It’s that time again, boys and girls! That’s right ACB’s Comic Book Monsters has returned! This year, I’ll be looking at a slice of some of the creepiest comic book series of all time! I’ll be covering a series a day in reverse chronological order. So, check under your beds and lock the doors and windows. It’s time to take a look at today’s featured series…
Comic Book Monsters – October 31st: The Spectre
Jim Corrigan was a hard-boiled cop. He was murdered, stuffed into a barrel which was then filled with cement, and the barrel was dumped into the ocean. When his spirit left his body, a mysterious entity called “The Voice” refused him entry into the afterlife. Corrigan would be sent back to Earth exact revenge on his murderers as a spirit of vengeance known as The Spectre.
Thus begins the Golden Age adventures of this ghostly hero from DC Comics. He first appeared in More Fun Comics #52 (February 1940). After a couple years, The Spectre joined the first team of superheroes, The Justice Society of America. Once Corrigan was brought back to life (I’m curious how that works in a situaiton that a guy’s body is crammed into a cement-filled barrel, but oh well), The Spectre still stuck around, but was now able to enter and come out of Corrigan’s body. The Spectre even joined the war effort with the rest of the JSA and fought Nazis.
With many Golden Age heroes, the decline of superheroes in the mid-40s found the Spectre becoming a secondary character in his own series until his adventures were limited only to JSA stories. When Julius Schwartz revamped several DC heroes in the 50s, the Spectre got a second chance. Much of his story was the same as before, but the character would begin going though major character evolution. This new “Earth-1″ version approached a level of omnipotence that would eventually role into a mystical connection with Heaven and Hell and being a spirit of vengeance for God himself.
The massive increase in the Spectre’s power made him a significant player in DC’s major crossovers Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour. In each of these event stories, the Spectre would battle the major villains (The Anti-Monitor and Parallax, respectively). In the months that led up to Crisis’ sequel, Infinite Crisis, the Spectre was without a human host making him an uncontrollable, and slightly insane, entity. He was manipulated by a female Eclipso to go on a killing spree to wipe out all magic users in the DCU. Later, in Final Crisis, he seemed to be the only one would would have been able to stop Libra, but when trying to reveal the villain’s true identity, he was thrown for a loop as he couldn’t pierce that part of Libra’s soul. He would later be enslaved by Vandal Savage using the Spear of Destiny (one of the only items ever created that can actually hurt the Spectre). So, in other words, if you’re going to get invited to play a fairly large role in anything called “Crisis” at DC, you’re a pretty big deal.
In the 90s, Jim Corrigan was relieved as Spectre’s host. After Hal Jordan’s descent into madness as Parallax, he sacrificed himself to save the universe. This redeemed Jordan’s soul and the former Green Lantern became the new host. While this didn’t last all that long, it was a way to keep a Silver Age character around, and created extra tension between the ghostly being and the other heroes who didn’t believe Jordan had truly redeemed himself and was now the host of one of the most powerful beings in the universe. When Jordan came back to life, murdered Gotham resident Crispus Allen, who oddly enough was killed by a cop named Jim Corrigan, became the new host and as of the of the old DCU, he remained that way. Though I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the original Corrigan returns in the New 52 as the host of the Spectre.
What makes the Spectre a character worthy of a daily Halloween series is how he deals out justice. Each incarnation of the character had a particular way of giving bad guys some sort of ironic punishment. One of his earlier punishments found one of Corrigan’s killers turning into a lifeless skeleton by simply touching the Spectre. In more recent stories, he’s shown up as a Black Lantern who is obsessed with Hal Jordan. He’s turned the original Doctor Light into a candle for the murders he’s committed. In Infinite Crisis, the moment he’s summoned he spots the Sar Sapphire of that time and passes judgment on her killing her on the spot.
While the Spectre is a character that has inhabitated a few different hosts and has gone through periods of insane level of power and periods of being seriously de-powered, I believe it’s safe to say that he’s the very first horror themed superhero in comics. It’s hard to deny that his powers and his way of dealing with the guilty borders on the disturbing. What better way to wrap up this year’s run?
And so we’ve reached the end of this year’s Comic Book Monsters. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this trip through the history of comic book horror! Last year, I picked some individual monsters. This year, I looked at series. Next year, and you better believe I’m doing this again in 2012, I’m going to come home. I grew up a Marvel fan from the very beginning, and considering how many mutants and mutates they have running around, why not just focus specifically on them? So, come back on October 1, 2012 for Comic Book Monsters: The Mighty Merry Marvel Edition!