There are few storylines more deep-rooted and horrific than that of the well-meaning Dr. Henry Jeykll and his dark alter-ego Edward Hyde. Well, imagine Hyde with supernatural powers and a creative way of dealing with criminals.
Imagine The Spectre of the ‘70s.
That’s right. Those comics fans new to The Spectre’s saga (or who lost track of the Ghostly Guardian for a few years about three decades ago) would hardly recognize the near-omnipotent being as told by writer Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo, under the leadership of editor Joe Orlando from 1974 to 1975. Robert Louis Stevenson would definitely see similarities between The Spectre’s avenging spirit back then and his own anti-social, homicidal Edward Hyde.
The Spectre-coming out of the body of Detective Jim Corrigan-went from a benevolent, extremely powerful superhero to an avenging angel-type of creature-passing out fear, horror and ghastly deaths to those criminals he felt deserved that sort of fate-in the pages of Adventure Comics, a title that briefly changed its name to Weird Adventure Comics to befit its macabre lead character.
As most fans know, The Spectre started out in the four-color pages of More Fun Comics in the ‘40s as a good guy (albeit a mysterious one) who soon joined with such stalwarts as Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Hourman, Dr. Fate and Dr. Midnight et al in the ranks of the Justice Society of America.
But at that changed dramatically decades later when Orlando and Fleisher brainstormed to transform the ghostly-white hero (garbed in his well-known green cape and cowl with matching gauntlets, boots, and shorts) into a horrible vengeance-seeking spirit that abused, frightened and eventually killed criminals in the most violent and creative ways.
During this horror-hero incarnation, Corrigan is disgusted with this creature sharing his body who can’t wait to be let loose on the world and wreak havoc. The detective tries to keep The Spectre locked inside him, but does release him from time to time to work his menace. Most of the stories revolved around Corrigan and his detective work, with The Spectre getting little “panel-time” until the culmination of the story when he went into his vengeance act.
The Spectre finished his grisly work of justice, vengeance, and murder by finishing off the crooks in truly horrific ways. In one story, he punished a criminal by turning him into a block of wood during a brief battle in a logging mill and ran his through a power cross saw, chopping him up widthwise into blocks of logs, complete with a great Aparo look of shock, surprise and utter horror on the crook’s face.
In others, The Spectre killed the crooks by turning them into wax and melting them. He also transformed them into glass and let them fall and shatter for the cops and Corrigan to find. Corrigan, as might be expected, is horrified by these acts of vengeance and the cops on the scene are scared and totally confused, and only Corrigan knew what really happened.
Some fans turned to a brief letter-writing campaign to protest these horror-infused stories, but you have to admit: they were effective (in a gruesome kind of way).
And, as horror buffs, we really wouldn’t have it any other way. (But about that funky costume … maybe the less said, the better).
Last modified: December 16, 2016