Sunday, 7 March 2010

Adventure Comics #436. The Gasmen and... the Spectre.

Adventure Comics #436, the Spectre, Jim Aparo
I don't suppose any nostalgic trawl through the waters of the 1970s can be complete without me posting this cover; (Weird) Adventure Comics #436.

As far as I'm concerned, the 1970s were when the comic book cover reached its peak as an art from, after it had lost its previous naiveté and before it'd be reduced to the status of banal pin-up bearing no relation to the contents within. This was an era when a comic had to compete for attention with a million and one other items on the news stands and therefore had to be eye catching. And you won't get a finer example of how to get noticed than Jim Aparo's cover for The Gasmen and the Spectre. It's not just Aparo's elegant and beautifully composed pencils and inks that do the trick, it's also one of the best coloured covers I've ever seen. I don't have a clue who was responsible for that (even GCD can't help me) but they deserve some sort of medal for it.

The Spectre's short stint in Adventure Comics was an odd sort of thing, always a triumph of style over substance. After all, it had the most linear plots of all time; bad guys kill some people, the Spectre shows up and kills the bad guys. There was an attempt to add a bit more depth to it by giving Jim Corrigan a girlfriend (despite him being dead) and having a bespectacled reporter follow him around but, really, despite these attempts, the appeal of the book lay in two things. One, Jim Aparo's superb, moody art and, two, the baroque means by which the Spectre would kill his quarry.

Jim Aparo, Adventure Comics, the Spectre
My favourite method of course has to be in Adventure Comics #435 where our ghostly friend turns a crook into wood and chops him up with a buzz saw. In retrospect, I can see why this might've given some parents concerns about what their children were reading. Awww but who cares? The run was great and easily the best handling of the character ever.

I was never certain if Jim Corrigan and the Spectre were meant to be the same character. I mean, I knew Corrigan turned into the Spectre but there seemed to be no correlation between the way Corrigan thought, acted and related to the world and the way the Spectre did. For that matter was Jim Corrigan adopting the guise of the Spectre or was the Spectre adopting the guise of Jim Corrigan? It was all too philosophically complex for me.

I also always wondered how Corrigan kept his job, bearing in mind he was a homicide cop who never actually solved any cases. I actually did worry at one point about the prospect that he might get the sack. It didn't seem to occur to me that, being a ghost, Corrigan didn't actually need any sort of job. Oh the innocence of youth.

Appreciation also has to go to the back-up strip of the time, featuring Aquaman. I was never an Aquaman fan, seeing him as a watered-down imitation of Marvel's much more interesting Sub-Mariner but the thing looked so good here, thanks to Mike Grell, that, for once, I was interested.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In the Golden Age, the Spectre seemed to be the ghost of Jim Corrigan, who had been murdered. He could assume the appearance of Corrigan, but was no longer mortal. In the 1960's version, Corrigan was still alive. He and the Spectre seemed to be two separate individuals, but the Spectre apparently had to periodically return to Corrigan's body. I don't know if the writers themselves fully understood it.

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