A guy who spends most of his time as a ghost might be hard for a publisher to get a hold on, but DC’s the Spectre has one of the most unique and resonant back stories in super-hero comics. Created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel along with artist Bernard Baily in 1940, the Spectre is the spirit of vengeance created by a higher power that’s bonded with a human host to temper his vengeance with mercy and understanding. On the human side, it’s a veteran cop who is brought back to life with the Spectre in tow to right the wrongs that the typical police badge can’t.
Over the years the Spectre has gone on to take on other hosts including the Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. Spectre’s unique power-set has made him hard to confine to a single series, and hard for readers to root for given his near omnipotence. But with us over six months into DC’s New 52, it’s all about second chances and if anyone needs redemption it’s the Spectre.
At its heart, for The Spectre to work you have to make him relate-able, both in his human and supernatural form. Veteran police detective Jim Corrigan could begin as a weary man straying down the wrong path when he dies, and the introduction of the Spectre into his life — or in this case, death — could be an attempt to get him back on the right path. While not venturing into Highway To Heaven overtones, I could see this as a story of redemption for Corrigan and a story of understanding for the Spectre personality.
While in most cases it’s best to start with the origin and move forward, in this New 52 era I would bury that origin and have issue one lead readers right in the thick of it with the Spectre already established and sharing space with Detective Jim Corrigan. He’s on the case, coming into his own with his Spectre alter-ego, and investigating crimes in Gotham City. Borrowing tinges of Gotham Central and runs on The Spectre by Doug Moench and John Ostrander, the longer arc of the book could show the introduction of Crispus Allen and possibly even show Corrigan eventually taking the wrong path and come to a showdown with Crispus with the future of the Spectre at stake. The gist of the story could be imagining the good someone could do with the Spectre at their beck and call, but what happens if and when that person goes bad.
The Writer – Mark Sable: Sable came into comics strong with his 2005 series Grounded, and since then has premiered a dynamic new independent work at roughly a one-a-year clip with Fearless, Hazed, Unthinkable and the recent Graveyard of Empires. He’s exactly the kind of writer who could deliver a new spin on the Spectre, and frankly he’s exactly the type of young writer that DC needs to get more of in their revitalized platform.
The Artist – Francesco Francavilla: This Italian artist has quietly become one of comics most dynamic artists out there between his work on Detective Comics, Captain America & Bucky and covers for Dynamite. While some might want to put him on some of DC’s top tier books, I’d instead like to give him the room to redefine a character like the Spectre in a way he couldn’t with, for example, Batman. And add to that the fact that Francavilla is one of the few artists who could handle a monthly book — well, monthly — then he could definitely sign on for a full year to carry out a cohesive vision with him and Mark Sable.