The Spectre Gets a Nightmare Fuel Redesign (& DC Shouldn't Ignore It)

The Spectre, one of DC’s foremost supernatural characters, gets a nightmare fuel redesign that the publisher should not ignore. For over 80 years, the Spectre has meted out harsh justice to street level criminals and magical creatures alike. The Spectre is a fearsome presence, but now thanks to Eisner and Ringo-nominated artist Dan Schkade, the character assumes his most nightmarish and grotesque form to date.

Dan Schkade unveiled the piece in a post on X. The image shows the Spectre stalking his prey above the rooftops of the city. The Spectre has his quarry where he wants them — and the criminal is only now aware of the ghost’s presence. Yet not content to simply dispose of his prey, the Spectre is seemingly toying with it.

The Spectre has assumed the form of a scorpion, complete with green stinger; walking on all fours, the Spectre’s body is contorted in a disturbing and unsettling way. His mouth is wide open, emanating light from within; the Spectre is ready to strike. Schkade adds a bit of levity to the illustration with the caption “DON’T CRIME.

The supernatural side of the DC Universe is perhaps its richest, and the Spectre is one of its biggest heroes. First appearing in the Golden Age of Comics — and co-created by Superman mastermind Jerry Siegel with Bernard Baily — the Spectre is crooked cop Jim Corrigan. Killed while on a case, Corrigan was brought back to life as the Spectre to be the instrument of God’s justice. Various writers and artists over the years have expanded the character’s mythos. One trademark run from the early 1970s by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo would often feature the Spectre disposing of criminals in ghastly but creative ways, and Schkade’s new art invokes that era.

The Spectre is one of DC’s most powerful characters, practically invulnerable and capable of doing nearly anything he wishes. The Spectre can alter reality and his shape — two powers he put to brilliant use during Fleisher and Aparo’s run. He would turn perpetrators into inanimate objects, such as a candle or a piece of glass, and then kill them fittingly. The book pushed the limits of what could be depicted in a superhero comic, often testing the limits of the Comics Code Authority, which was once the industry’s powerful self-censoring authority. Schkade’s art is a callback to that era as the Spectre uses his powers to turn himself into a scorpion-like creature, preparing to kill the criminal in front of him. Whether he does it by eating or stinging him is not revealed, but the criminal is certainly done for.

Dan Schkade has perfectly captured what makes the Spectre so great, and it is something DC should not ignore. The publisher recently returned Jim Corrigan to the role of the Spectre’s host after Dark Crisis, but his adventures have been few and far between. The Spectre, with all his great power, can be a tough character to write, but Schkade’s art points the way for future creators. It shows the Spectre using his powers to intimidate and punish evil in nightmarish and creative ways; these qualities get downplayed in some interpretations, but Schkade’s art shows how to use them to brilliant effect.

Source: Dan Schkade

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