DC’s The Spectre is 80, but nobody cares

March 25, 2020
Louie Fecou 2
Comics, Features

There have already been a lot of special anniversary books released by DC Comics over the last year, celebrating some of their oldest and best-loved characters. The Trinity of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have all had their shot with glossy multi covered 96-page giant-sized comics, featuring creative teams telling stories of these comic book icons.

With the books being priced at just under $10, it’s easy to see why the company might decide to present us with other similar products. They sell well, and they can be enjoyed by casual readers so it’s a safe bet for the company and the comic book shop.

So with many of DC’s characters hitting the magical 80th anniversary, there is a slew of books coming out in this format.

Flash and Robin should be on the shelves now, and you can also expect Catwoman, Joker and Green Lantern also getting the big birthday book treatment.

However, there are also a few forgotten heroes that just aren’t popular enough to get this royal treatment from the company, and that’s a shame.

Obviously the company can’t put out a 96-page giant with 28 variant covers for the original Red Tornado, even though she was the first female superhero, debuting before Wonder Woman in 1939, as the character just doesn’t have the same appeal as Batman, but there are a couple of forgotten heroes from that era that I think deserve at least some sort of celebration.

Possibly the most powerful hero in the DCU is the Spectre, and of all the forgotten heroes, there must be a multitude of creative teams that would love to do a short story based on this character.

Created by Jerry Siegal in February 1940, The Spectre first appeared in More Fun Comics #52.

Underneath that vengeful cloak, there have been a couple of identities including Jim Corrigan and Hal Jordan, and he has been affiliated with many teams such as Justice Society of America, All-Star Squadron and even the Justice League.

In the Golden Age, Jim Corrigan is murdered, placed in a cement-laden barrel and thrown into the harbor. “The Voice” sends him back to the land of the living though as a vengeful spirit to deliver punishment to evildoers.

He continues through this age until superheroes fall from grace, and by More Fun issue #101 in 1945, he was pretty much retired.

When Julius Schwartz created what we pretty much know as The Silver Age of comics, The Spectre was reintroduced in Showcase issue #60. With almost God-like powers now, he went on to guest star in JLA #46 and #47, then appeared in team-up comic The Brave and the Bold #72, with The Flash.

He gets his own book in 1967 and had some stunning visuals from Neal Adams. However it’s hard to write stories for an invincible supernatural ghost, and the comic runs out of steam by issue #10. In the yearly crossover between the JLA and the JSA, The Spectre is seemingly destroyed, averting a devastating collision between 2 Earths.

You can’t keep a good ghost down though, and in the Bronze Age, The Spectre is brought back once again, this time in the pages of Adventure Comics. Written by Michael Fleisher and drawn with Adams-style linework by Jim Aparo, this is my favorite run of stories for the character, with The Spectre pushing the boundaries of the comic code, despatching villains in ways that even now would be considered controversial.

After another hiatus, The Spectre was to play an integral part in the groundbreaking maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also shows up in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and finally gets another series. Written by comics veteran Doug Moench, and with a greatly reduced set of powers, the series lasts 31 issues.

John Ostrander would be the next to pick up the baton, and his thought-provoking run often focussed on the secondary characters in the stories, playing with theological questions as opposed to simple hero and villain narratives. The Spectre is revealed to be The Wrath Of God, and his past becomes more convoluted, with the mantle being passed to others before him, including Z-Rate villain Eclipso.

By the modern age, Corrigan is replaced by Green Lantern Hal Jordan, after the whole Parallax situation. Things really begin to converge on the character now, and in Day Of Vengeance, he becomes so insane due to having no host that he runs amok through the DCU. Magic is extinguished from the comics line through his actions, but eventually, he is forced back into a human host.

Blackest Night in 2009 sees Black Hand explaining The Spectre must be dealt with to make the universe safe. The Spectre is dispatched but returns in Brightest Day with Crispus Allen as the host.

With the launch of The New 52, a rebooted Universe returns Jim Corrigan, now a detective in Gotham, to the role. When he is murdered, along with his girlfriend, he transforms into The Spectre and gets on the wrong side of The Phantom Stranger. Corrigan finally becomes part of a special task force in Gotham, investigating supernatural events.

It’s quite a history, and I am surprised that there is no 80-year celebration of The Spectre. If you are at all interested in him, try and grab a trade of the 1970 stuff from Fleischer and Aparo, it’s a great read and captures the essence of The Spectre perfectly.

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2 thoughts on “DC’s The Spectre is 80, but nobody cares

  • May 20, 2020 at 3:08 am

    You are right about The Spectre being overdue for more recognition. Got hooked as a young kid picking up his comic in 1967 which featured the “stunning visuals from Neal Adams” Was teased a few years ago just as Jim Corrigan began to morph into The Spectre on NBC’s short-lived Constantine. Seems every couple years, there’s a story about a new tv show, comic book, etc featuring The Spectre.. Someday… maybe can get on his hometown Cleveland comic geniuses like Brian Bendis or Brian K Vaughan to do something.

    • May 20, 2020 at 9:33 am

      Hi Don. Thanks for commenting. I love Neal Adams’ work, his Deadman stuff was great too. I have a soft spot for those Spectre stories in Adventure Comics in the 70s with Aparo art. Thanks for reading. Louie

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