This ongoing series of mine has focused largely on forgotten or little-used heroes. Today’s entry is nothing like that, since the Spectre has been a DC staple since his creation in 1940.
He’s just been a markedly different sort of character any time he appears anywhere. At least with someone like Superman, you know what the guy is and where he stands. With the Spectre, he’s more or less what the story needs. He really is a deus ex machina, sometimes rather literally.
Want to cause a dispute among comics fans? Ask them about big blockbuster crossovers. Most fans claim to hate the dang things, and yet they still shell out good money to read them. Many come out like clockwork, and storylines inbetween seem to be more the calm between storms. Publishers promise big changes. “Nothing will be the same!” they say. Rarely is this ever the case, and many changes are so minor the fans barely notice. Even if resurrection were not a distinct possibility in any case that doesn’t involve removing a tragic backstory, most fans know better than to assume many characters will actually stay dead. Usually its more like, “This character will remain dead until we figure out how to bring them back in at least a somewhat plausible manner.”
In the end, most crossovers don’t do much. DC has Convergence coming this summer, just in time for the 30th anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths, probably the only crossover to actually make massive changes that really stuck for the longest time. Marvel is doing a new Secret Wars that is doing…something. Neither publisher is saying anything, and that just stokes the Jimmy Impossibles of the world to a frenzy until someone is left cleaning up an awful mess of drool and disappointment.
Most big crossover comics events promise big things about how nothing will be the same and a cast of thousands. Most comics crossover events fail to deliver by a wide margin. The only real exception is The Crisis On Infinite Earths, a comic storyline that may not have been the most coherent seeing as how the Anti-Monitor had a new plan every issue, but did deliver cameos from just about every character DC had, whether they fit into the narrative or not, and the multiverse was abolished. Some characters, like Superman and Wonder Woman, were completely rebooted, while others like Batman had their origins modernized. Prominent characters like Supergirl and the Barry Allen Flash were killed and actually stayed dead for years real world time.
Gabbing Geek, like any online publication worth its salt, has editorial discussions. Watson was wondering how a story on longest-dead characters would go, specifically ones that stayed dead or had actual emotional impacts on the reader, especially if they died during an “event”.
Shortest death: probably Hal Jordan as Paralax in Zero Hour…back the very next month in the pages of Green Lantern. Longest may be Captain Mar-Vel, still dead and staying that way.
To a 10 year old Jimmy Impossible, Secret Wars was right in his wheel house. For one full year the best heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe would be together every month bashing skulls, having mountains dropped on them and bowing before Doom. Though the tie-ins were subtle, this was really the first huge company wide event at either of the Big Two. (sequart.org has a nice article comparing Secret Wars, Secret Wars II and Crisis on Infinite Earths and which is responsible for the rise of the endless Events that I keep getting suckered into, which seems like every few months.)
One of the biggest parts of Secret Wars, and in fact the reason for it’s existence, was a promotion for a toy line from Mattel.