Comics Review: DC’s The Spectre – The Spirit of Vengeance Strikes Hot
Review by Comix
I’m sure many of us wonder what will happen to us after we die. Will we go to Heaven to live an eternity among nubile young virgins dedicated to fulfilling our every desire? Or perhaps we’ll go to Hell and suffer the wrath of everyone that we have ever done wrong? Or, if you happen to be Jim Corrigan, you end up being a goddamn superhero! Yes, that is how things work in superhero universe! The Spectre is the wrathful spirit of God’s vengeance that is fused to the soul of a murdered cop who, instead of embracing the sweet darkness of the grave, finds himself thrown back onto Earth to serve as the voice of final judgment to those that walk on the wrong side of the tracks. A mix of horror and superheroics, The Spectre is a great comic for those that may be wary of entering the exhausting world of caped crusaders but still want a horror comic packed with action, vigilance, and and an amazing pair of green tights.
There are a few different men that take up the cowl of The Spectre, but the original story is centered on Jim Corrigan, a hard-boiled detective from the Golden Age era who bore the title for several decades. While pursuing the heinous mob boss Gat Benson, Corrigan falls into a trap set by the very man he is chasing and is murdered in cold, cold blood. Stuffed into a barrel of cement and thrown to sea, Corrigan’s soul arrives into the afterlife, but is way too full of rage to properly pass on. The Archangel Micheal decides that the best course of action for a fresh and angry soul who refuses to go to Heaven is to fuse his soul with God’s own anger and kick him straight back down to Earth. It is here that he begins his new life as part human, part God’s right hand of doom where he fights evil doers, works with superheros, and high-fives unicorns. (Nah, I’m just lying about the last one.)
The Spectre has been a staple of DC comics for longer than your parents have been alive. The first issue came out in 1940 and had continued strong for decades to come, either in his own series or playing major roles in other comics. He is also one of the original members of the very first superhero group, Justice Society of America, and can be found alongside The Flash, Shazam, and even the great Superman. Aside from all this superhero hoopla, The Spectre is a solid character and a solid horror read. A lot of the earlier (Golden and Silver Age) comics are similar to the old horror comics of the time, with its kitschy, Twilight Zone-esque tales of vengeance and morality; fun, short reads for those who love old scary tales. Once the more modern Bronze Age and Modern Age hit, and that pesky Comics Code went away, the Spectre found himself rebooted to a grittier, darker character who dealt with more theological problems of human existence and the fine line between right and wrong.
Truth be told, I love the Spectre, he is my favorite superhero. I’m not really much of a superhero fan, except for Batman and Deadpool, but The Spectre has a special place in my morbid heart. The comics stays closer to the strange atmosphere created by the Vertigo imprint of DC rather than DC itself while still residing in the regular DC Universe (also known as DCU). Some of the greatest writers in comics have also worked on the character such as Geoff Johns (Green Lantern) and Bill Willingham (Fables), breathing new life into the Spectre as he battles Shazam and finds himself fused with the soul of Hal Jordan, a former Green Lantern. In fact, the whole Hal Jordan line was incredible and done in such a grand scale, that somewhere, Neil Gaiman was spinning in his million dollar mansion. If you’re a long time superhero or just starting out, this is a good comic to pick up no matter where you are in the comic fandom.
There are several graphic novels dedicated just to The Spectre, such as The Spectre: Tales of the Unexpected written by David Lapham (Stray Bullets) and The Spectre: Crimes and Punishment. There is also a pretty sizeable collection of the old Golden and Silver Age comics reprinted in the hardcover DC Archives and the Showcase Presents. Now unfortunately, the Hal Jordan run, which is my favorite run, is not currently collected in a graphic novel. Your best bet is to either hit up your favorite comic book store and dig through their back stock or hit up some of the online auctions. Actually, if you a regular at comic-con’s, dive into some of those 25 cent bins, there’s a good chance you’ll score some of the comics for a hell of a good price. In fact, you’ll probably find some other comics in there you didn’t know you want to read, but for a quarter, why the hell not? As always, I will keep you posted if they come out in a graphic novel but for now, go grab what you can. It’s one of the best superhero/horror reads you’ll find out there.