and had reportedly profited nicely from its publication. Hoping to capitalize even more, the RECORD pushed for a daily version of the strip. And on October 13, 1941, it got its wish.

THE SPIRIT daily strip (Oct. 13, 1941)
[as published in THE ART OF WILL EISNER] 
     An article by Norman Abbott published the same day, trumpeted Eisner's strip and his personal accomplishments. It's obvious the RECORD was pushing this strip hard and evidently it decided to create a radio program to accompany the daily's beginning.
     The RECORD already owned a radio station, WHAT, but its usual content leaned toward ethnic Italian and Polish programming and sober music shows. None of the gee-whiz kids adventure shows like Jack Armstrong or Captain Midnight that would seem to be fit companions to The Spirit. Enid Hager, the paper's promotions chief, was apparently given the task of the writing the show. 
     Hager's forte was promotion, but she must have had ambitions beyond her job title. Within a few years she had jumped to a similar role at rival WPEN, owned by the competing PHILADELPHIA BULLETIN. By 1943, she moved on to New York, " join a publishing house".  Things must not have worked out there, though, as by 1945, she was back in Philly heading up the city's Seventh War Loan and Salvation Army campaign. Under her married name of Enid Hager Clarke, she appears once more as co-author of a 1946 radio script.
     But what of The Spirit program itself? What time slot did it have? Was it on every day? How long did it run and who were its stars?
     I began my searches where I usually do. Newspaper archives and databases. Frustratingly, the PHILADELPHIA RECORD is an elusive beast. Few microfilm rolls of it exist and the one source I did find with a fairly comprehensive collection of it was missing the needed years of 1941-42. I purchased a yellowing copy of the December 11, 1941, issue, but its radio listings gave no indication of the show.
     I reached out to Philadelphia old-time radio expert, Alan Boris, but even he had never heard of the program.
     And that, dear reader, is where it stands.
     So I turn to you. Does anyone know more about this nearly mythical radio show? Was there an article or ad touting the show?
     If anyone has anything to add, please let me know so I can put this case to rest.


  1. Thanks for all your efforts on this Ken.
    I sure hope someone out there can help us learn more about the show.


  2. Hi Ken-
    Quite a mystery. It would be incredible to hear the show, but it is fascinating just to know it existed. I hope some more of this mystery will be revealed.

    1. Ibid. My feeling is that it had a very short run and that's why nobody remembers it and why, probably, no tapes of it exist.

  3. Me too, Yoc!

    Let's hope someone "out there" knows something more than what I've uncovered.

  4. I assume you have asked Denis Kitchen? There is also reason to believe a Cuban television show ran in the 50s, though no direct evidence has been found.

    1. No, I haven't asked the esteemed Mr. Kitchen, Anthony, but that's a thought.

      Other than Steranko's mention of it, this letter is the only information I've ever seen regarding the radio show. But I'll send a missive Denis' way. It never hurts to ask!

  5. The only films of the Spirit that I know of (aside from Frank Miller's disaster) are the 1986 TV-movie with Sam Jones, and some fan films Don Glut made in the '60s.
    I know nothing of the radio Spirit; you may want to inquire of OTR expert Greg Bell at

  6. Like you, Anonymous, I'm still waiting for the definitive Spirit film!

    And I'll drop Bell a line, too. But I don't hold out too much hope. Philadelphia OTR expert Alan Boris had never heard of the show.

  7. Ken, do you have the Kitchen Sink Spirit Picture Disc from 1987? It has a short selection from a Spirit TV show, most likely a sample promo for a show that never appeared. It sure sounds like a Spirit radio show, and includes the "Every Little Bug" song.

  8. I do indeed have that record, but as far as I know, it had nothing to do with the radio show.

    However, I have learned more about the radio show! MUCH more! Stay tuned!