This version of Doctor Spectrum was created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema in 1969 and first appeared in The Avengers #85. 16 issues earlier, Kinji Obatu appeared as the Doctor Spectrum of the Squadron Sinister. Unlike the other members of Squadron Sinister, this version of Doctor Spectrum isn't the same person.
Joseph "Joe" Ledger was on top of the world, literally. Joe was an accomplished astronaut working for NASA. He was young, handsome, and loved the ladies and the ladies loved him. Joe was fulfilled. However on one mission to space found the wrecked ship of an alien Skrull named the Skymax. When Joe saved the Skrull's life, he was awarded with the Power Prism, a powerful energy synthesizer the Skrulls had created. Joe was awestruck by the experience and decided that once he returned to Earth he would reevaluate his idea of "fulfillment". With the new amazing abilities from the Power Prism, he became the superhero Doctor Spectrum.
Soon, he became one of the founding members of the Super hero team the Squadron Supreme. During his tenure on the team, he and the Squadron encountered four of the Avengers from the Earth-616 universe, who had accidentally crossed into the Earth-712 dimension. The two teams came to blows but would eventually unite against the planet-wide threat posed by the Brain-Child. Doctor Spectrum used his Power Prism's powers to remove the Brain-Child's power's, ending the battle. He and the rest of the Squadron would then return to their own universe.
Sometime later the Squadron Supreme came to battle the Avengers once again, who help to free the Earth-712 from the influence of the artifact the Serpent Crown. Superhero teams from another Earth The Avengers and The Defenders. After the Squadron was possessed yet again, this time by the Overmind. Freed from the Overmind by the help of both the Avengers and the Defenders from the universe of Earth-712. The Squadron now faced failing governments and the collapse of all civilization as they had known it before the takeover by the Overmind. Worse, now Doctor Spectrum and the Squadron were now seen as the cause.
The Squadron plan a program called Project Utopia. The project involves taking over the Earth through peaceful means by convincing the people to allow them to transform the world into a paradise, they state the project will take one year. It's during the Squadron's implementation of the Utopia Program Doctor Spectrum was one of the heroes who voted to implement a Utopia Society for America.
When Squadron member Nuke went awol for several weeks, Joe was sent to find his teammate Nuke at the recommendation of Power Princess. After tracking Nuke down to his hometown Joe went to the Hospital nukes parents had been staying. Finding out that Nuke's parents had passed away from cancer he went looking for him. Finding him he tried to convince him to return to the Squadron for help. However Nuke went on a rampage and Joe while accidentally restrained him in a bubble, causing Nuke to suffocate while trying to break free. Nuke's death greatly perturbed Joe and motivated him to vow that he would no longer use his powers in violent ways if he could avoid it.
The Squadron began using Behavior Modification technology on their enemies, instead of incarceration they would now become full fledged Squadron members. Joe than started a flirtation with Foxfire, a newer member of the Squadron who had been one of the former enemies behavior modified to reform her. The two quickly gave into their mutual attraction to one another, which developed into a romantic relationship becoming extremely close.
When battling Nighthawk's team the Redeemers over the Utopia Program, Joe had to abandon his pacifist views. The Power Prism was shattered during a battle with his former best friend the Black Archer, as one of his arrows hit it during the battle. The conflict would not last long without tragedy. During the battle with the Redeemers, Foxfire killed Nighthawk, and was killed when the Mink stabbed her in revenge. As Foxfire lay dying, Joe angrily lashed out at Mink and to everyone's surprise, he fired a blast at her. It seems the Prism's powers had transferred to Joe's body due to fragments hitting his skin. Joe found out he could still use his powers, despite the destruction of the Power Prism.
This would mark the end of the Squadrons Utopia Project, many members and enemies alike were killed and this shook the foundation of their dreams. Joe and the rest of the Squadron relinquished control of the United States government and disbanded
The Nth-Man and Earth-616
Doctor Spectrum and the other surviving members of the Squadron Supreme later travel into space to protect their Earth from the Nth Man. Saving the Earth-712 and the universe from the Nth-Man, but being trapped on the Earth-616 universe. While stranded in the Earth-616 dimension, the Squadron Supreme were offered to reside at Project Pegasus.
Forming a friendship with the hero Quasar and even periodically responded to the sites of emergencies and disasters to help protect people and save lives. It was during such efforts that the Squadron was manipulated into yet another conflict with the Avengers, battling them in person and in the media. After some investigation the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme determined it was Imus Champion who had been manipulating them. The two teams confronted Imus Champion and were forced to team-up and combine their efforts to defeat him. During this team-up Hyperion and Thor put aside their usual enmity and even seemed friendly toward each other. The two teams of heroes managed to defeat Imus Champion's plan and, as an added bonus, stumbled across a prototype Nth projector he'd had in his possession which gave the Squadron the means to return to their universe.
After numerous adventures on Earth-616, Joe and the Squadron were able to return to their Earth, only to discover it had been taken over by the Global Directorate. The people of Earth-712 had grown weary of the constant natural, political, and social upheavals that had plagued the world in recent years, largely because of the presence of the Squadron.The Directorate had left off where the Squadron had left, using the devices of the dismantled Utopia Program for themselves. Joe and the others where shocked and angry at themselves at the totalitarian government the Directorate had made using their creations. Joe and the original members of the Squadron decided to reform the team to go against the Directorate. Joe decided to find their former member Skymax, who he believed was still on Earth. Joe's hunch paid off and he found Skymax who had been living full time in his James Doe identity. Skymax had given up his search for others like him, having come to except he is the last of his kind. He was convinced to rejoin his teammates with the promise that Joe and the Squadron would help him on his search. Joe than returned with the rediscovered Skyman to the Squadron to undo the damage done to their world in their absence.
The Exiles and Proteus
Earth-712 and the Squadron were later convinced by Proteus in Hulk 2099's body that the Exiles, who Hyperion had interacted with previously, had become corrupt and were hunting him for not complying with their plans. The Squadron overpowered the Exiles, and put them on trial in Utopia Isle. Fortunately Heather Hudson was able to use the technology in the Crystal Palace to show the Squadron both that the Exiles were innocent, as well as how the Directorate had rigged the votes in their favor. The Exiles helped the Squadron confront the Directorate, and set things right in their world. Hyperion declared that there would be another democratic vote for who would be in power, and this time, it would be fair. Power Princess left the team to watch the Exiles and help them battle Proteus.
Powers and Abilities
Joe Ledger is a talented pilot and astronaut. He is also a moderate fighter who maintained extensive physical exercise.
The Power Prism
Doctor Spectrum carries a Power Prism that allowed him to create photonic energy at will operating throughout the visible spectrum. He can use this power to allow himself to fly and become intangible. He can use the energy to take over mechanical devices. He also used the spectrum to apparently remove the powers of Brain Child.
The Doctor Spectrum of Earth-712 can also create solid objects with their power prisms, which is often used to great effect. He can literally create any matter of hard light objects which he can shape into whatever his mind can imagine.
With the Squadron Supreme originally being a parallel of the Justice League, Dr. Spectrum fills the Green Lantern role.
A corporal in the US armed forces, Ledger was selected to attempt to harness the thought-controlled power source from Hyperion's spaceship. Previous subjects were not able to be single-minded or focused enough to control it, and so it was hoped that Joe would be able to control the crystal without letting his mind wander and the disastrous effects that would follow.
Ledger was successfully able to use it as intended, destroying targets. Firing energy bursts through his hand, the crystal caused him serious pain, but no injuries. Further use caused the crystal to fuse into his hand, all attempts to remove it failing, and killing the one trying to touch it. The accident caused Joe to fall into a coma for a lengthy period of time, during which he seemed to be having a battle of wills with the crystal. Despite having emerged from the coma, able to control energy emitted from the crystal, it has yet to be seen if he really won that battle.
While in the armed forces, he had gained a reputation for being a "Surgeon" of sorts during covert operations. That coupled with the colorful effects of the energy he controls earned him the name "Dr. Spectrum." The original (and perhaps continued) goal of the project was to have a counter to Hyperion and a means to control him.
Ledger has had his background fleshed out much more than most members of the Squadron Supreme, especially during the time when he was in a coma, speaking with the crystal.
Though promising, he never really did return to his girlfriend from before he joined the military. He takes his duty very seriously, and is extremely loyal to his superiors in the military/government.
Once Hyperion was forced to go public with his abilities, the government used Spectrum for black ops missions. They could then deny their own involvement, since Hyperion had alibi's doing "the superhero thing." Hyperion, in an attempt to track down others like himself, and believing the government may be hiding others like him, tracked Spectrum down, and the two faced off in a devastating battle, and destroyed a large chunk of the rain forest.
Spectrum befriended " Kingsley," an aquatic mutant female while healing after his battle with Hyperion at the bottom of the ocean. Bonding mentally with her Ledger took her to the surface world and ensured they were in the Squadron Supreme when it was started.
Powers and Abilities
Doctor Spectrum's powers stem from the prism in his right hand. It is important to note that this prism comes from the race that Princess Zarda and Hyperion originate from. This being the case it is also true that the prism appears to have some sort of intelligence. This is apparent from his actions after the prism fused with his hand in the supreme power comics that introduced the characters of the series.
The Power Crystal
He controls energy from the crystal power source of Hyperion's spaceship. He is able to use it to encase himself with the energy, protecting himself, and giving himself an air supply for space or underwater travel. This also lets him fly at incredible speeds. He can fire blasts of energy to devastating effect.
The crystal seems to be much more than just a power source. It responds to the thoughts of the one closest to it, and since merging with Joe Ledger, has responded only to him. However, the crystal itself has a mind of its own, and when it wishes, can apparently take control of Ledger, though he doesn't remember these occasions when it does. " Power Princess" has seemed to know much more about the crystal than she has let on, speaking with it while its in control. What these two are scheming toward is still vague and unknown.
In Other Media
Doctor Spectrum appears alongside the rest of the Squadron Supreme in the Avengers Assemble episode "Dark Avengers," sporting his original appearance. As an in-joke, he is voiced by Phil LaMarr, the actor who voiced Green Lantern (the character Doctor Spectrum is a take-off of) in Justice League and its sequel, Justice League Unlimited. This version of the character draws his power from the Reality Gem.