Remake & Reboot: THE SPECTRE Comic Series

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.

The Concept:

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 Creators:

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.


  1. Yes to all of this.
    I haven’t read any of Sable’s recent Indie works, I remeber him I think from the Two-Face: Year One prestige series a couple years back with Jesus Saiz, which was really solid. And this is perfect for Francavilla, you get the street crime mood like in Detective and Black Panther with some fun supernatural parts for him to break out on.

  2. It would be cool to have the stories be either done in one or 3 issue arcs, and in the background an arc that becomes the focus at the end of every year. I feel that’s been a major issue in the DC New, where they have been focussing on decompressed multi arc stories. I miss the small arc stories and the one and dones.

  3. Yes to any Spectre series, and hell yes to this team. I really think the Spectre could be an amazing horror/mystical type of series….a supernatural version of the Punisher.

  4. Pretty good call here… the Spectre really should have been New 52 material, especially w/ JL Dark and some of the other mystical titles being relaunched. Spectre> Hawk & Dove for sure.

    And especially considering that DC is about to delve into Pandora… I can’t help but think The Spectre would fit into all this somewhere or would have a role.

    Also makes me wonder: What about Dr Fate? (or have they intro’d new 52 Dr Fate and I just missed it somewhere?).

    • Methinks Dr. Fate will be in the Earth-2 series but that isn’t to say he couldn’t show up in the New 52, just that he’ll appear there first.

      Regarding The Spectre…

      1) Lose the costume. Powder in green briefs and a hood just isn’t scary.
      2) Lose the DCU. Send him to Vertigo.
      3) Lose the *The* – It worked for Facebook.

  5. I’d prefer to see Allen as the Spectre, not just for diversity, but because the character has more history (pre-Spectre, I mean). Also, didn’t Scott Snyder say he’d thought of doing a take on the Spectre? Now that I’d love to see.

  6. I’m surprised Scott Snyder wasn’t mentioned as a possible writer. He could totally make a Spectre series great and scary as fuck to read.

  7. Love the Francavilla. Another writer who could do wonders with the material is Joe Hill.

    I don’t think it matters who the Spectre was as long as it’s done in an interesting manner. It obviously needs to be someone who needs redemption and is not perfect. Go back to the roots of punishing the guilty who escaped justice, with the occasional supernatural guest star/crossover/event, but not too much of that. Stick with a simple character design, more Kingdom Come than jockey shorts and booties. The giant cloak and hood is good, maybe in a darker shade? And I agree, more Vertigo than 52, at least more in the Animal Man/Swamp Thing side of the New 52.

    I’ve been a long-time fan of The Spectre, and I would love to see him (it?) brought back!

  8. MarkCWarner (@MarkCWarner) says:

    Disagree with the artist, but love the idea you have.

    The Spectre for me always worked best when he was not relatable. He had a clear sense of his purpose and waited until you went to the point of no return before he stepped in for judgement. The whole alter-ego thing was tricky and worked to mixed results. Maybe the solution is to pull a Thor and remove Jim from the equation or separate them and use it to explain why they need to be tethered.

    From a character study standpoint, keep my Spectre distant.

    Favourite appearances:
    Kingdom Come
    Books of Magic
    Late 80s horror take on him

  9. “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.”

    The Spectre (1992) by John Ostrander managed to do this for over 60 issues. It helped that Ostrander, a former theology student, laid out well thought out rules for what the Spectre could and could not do. Something desperately needed for magic based characters. The series didn’t end because of poor sales. Like Sandman, Ostrander had a clear definition of where the story was going and how Jim Corrigan’s story would end. It was only in other hands, the Hal Jordan Spirit of Redemption (bleh) and the Day of Vengeance/Crispus Allen eras that the character became unrelateable again.

    With the DC reboot, I say give it to Ostrander again to see if he has a new take on the character that was best in his hands.