Wednesday, December 16, 2009

things you can do in dc when you're dead

earth's most powerful hero is neither dc comics star attraction superman nor his closest competitor (in terms of both abilities and promotion) captain marvel. no, that honor belongs to the less well-known figure called the spectre, who distinguishes himself from all comers by being not merely a super-man, but rather a super-ghost.

after being brutally murdered by gangsters, "hard-fisted" detective jim corrigan returned to crime-infested cliffland (cleveland?) sporting a chalky pallor, green cloak and trunks and a psychedelic array of powers — many on rapid-fire display in this single episode, "the tenement fires", from 1940's all-star comics #1.

besides the standard-issue ghostly powers of flight, invisibility and intangibility, the spectre's multipresence — the ability to be in two or more places at once — allows jim corrigan to examine clues on earth while his alter ego interviews victims just outside the pearly gates:


his clairvoyance allows him to sense "tremendous evil afoot":


no power rings or magic spells here — his sheer will alone defines omnipotence:


making levitation, of course, mother-and-child's play:


as well as transmutation — here turning fire to ice:


and size-shifting:


and illusion, now a comet:


and telepathy — reading mens' minds — literally:


coolest of all, his immortality gave his writers the unique luxury of being able to brutally murder his alter ego again and again, on a regular basis:


and what's a vengeful spirit without an evil eye — looks that can literally kill?


(art by bernard baily, story by jerry siegel)

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