A Tribute to the of

It's that time again, gentle reader, when we hop into the way back machine and take a loving peek at a classic bit of comic book history from the spectacular Silver Age. The train is leaving the station. Hop on.

In the last edition of the Silver Age Sage, we looked at an issue of Showcase, produced by the Super-Team Supreme, Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. So here it is nearly a year later and that same team is continuing to crank out some high-quality goods. Crank the calendar ahead to the January-February, 1966 issue (on sale 11/25/65) of Showcase, #60 and behold how the boys bring about a much antcipated story and a resurrection of another Golden Age character. This issue had been advertised extensively throughout the pages of DC's other books. A regular blitz to herald the triumphant return after more than 20 years of THE SPECTRE!

The Spectre was, of course, a founding member of the Justice Society of America, as were Dr. Fate and Hourman, who we visited last time, along with the original Flash, Jay Garrick, the Alan Scott Green Lantern (see last edition), Atom, Sandman and Hawkman. They were later joined by such Golden Age legends as Dr. Mid-Nite, Starman, Johnny Thunder and Wonder Woman. The JSA feature was carried exclusively in All-Star Comics in the 1940's and much of the Silver Age and the modern story lines owe a great debt to these ground breaking efforts. DC had obviously decided the time was ripe to expose a new generation to these amazing characters, and here was the latest effort. As the cover of this issue of Showcase so aptly states, "A combat of colossal chills between the GHOSTLY GUARDIAN and a DARK DEMON in a full-length Spectre-acular..."THE WAR THAT SHOOK THE UNIVERSE!"

Now before I jump into the story itself, I'm going to take full advantage of another of DC's thoughtful inclusions. A little over halfway into the comic, the all-important Origin of the Spectre is provided. Allow me to quote part of it here:

"The Spectre made his debut in MORE FUN COMICS No. 52 (February, 1940).The feature was written by Jerry Siegel (Sage's Note: The co-creator of Superman, along with Joe Shuster, for those of you who've been spending way too much time in a cave over the last 60+ years.) and illustrated by Bernard Bailey.

Police detective Jim Corrigan had everything to live for. He was highly successful in his chosen field and was engaged to the beautiful Clarice Winston. Then he broke up a robbery being pulled by the "Gat" Benson gang. In retaliation, Benson kidnapped Jim and Clarice. The detective was put in a barrel of cement and dumped in the river. Jim Corrigan died! But in the next world, a mystic voice informed him that his work was not yet done. He was returned to Earth - but not to life. He was now a ghost. He discovered he could fly, become invisible and walk through walls; and he was to find he possessed even more astounding powers.

Returning to Benson's hide-out, Jim was just in time to prevent the murder of Clarice. Then, with "Gat" in police custody, Jim broke his engagement, without telling Clarice the real reason - that she was in love with a dead man! The Earth-bound spirit decided to keep his Jim Corrigan identity as a cover for his ghostly work of battling evil. He created a costume and adopted a new alter-ego - The Spectre! No one guessed the police were now employing a ghost!

Soon after this, The Spectre was given a chance, by the mysterious voice which counseled him, of eternal rest in the next world or being forever Earth-bound. Once he had craved everlasting rest; but now Clarice, whom he still loved, was in danger, and only he could save her. So he elected to remain on Earth.

Finally, the supernatural powers of the beyond granted him permisson to use his awesome powers to restore his own body, which still lay at the bottom of the river, to life. But the revived Jim Corrigan discovered he still had all the uncanny abilities he had possessed as a ghost and that he could still emerge from his mortal body as The Spectre!

World War II was on and soon Jim decided to join the army anf fight the Axis powers. His alter-ego, The Spectre, then parted from his mortal self for a time.

Meanwhile, The Spectre had appeared in the first two issues of All-Star Comics (Summer & Fall 1940). When the Justice Society of America debuted in the third issue (Winter, 1940), the Earth-bound apparition was a charter member. He continued as an active member for four years. He last worked with the JSA when they first battled the original Psycho-Pirate as told in All-Star Comics #23, (Winter, 1944). After this, he and Starman were replaced by The Flash and Green Lantern, who had, for some time, been inactive, honorary members.

Starman was only a human hero, who was on the point of retiring from crime-fighting altogether. But why had the immortal Spectre dropped out of the All-Star organization? There was, in fact, no resignation - and no word of any kind! He had simply disappeared; indeed, it was just at this time that he last appeared in More Fun Comics #101, January-February 1945. The mystery of his vanishing was one even the mighty Justice Society could not solve. But here, in this issue, you will finally learn the answer to that baffling riddle, in a full-length adventure which brings The Spectre back into action!"

Still with me? I know that got a little long, but I thought it was necessary for the uninitiated out there (I was one, too, by the way) as a way to get a good background on this classic character and to more fully appreciate the landmark status of his return.

So, let's go to the splash page and check out the hooks there for the reader. We see our hero trading blows with what appear to be comets with long tails with a red-skinned, demonic looking sort in a yellow costume in the reaches of space. The text below them reads: "For more than a score of years, the world has lost sight of The Spectre - who once was wont to roam the Earth on his misson to destroy crime and uphold justice! What happened to the Disembodied Detective? Why has he never been heard from in all that time? Only the dark demon Azmodus knew - and he kept his secret until the moment he chose to come to grips with The Spectre in a War That Shook the Universe!"

As the story opens, we are whisked to Treasure Castle where we are introduced to three characters. Millicent Olcott, a secretary who has resigned her job to find the hidden fortune in the castle which legally belongs to her as the only heir of the recently deceased Ebenezer Olcott. Stefan Miklos, psychic investigator, whose extra-sensory abilities have enabled him to solve baffling mysteries for the police and to locate lost articles. Finally, Jim Corrigan, Detective Captain of a metropolitan police force assigned to help Myra Olcott against the possibility of theft of her inheritance.

Our trio is going through the castle on their search, each lost in thought as the psychic moves about, hoping for impressions. Jim Corrigan wishes to himself that he could separate his physical and astral bodies, releasing The Spectre to assist. Jim strolls down memory lane for a few moments as he recalls how he used to stride across the world, a powerful phantom against whom the forces of evil could not survive. His was a mission of morals, to balance the scales against the criminals who preyed upon the weak and helpless. Soon a seance is held and when the medium invokes the help of the spirit world, The Spectre is released from Jim Corrigan's body for the first time in 20 years! The Spectre immediately leaps into action as he's able to sense imminent danger. He deflects a bomb that had been hurled toward his Jim Corrigan identity by catching it in his cape and calling upon time itself to cease around him. He then grows, taller and taller as he muffles the blast within the confines of his costume. When he has at last reachedhigh enough into the atmosphere, he releases the blast where it can do no harm. All this happens unbeknownst to the participants in the seance and Jim Corrigansits in awe at the sudden release of his alter-ego afterthis long two decade stretch of dormancy. The psychic, meanwhile, has at last discerned where the fortune is hidden and they go to find it. There they find instead a trap. Two ganglandrivals have joined forces to capture and destroy their nemesis, Detective Jim Corrigan. Meanwhile,The Spectre is flying back to where the seance took place and with his astral vision sees the empty room. He decides to find the people who lobbed the bomb. He uses yet anotherremarkable ability to open a window to the past so that he can see the vehicle where the bomb orignated. Fortunately, the car is headed right for the warehouse where Jim Corrigan is in danger of being gunned down by the mobsters. The Spectre walks through the wall of the warehouse just in time to intercept the hail of lead and force it back toward the gangland thugs. Teaming up,Corrigan andThe Spectre apprehend them, by traditional and ghostly means including commanding the weapons to lengthen and tangle about the toughs.

Later that evening,The Spectre joins up with Corrigan in his apartment and they discuss his amazing return. While he doesn't know the source, the Spirit Sleuthsenses that there is a source of uncanny energy controlling him and that it was the source of hisbeing imprisoned for so long. He goes to investigate. He quickly trots the globe, going to places where spirit activity is focused, including a Soul House in the jungles of Ecuador, Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts, the Temples of the Gods inEgypt, Mount Parnassus, the temple of Appolo and Stonehenge, all to naught.

Jim Corrigan, meanwhile, searches for the rest of the gang and is apprehended yet again. The Spectre senses as much and is able to slip into theastral plane where time and space do not exist, allowing him to appear instantaneously at Jim's side as they apprehend thelatest set of goons. Toward the end of the skirmish, the Spectre finds himself suddenly weakening and being drawn back into Corrigan's body, but not before telling where the source of the mysterious energy seems to be emanating, namely Mountain City and a man named Paul Nevers. Jim tracks down Nevers and finds that the thief has supernatural powers, being granted by another astral form. Abruptly, the demon Azmodus emerges from the body of Nevers while The Spectre is freed from Corrigan. Azmodus explains that he had left the astral plane 20 years ago to come to Earth. He had intended to roam the earth doing evil. He found, however, that when he entered a human body he was trapped, the same as The Spectre. The Earth could not support two astral beings of theirstature as their powers canceled one another out. When Azmodus' host body died, he was freed, which also allowed our favorite spirit his freedom. Azmodus went to a temple of evil to get a silver bullet that would free him from his host body and imprison the Spectre forever, allowing him to reign. The properties of the bullet, however, weakened the energies holding both spirits captive and allowed them to go head to head. Are you ready to rum-m-m-m-mble?! Well, our characters are. As the "real" bodies duke it out, the astral ones take it to the skies of space to try and subdue one another.

The twospirits are so evenly matched that it's carnage as meteors are thrown, the aurora borealis is made into a confining curtain and other elements to include the astral fields of the Earth and it's moon are brought into the fray.

Finally, Jim Corrigandefeats Nevers, which has an effect on Azmodus, a window of opportunity allowing The Spectre to overcome and place him into a form of suspended animation. Just before leaving the inert form, he questions Azmodus as to why he came to Earth in the first place and he replies with these cryptic words of foreshadowing: "You'll never know, Spectre! But just in case you should defeat me - as you did - I arranged matters so my master plan could carry on without me." The Spectre then heads back forEarth, but the thought that he cannot hear trails in the distance: "I have lost - but you have not won, Spectre - as you shall learn when my sinister scheme unfolds on Earth - soon - very soon..." [In Showcase #61.]

Thus endsthe story that reintroduces The Spectre! Way cool, eh? I knew you'd agree. Since we tend to review only the very besthere at the Sage, this one is a shoo-in for the maximum 10 rating. A first rate, full length story with a character returning after a two decade hiatus. How could I do any less for the famed Disembodied Detective?

Thanks again for joining me. Even though my last couple of entries have been lengthy I hope you've found something of interest here. Let me know. I'm available at professor_the@hotmail.com. Join me again as we check out another timeless tale in about two weeks.

Long Live the Silver Age!

2000 by B.D.S.

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