This was written for my writers group which meets tomorrow in the new Berlin Library. The key word to use in anyway, shape or form was spirit.
I remember the Spirit. He had an underground home in a cemetery. Somehow, he was buried while still alive, supposedly killed by criminals. He escaped the grave and decided to fight crime anonymously. He wore a blue suit, a blue fedora and a small eye mask.
This was 1940. The Spirit first appeared as a Sunday supplement to the Sunday comic strips written and drawn by Will Eisner. It was not quite a comic book, it was more of a pamphlet with usually sixteen pages. Some of which were advertising and other comic strips
Dad would buy the Sunday paper at MacAllister’s Store on his way home from Church. It was either the Philadelphia Record or the Philadelphia Inquirer. Later it was in the Philadelphia Bulletin.
People of Worcester County were more attuned to Philadelphia than Baltimore. Whenever young men and women went to the city to find work, they went north to Philadelphia.
Lois, Dale and I would grab the funnies and sit at the round oak table. Most of my old favorites have bit the dust. Who remembers Smiling Jack or Tailspin Tommy? They were both pilots and flew the old double wingers. Terry and the Pirates was also about flying. If I remember correctly, it was set in Southeast Asia. We learned a little geography by reading the comics.
Wash Tubbs, Captain Easy and Dickie Dare were all about sailing the seven seas and finding adventure.
Flash Gordon was cruising the planets of the solar system and fighting Ming, the Merciless. Then he moved out into the galaxy with his girlfriend, Dale.
Nearly all the heroes had girlfriends almost as famous as the hero. The Shadow had Margo Lane. The Shadow stressed that “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit” and that “Crime does not pay” Alley Oop had Oola. Mandrake had Princess Narda. Dick Tracey had Tess and Moon Mullins had Miss Swivel. The Phantom has Diana and the strip is still running.
Red Ryder was the only cowboy comic strip that I remembered. His horse was Thunder and Little Beaver was his Indian companion. I would love to have a Red Ryder beebee gun.
Gene Autry Had his horse Champion. I don’t think he had a steady girlfriend. In films, he always won the fair maiden in the last reel. Roy Rogers had Trigger and a steady girlfriend in Dale Evans. Gene and Roy were more in comic books and not comic strips.
Bathless Groggins was another old comic strip. It started as Abbie and Slats. A young couple. Later Bathless emerged as the main character. Bathless always had little lines emanating from his body to show a strong odor.
Women were well represented in early comics. Lady Luck was also created by Will Eisner. She always wore a green dress, a green hat and a half vail. Like the Spirit, she was not a super hero with extraordinary powers. She and the Spirit were crime fighters and detectives. She appeared as a Sunday supplement in a small comic book format.
Ella Cinders comic strip was a take on Cinderella. Only Ella didn’t turn into a princess, she won a trip for a screen test in Hollywood. She and her brother go but find the studio in Hollywood has gone bankrupt. They stay and constantly try to break into the movies.
Dixie Dugan began in 1929 as a career girl. The strip varied from romance to comedy and crime fighting.
Brenda Starr, Reporter may be the only comic strip that was written and drawn by a woman. It started in 1940 and ran to 2011. Brenda exploits ranged from reporting, fashion and constant romance. She married and divorced in the strip. The creator and artist, Dale Messick, would draw cleavage and a navel. Editors at the time would erase.
I remember Little Annie Rooney and Little Orphan Annie. Orphan Annie came first. Annie Rooney came soon after as a copycat or knock-off. Both had dogs, Orphan Annie had Sandy and Annie Rooney had Zero. Both strips were highly successful. Running for a long time and making movies.
The Spirit had a lovely girlfriend. Ellen was the daughter of the city’s police commissioner. A little romance for the kids, but I don’t think she ever visited his home in the graveyard. Always the comic would show the Spirit leaving his home. His grave site, tombstone and all, would open upward and the Spirit would step out.
The Spirit also had a sidekick. A young black boy or man named Ebony White. There was also a flying car sometimes driven my Ebony.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (775)