It’s a special spooky Secret Origin Saturday …and once again real life and other gigs are forcing this week’s episode to become Secret Origin Sunday! Regardless of the day, this week we’re looking into the Great Beyond as we deal with a very special character who became a super hero only after he died! This week, we’re looking at Jim Corrigan, DC Comics’ the Spectre!
Now admittedly, I was not a big Spectre reader as a kid. As I’ve often said, my main love in comics was always the mainstream super hero genre and my favorites super heroes were always those meat and potato super heroes who had most of the basic super hero conventions… the powers, a secret identity, a costume and code-name, super villains, etc. Once a character drifted off into horror or fantasy too much, I started losing interest. As such, I always only had a borderline interest in characters like Doctor Fate…( although I love his design!)… and Doctor Strange …(although I love his origin story!) This is not to say there was anything wrong with these characters. Magical characters were just not my thing. The Spectre fell into this category. I dug the Spectre as a super hero and as a member of the Justice Society… but when he got too weird or too “cosmic,” I’d tend to check out on him.
I don’t remember when I first encountered the Spectre. While a significant character, he certainly didn’t enjoy the top tier visibility of Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman or even the second tier status of the Flash or Green Lantern. I’m not exactly sure when I first became aware of him. It was very possibly in one of the big books collecting DC super hero origins that I read often when I was a kid.
The public library in my hometown oddly enough was pretty well stocked in books about comics. We’re not talking about comic books collections themselves. I’m talking about books that talked about the history of the medium. Even at an early age, I was very interested in that and hungry for any material about it. I used to check out their books on the subject repeatedly. One of these books was The Secret Origin Of The DC Super Heroes.
Long before trades and omnibuses became what they are today, this book was a gorgeous rarity. The book collected the first appearances or origin stories of a good bunch of DC’s super heroes. I could get the origin of Superman and Batman anywhere but this book introduced me to the origins of Hawkman, Green Arrow, the Atom and others. If it wasn’t exactly in this book that I first learned of the Spectre, it was in a volume very much like it. I very much remember reading Jim Corrigan’s violent and ghastly origin story.
Created by Superman creator, Jerry Seigel, the Spectre first appeared in More Fun Comics #52 in 1940. Initially, the Spectre had a very simple, straight forward origin. Jim Corrigan was an honest hard nosed cop who was killed by criminals. A mysterious force sent Jim back to this mortal plane with the seemingly limitless powers of the Spectre as that force’s agent of justice.
Over the years, as the Spectre was reinterpreted, his origin would become layered and even reworked with additional details, but the origin as I summarized it here, was always my favorite version. Again, I tend to check out when characters divorce themselves too much from an earthly connection. I prefer the Spectre to have a human side. I prefer him to retain the Corrigan identity and I like a Spectre that can fit in and hang out with the likes of the Justice Society and the Justice League.
The Spectre also has a beautiful very streamlined design that I believe has fortunately avoided the modern trend to get overly noodled and over designed with superfluous, busy and unnecessary details. A lot of characters wear red and blue. My eye is often caught by characters who wear an off-the-beaten-path color scheme like the Spectre’s green and white.
Onto this week’s Director’s Cut Commentary… Panel 1 shows us police detective Jim Corrigan. A not-so-subtle Easter egg also hints at a future Secret Origin Saturday subject! Panel 2 shows the bad guys getting the drop on Jim. In Panel 3, the hoods pack Jim into an oil drum which they also fill with concrete. In Panel 4, we see the drum being dropped into the river and presumably, Jim dropped to his death. Panel 5, of course, shows us the Spectre in all of his unearthly glory.
That’s it for this week, Everybody. The schedule may be tight next week as I close in on my first comic book convention of the 2021 season, but we’ll see how it goes. Rest assured though that if I do take a break next week, Secret Origin Saturday will return! Stay tuned!