By John Ostrander & Tom Mandrake (DC Comics)
The Spectre is one of the oldest characters in DC’s vast stable of characters, created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily in 1940 for More Fun Comics #52 and 53. And just like Siegel’s other iconic creation, he suffers from a basic design flaw: he’s just too darn powerful. But, unlike Superman, he’s already dead, so he can’t really be dramatically imperilled. Starting as a virtually omnipotent ghost, he evolved, over various returns and refits into a tormented soul bonded to the incarnation of the biblical Wrath of God.
With his superb version from the early 1990s, John Ostrander shifted the narrative onto the Tabula Rasa that was Jim Corrigan, a depression era cop whose brutal murder released The Spectre into the world of costumed heroes. This take on the character ran for nearly five years and lent a tragic, barbaric humanity to a hero who was simply too big and too strong for periodical comics.
Collected here is the first four-part story-arc wherein the troubled and Earth-bound Corrigan meets the vulnerable Amy Beitermann, a social worker who is the target of a serial killer – and somehow a living link to the detective’s own murder fifty years ago.
Powerful and often shocking, the developing relationship forces The Spectre’s mortal aspect to confront the traumas of his long suppressed childhood as he relives his own death and the ghastly repercussions of his return. With intense, brooding art by long-time collaborator Tom Mandrake, this incarnation of the character was by far the most accessible – and successful. If it had launched a year or so later and it might well have been a star of the budding Vertigo imprint.
The masterful interpretation seems largely forgotten these days but hopefully with DC trawling its back catalogue for worthy book-fodder this tale – and the issues that followed it – might make a speedy reappearance on book store shelves. Let’s hope so…
© 1992, 1993 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.