The growth of the direct market, where comics publishers could send their wares to specialty comic book stores as opposed to newsstands, meant that new publishers could have a shot at becoming something. One such publisher was First Comics, which originally published comics from 1983-1991. First revived Classics Illustrated and reprinted some Japanese manga comics in English, but they also did some original work with creator-owned characters that were free of the Comics Code, and as a result, were free to offer more mature content to their readers.
One of those was original, creator-owned characters was John Ostrander and Tim Truman’s John Gaunt, also known as the mercenary Grimjack.
The Legacy Hero is a longstanding DC tradition. The idea is to take an old character name and concept and rework the character into a new character who may or may not be related to the older one. There’s a bit less of that with the “new 52” today, but when someone opted to rework the Flash from Golden Age Jay Garrick to Silver Age Barry Allen, everything went from there. Furthermore, when Barry met Jay, a character most of Barry’s readers would have never heard of given their age and the collectability of old comics back then, the idea of connecting these old heroes took root and hasn’t really gone anywhere since.
One of the more prolific superhero names for DC has been Starman. Originally, Starman was Ted Knight, an astrophysicist who discovered a way to channel starlight into a small wand he called a cosmic rod (stop giggling, Watson) that allowed him to fly and do stuff with stellar energy (mostly fire energy blasts). Starman was, like many of his contemporaries, a member of the Justice Society and disappeared when the Golden Age of comics ended. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the various attempts to create other Starman characters wasn’t as cut-and-dried as, say, Flash or Green Lantern. There were many Starmen, all with different abilities and few with any relationship whatsoever to Ted Knight.
Post Zero Hour, DC produced another new Starman, this one the son of Ted Knight. Jack Knight had no desire to be a superhero. He was into collectables and ran a small knick-knack shop out of his home town of Opal City. Circumstances pushed him into superheroing, and he probably became the single most memorable Starman of them all.
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.