Monday, December 6, 2021

The Golden Bookshelf:

The Spectre was one of DC’s very first costumed heroes, and until the Archive editions, had rarely been republished. Now comics fans can get their hands on a high-quality reprint of these Golden Age treasures.

 

The Golden Age Spectre Archives

The Spectre was one of DC’s very first costumed heroes, debuting in the pages of More Fun Comics #52 (cover date: February, 1940), but until now, his earliest adventures were among the rarest treasures of the Golden Age. The Spectre Archives brings the first of these tales to light—most reprinted for the first time since their original publication over 60 years ago.

The concept of the Spectre is straightforward: hard-boiled cop Jim Corrigan is killed by gangsters, but instead of going to his final rest, he is chosen by higher powers to be an agent of justice on Earth. For this mission, he is given almost unlimited abilities and the discretion to use them as he sees fit to protect the innocent and, above all, punish the guilty. Every so often, the Spectre meets his match in the form of another supernatural menace, but most of the time, his biggest challenge is finding new and creative ways to terrify and torture those common criminals unlucky enough to cross his path. The visceral appeal of an omnipotent hero in a permanently filthy mood was enough to keep the Spectre going through the Golden Age, a Silver Age revival, and intermittent series down to the present day.

The original Spectre stories were written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and drawn by Bernard Baily (who also drew the Golden Age Hourman in Adventure Comics). From a pure talent standpoint, this is not the best the Golden Age has to offer, although Siegel comes up with some diabolical uses for the Spectre’s powers and Baily’s art is clean and occasionally dramatic. In the book’s forward, comic historian Jerry Bails acknowledges these stories were aimed at 8 year-olds and they remain, at best, a charming and uncomplicated pleasure.

All of that is beside the point, of course. Anyone who would even consider spending $50 for this book needs to have it. It is an essential artifact of the first flowering of the Golden Age in all its (occasionally amateurish) energy—pure 100-proof nostalgia for anyone old enough to remember and the next best thing to being there for the rest of us. Major kudos to DC for digging deep enough into its vaults to bring forth such a treasure.

 

The Golden Age Spectre Archives

DC Comics

224 pages, color, hardcover, $49.95

Writer: Jerry Siegel

Artist: Bernard Baily

Rob Salkowitz is a Seattle-based writer and authority on all manner of aging newsprint. You can e-mail your comments and queries to Rob at rob_comics@yahoo.com. Use "ComicBase" as the subject line.

The Golden Bookshelf Archives