Friday, 12 June 2015

COMICS SUCK! - Adventure Comics #439 (June 1975)

40 YEARS AGO - April 1975
"The Voice That Doomed ... The Spectre"
By Michael Fleisher (w); Jim Aparo (a, l) & Joe Orlando (e)

The Spectre was one of the original superstars of the Golden Age of funny book adventurers in the late 1930's and early 1940's. Darker in tone than even Batman, The Spectre was the nearly omnipotent spirit of vengeance, who could manipulate reality to ironically punish and ultimately dispatch criminals. He, alongside such stalwart heroes as The FlashGreen LanternThe Atom and Hawkman were all-star members of the Justice Society of America team. When DC revived the above-listed characters (in their own solo adventures), The Spectre was something of an afterthought, appearing in the company's tryout title Showcase, but only after the others were successfully re-imagined and sales re-invigored, After the brief run on Showcase, the god-like Spectre was given his own title which boasted the talents of future industry super-stars like Neal Adams, Dennis O'Neil and Bernie Wrightson. It wasn't enough and the book was cancelled after 10 issues.

The character was all but forgotten for five years until editor Joe Orlando was mugged and decided the world was ready for another revival of the vengeful Spectre.

Orlando, DC's horror line editor tapped his assistant Michael Fleisher and artist Jim Aparo (whom we've talked about here previously) for the Spectre series to appear in the pages of long-running anthology Adventure Comics. Though he'd been a writer and DC staffer for a couple years up to that point, Fleisher was something of an unknown quantity at the time. He was paired with Russell Carley who was given the unique role of "Script Continuity", providing art breakdowns for Fleisher's raw plots. Interestingly, once Fleisher did finally earn the trust of industry editors one of his more famous jobs was writing for competitor Marvel's original Ghost Rider series for roughly half of its span (Ghost Rider was Marvel's spirit of vengeance).

The Spectre feature in Adventure Comics started with #431 of that title and ran for 10 issues or a year and a half long. Taken in context, the series was shocking in its depiction of violence and gruesome death. Though those deaths were usually bloodless they were disturbing nonetheless: criminals were dissolved or turned into inanimate objects which were then destroyed, innocents were shot, bludgeoned or otherwise murdered onscreen, things that hadn't often been depicted in Comics Code Authority approved books since Orlando was working as an artist at revenge-obsessed E.C. Comics 20 years earlier.

By #439 the series was nearing its completion, and Fleisher no longer needed the help of Carley. The story opens with an obvious Patty Hearst reference as a terrorist "liberation army" breaks into a bank, kills the manager and leaves with Spectre's girlfriend. The Spectre's alter ego is the hard-boiled Jim Corrigan, the ghost of a police detective who is still gainfully employed by Gotham PD despite not having had a pulse since the 1930's. This issue toys around with the subplots of Spectre's love-life and immortality.

The series wrapped up with the very next issue and The Spectre didn't star in his own series again until volume 2 of his own title appeared in 1987 written by the grim and gritty Doug Moench with art by the wispy and ethereal Gene Colan, and a more fitting creative team for the character couldn't possibly be imagined.


'Warrior on the Edge of Time'

Hawkwind's fifth studio album found the Space Rock innovators at their demented hippie best, so of course 'Warrior on the Edge of Time' has its tough critics. By this point the permissive hippie ethic that had followed the band like a dozenth member was beginning to catch up to their own artistic aspirations. The music holds up with the rest of the band's earlier discography, but tensions within the touring entourage were beginning to tip the scales.

By this point the band was a hedonistic commune on wheels. With each release Hawkwind music had become more and more far-out, the vocals were effected, the vibe manic and the lyrics were mostly written by beloved fantasy novelist (and songwriter) Michael Moorcock. Hawkwind founder Dave Brock considers this to be the period during which the band peaked. By the end of it, bassist Lemmy Kilmister was kicked out of the band for partying too hard. It's all fun and games to live that permissive hippie lifestyle until it starts to interfere with business, something which is all but certain to happen.

It's interesting that this, the most trippiest of hippie albums of them all, came out right in the dead middle of the 1970's (May 9, '75). It wasn't long before the hippie flame was reduced to off-campus embers and a new ethos had taken shape: punk rock, individuality, the "me" generation's hippies turned to yippies. The dream of a better world died while the dream of a better "self" seemed attainable. As for Lemmy? He did alright for himself after his ouster from the hippie band.



Directed by Richard Robinson
Cast - Leslie Uggams, Shelley Winters & Michael Christian

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