Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Classics - Showcase #60

As mentioned in the last post, I'm on the road for the next couple of days, so new reviews will be on hold until I return. But to live up to the blog's title, we have some classic reviews to hold you over, focusing on a couple of favorite titles from the original Showcase series from DC).

I always enjoyed the idea behind the Showcase comic from DC in the 1960s. It gave different characters (and different comics genres) a moment in the spotlight, and allowed the company to try out different ideas. Some worked, some didn't - but it was the equivalent of a variety pack, and when it was good, it was mighty good.

This issue is one of those "mighty good" ones, as it focused on The Spectre, a Golden Age character who was unlike any other DC character.

Last seen in a Justice Society adventure in 1944, this issue (cover dated February 1966) reintroduced the character, but his actual origin was not in the comic - it was placed in a text page in the issue, perhaps because it might be considered a bit unsettling to kids in the '60s (who were not as hardy as their parents, I suppose).

The Spectre was born when Detective Jim Corrigan was killed by gangsters - his body was placed in cement and tossed into the river! But he was given new purpose in the afterlife and sent back to fight evil.

The '60s version was sanitized - he caught the bad guys and turned them over to the courts, rather than his earlier (and later) excursions as judge, jury and executioner.

In this version written by Gardener Fox, The Spectre seems to be a spirit housed in Jim Corrigan's body, and is suddenly set free during a seance. He soon finds himself fighting a cosmic menace, Azmodus, an evil creature whose power matches The Spectre's (and who is responsible for the hero's 20-year disappearance).

The story is great fun with lots of action including regular fisticuffs and intergalactic battles. As always with Fox's stories, you actually learn lots of facts about historic and mystical sites around the world while you're enjoying a good comics story.

But the real selling point for this comic is the outstanding art by Murphy Anderson, who seems to be having a great time here with towering figures, cosmic battles and the rebirth of a classic character.

The Spectre had a great run under two of DC's best artists - Anderson and Neal Adams - but perhaps the concept of a fighting ghost was just too weird, and the comic didn't last.

But while it was around, it was a heck of a lot of fun!

Grade: A


Superman Fan Podcast said...

While I didn't read this issue, I do remember seeing this cover on a house ad in DC Comics titles I read at the time. I do remember reading a Spectre / Batman team-up in Brave And The Bold, combating a villain in Chinatown.

Chuck said...

S.F.P., My most vivid memories of The Spectre are from these first appearances in Showcase and in the JLA/JSA team-ups, which often seemed to include a scene with a gigantic version of The Spectre holding apart Earth-1 and Earth-2. Good stuff!