Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WEIRD Adventure!

The Michael Fleischer / Jim Aparo Spectre is something else again. This short but memorable run in Adventure Comics features a much more vengeful depiction of the character, more consistant with the Golden Age Spectre. Here The Spectre turns crooks into various inanimate objects before dispatching them as "Judge Judy and executioner" as it were. The grim tone was apparently set by EC alumni, Joe Orlando.... who said at the time while recounting the various features he tried in Adventure while editor:
"And then I introduced The Spectre, I had just been mugged in broad daylight on upper Broadway, where I was living at the time. The feeling of helplessness and anger and loss of manhood (my wife was with me at the time). As I watched the two muggers strutting away with my wallet gave me the Walter Mitty idea of fantasy revenge. "That's what i'll do to you bums, i'll bring back The Spectre!". The Spectre will rid the world of the evil vermin that preys on upstanding hard-working middle aged comic book editors."
- Joe Orlando [Amazing World of DC Comics #6 : May '75]
He then goes on to gush about Aquaman (who replaced The Spectre), but statements that Orlando made later, however, showed a somewhat more bitter, cynical and world weary point of view about the series cancellation, and indicated that DC was somewhat uneasy with this new "Blood and Guts" version of "The Spectre" (which is, in reality a return to the characters' roots) and were only too happy to replace him in Adventure with Aquaman: "Something clean, in water" quipped Orlando. Well at least he was replaced entirely, rather than having the character demeaned by the likes of Percival Popp. But for a while there, particularily when it was "Weird Adventure" The Spectre was the most extreme of superhero/vigilantes in comics. Just like the criminals he stalked in the funnybook pages, it seems that DC and the Code were scard of The Spectre... or perhaps just what he represents.

Fleischer (one of the more innovative comic scripters of the time) was well aquainted with the original 1940's stories, and mystery-line editor Joe Orlando was more interested in pushing the horrific aspects of the character. When you add art by Jim Aparo, who was really hitting his stride at DC, this short run seems to have been remembered by many folks, even to the point of DC reprinting the run (in Wrath of The Spectre 1-3) and then having Aparo illustrate 3 scripts completed by Fleischer before the plug got pulled in the 70's.

Since then, The Spectre has kind of bounced around the DC Universe in one form or another, but to me, this 70's incarnation was the character's high point.....

Adventure #431

Adventure #432

Adventure #433

Adventure #434

Adventure #435

Adventure #436

Adventure #437

Adventure #438

Adventure #439 & Adventure #440
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