One of DC Comics’ oldest characters is finally making his live-action debut, as The Spectre has been officially announced, via IGN, as joining the CW Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover. Actor Stephen Lobo, known to fans for his roles on Supernatural and The X-Files will portray the Spectre. In the original Crisis comic, the Spectre was crucial in defeating the series’ main villain, the Anti-Monitor. But the supernatural hero has a very long history at the publisher, going back to the earliest days of the Golden Age.
The Spectre was brought to un-life by Superman’s co-creator Jerry Siegel, and introduced him in an issue of 1940’s More Fun Comics. Jim Corrigan was a hard-boiled cop, very Film Noir. At least he was until gangsters murdered him and threw him into the ocean. Denied entry into the afterlife, his spirit is re-bonded to his body. From there, he must deliver brutal vengeance against evil doers as the Spectre. Now wearing a green cloak and sporting pasty white skin in his heroic identity, he joins the Justice Society of America. But after World War II, and some fifty adventures in his own feature, the Spectre pretty much vanished from the pages of DC for the next two decades.
When DC finally brought him back in the ’60s, he was essentially his original self once more. This contrasted starkly to radical new Atomic Age versions of characters like Flash and Green Lantern. Several writers elaborated more on the Spectre’s supernatural backstory. Readers learned that the mysterious voice giving him his powers was pretty much God. Yes, that God. And the Spectre’s role was that of God’s “Spirit of Vengeance,” punishing the wicked in gruesome ways. So we’ll go out on a limb and say this was a very Old Testament style God.
The Spectre was a bit more removed from other DC heroes; he wasn’t going on typical superheroic adventures with the JSA anymore. And his power levels shot up considerably. His stories took on a bigger horror bent than in the past, and he was often seem teaming up with the likes of Swamp Thing and Doctor Fate. After helping to save the universe in Crisis, the Spectre got a boost in popularity. DC rewarded him with his own self titled ongoing series, which ran for three years. Although cancelled, it wasn’t long before the Spirit of Vengeance got another ongoing, this one which ran for five years and 62 issues. All in all, not a bad run.
Then, things got weird for the character. God, or whoever, released Jim Corrigan from his bond with the Spectre, and the new host for this powerful being was…Green Lantern Hal Jordan?? Yes, in one of the more “out there” creative decisions of the era, DC decided that the then-dead Hal Jordan — who had temporarily gone batty and become the villain Parallax and died — needed redemption as the Spectre’s new host. He even got his own ongoing series, which lasted for two years. The entire Spectre/Hal Jordan thing was more or less swept under the rug when Jordan came back to life and became a Green Lantern again.
But DC wasn’t finished manipulating the Spectre. In the mid-2000s, the Spirit of Vengeance bonded with another new host. This time, it was Gotham City detective Crispus Allen. Like Corrigan before him, he was a murdered officer, this time the victim of a crooked cop. The Spectre, who had become unhinged without a human host over the previous few years of DC stories, now bonded with Allen. For the next several years, the Crispus Allen version was the DCU’s resident Spirit of Vengeance.
And then, everything in the DC Universe reset. With the 2011 series Flashpoint, the Multiverse at DC got a major reboot. And it got an all-new Spectre who was remarkably a lot like the first. DC reintroduced Jim Corrigan, only now he was a cop in the modern day and not the ’40s. But the rest of his history was pretty much an update of his original incarnation. As of right now, he’s still the DC Universe’s Spectre, although recent events like DC Rebirth have reinstated the Golden Age timeline to DC history. But one way or another, it seems Jim Corrigan is once again the Spirit of Vengeance for the long haul. And with his role in the Arrowverse, he’ll have a bigger platform to deliver God’s Wrath than ever before.
Featured Image: DC Comics