The four issue mini series Wrath of the Spectre
ran from May through August 1988. The series was a reprinting of stories featuring the Spectre from Adventure Comics
(1973 through 1975) and one unrelated story from the House of Mystery
(1970). The ink colors in this series are superb.
A historical overview of the Spectre character along with the writers' perspectives in each of the four issues are also fascinating reading.
Russell Carley, a talented artist, was initially responsible for creating the panels from the Spectre script text, and Michael Fleisher wrote the script. Russell Carley was responsible for the innovative panel where Eric, the women’s hair salon stylist from “Anguish of the Spectre,” was cut in half by the Spectre's enlargement of a pair of barber's scissors. Carley worked with Fleisher on Saturday afternoons for a year before he left the comic art profession. Fleisher remained in the field and was the writer for the 1970s Spectre stories. Fleisher sent the fast paced scripts to DC's Joe Orlando, who then forwarded them to Jim Aparo. Aparo did the excellent art work in the Spectre series.
Three unpublished stories were meant to be included in the Adventure Comics series in the 1970s. Unfortunately, Aquaman replaced the Spectre as the feature character in Adventure Comics. Jim Aparo in 1988 was at last able to ink these three stories, and they appear for the first time in the fourth and final issue of this mini-series. These stories are part of Michael Fleisher’s insistence on storyline continuity (Examples: Gwen Sterling making several appearances as a girlfriend and news freelance writer Earl Crawford attempting to document the Spectre's actions) running throughout in the series, something DC Comics rarely did during the 1970s. Marvel, by contrast, was doing storyline continuity with a few of their main superhero characters in the 1970s.
Fleisher took his inspiration from the More Fun Comics printing of the earliest Spectre stories during the early 1940s. Not comedic. No battles against cosmic beings as in the later 1940s and the 1960s revival of the Spectre. In the 1970s stories, the Spectre returned to hunting down and punishing Earthly evil doers who had no extraordinary supernatural powers in an Old Testament sort of way. Also, Fleisher frequently uses the Spectre's transformation ability. In one memorable instance of his transformation ability, the Spectre turned someone into a wax candle and then caused the villain melt.
Another major difference is that the 1960s and long-running 1980s series has Jim Corrigan and the Spectre with separate personalities. Fleisher returned to the 1940s character as his model so that Corrigan and the Spectre are the same personality, yet have different appearances.
Two other major differences are worthy of note. The Jim Corrigan of the 1940s had a fiancée, Clarice Winston. In Fleisher’s series Gwen Sterling is a girlfriend in waiting. In the 1940s stories, Corrigan believes that he should have no recreational life or close relationships and breaks off his relationship with Clarice; he is only a divinely appointed executioner. In Fleisher’s series, Corrigan wants to have a normal life, but keeps being reminded somehow of his real purpose. Fleisher also reminds us that the Spectre operates as a judge and executioner. Fleisher's character, newshound Earl Crawford, reminds us that the Spectre's justice is rapid and always involves death; it is very different from the American justice system whereby two intervening steps are in place--arrest and trial by jury--before a judge assigns any punishment. This mini-series is fascinating for its fast pace and particularly distinguished for villains' horrific endings. Collected Editions: