First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.21: Spectre #23

Bass and Siskoid cover The Spectre vol.2 #23, in which DC's many mystical characters join Corrigan's ghost to fight off an entirely different invasion. Say wha--?! Well, might as well use this as an opportunity to talk about the magical side of the DCU in the late 80s.

Listen to Episode 21 below (the usual filthy filthy language warnings may apply), or subscribe to First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast on iTunes!

Relevant images and further credits at: First Strike ep.21 Supplemental

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21 responses to “First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.21: Spectre #23

  1. Flying capes made from cow stomachs? What a bunch of tripe!

    When Siskoid said ‘every doctor is someone’s favorite’ I thought ‘Wow, I am someone’s favorite Doctor’. Then I realized that he was talking about Doctor Who.

    I didn’t comment on New Guardians because my mom taught me that if I didn’t have something nice to say I shouldn’t say anything at all.

    Like many characters, I met most of these magical characters as guest stars in either DCCP or B&B. I have a fondness for Madame Xanadu. The foundation of that is images by Mike Kaluta house ad art which were burned into my young brain from house ads. But I loved the Wagner/Reeder Vertigo series later on.

    I like the concept of Dr. Fate a lot. But as you say, doing a monthly comic with someone that powerful is tough. I didn’t get the DeMatteis book but I see it now and then in the $1 boxes so maybe it is time to pick up some issues. The less said about the extreme Fate book the better.

    I have never really liked Deadman. I know that might be heresy.

    And I like Zatanna a lot, having first met her in the Bates/Dillin JLA book. I definitely will sample books in which she stars. Hope you guys have read her Seven Soldiers mini-series from a few years back. Brilliant stuff by Morrison and Sook.

  2. –Yes, The Phantom Stranger is one of my favorite characters. I don’t think he is at his best in this multi-part crossovers, nor when he is drawn by someone without a knack for moody, “mysterious” type work, like what we see here.

    I used to think I liked him because he was just a guest star, but his solo series–esp the issues by Wein and Aparo–are stellar, so I’ve come to like him in various roles. In a world of entertainment (whether it be comics, TV, or movies) that has less and less time for unanswered questions, the Stranger’s unwillingness to explain everything all the time still holds a lot of appeal for me. Plus he just looks really cool.

    — Chris Phelps’ comment on the last issue of NG has made me rethink my dismissive approach to the series. While I still don’t think it was very good, the fact that it had a prominent gay character is a big deal, and the series’ creators deserve credit. Representation matters, and while DC wasn’t ready to have gay heroes in their main books (Byrne had to sneak it in on SUPERMAN), they were able to do it here. Good for them.

    –I am not being contrary re: BATO, I genuinely love that series, while also understanding why people like the joyless, dead inside Siskoid are so negative on it. What can I say? it hit me at the right age and it was always one of my favorite series back when my allowance had to suffice as personal income. I would honestly love to cover the book for the network, but unfortunately I have to waste a lot of time at a stupid job (which is where I am typing this).

    Always enjoy this podcast, even though 99% it covers stuff I generally didn’t read or like. Well done guys.

    1. I know you love BATO sincerely, I was just trying to give you some cover ;-).

      And I do seem to give it a lot of attention for something I allegedly hate.

  3. Dude (Meaning Siskoid)! I had that Demon/Superman DC Comics Presents issue too! It was a Kubert if I’m not mistaken — and it had uncovered breasts in one of the panels.

    So, this issue…. if memory serves, Madame Xanadu was a part of the Spectre cast at this point. I always meant to go back and read the series, but have a hard time with magic characters – like Phantom Stranger. I’m convinced he’s just a dick who trolls people pretending to know all the answers or one of these people that just spouts phrases that seem intelligent without offering any real guidance. Never got it.

    Also, again about the Outsiders. It’s something Adam Carolla calls “great lenses/bad frames”. The characters in and of themselves were interesting, as were the interpersonal team dynamic, but they looked pretty lame. And their enemies looked even more ridiculous. It’s kind of hard to think a comic team is pretty badass when their fighting the Duke of Oil.

    Strong show, fellas. I didn’t mind Bass as much this time.

      1. Kubert’s work had a classic, old-timey illustration feel to it that helped him get away with stuff others could not. He could draw nude figures that didn’t look sexual or provocative.

        That said, DC nixed his book SEXTETTE simply because of the title, even though it was an action/adv/mystery series.

          1. That was based on a ceremony Joe made all students undergo during their first year at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, which I attended 1989-1992.

  4. As David mentioned above, Madame Xanadu was a regular in THE SPECTRE. Prior to the Crisis, however, she only appeared in about a dozen comics. Beginning in DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE, she functioned very much like a female Phantom Stranger, setting stories in motion but only tangentially interacting with the players. Her supernatural abilities were even more vague and ill-defined than Phantom Stranger’s.

    I have a good chunk of issues from this SPECTRE series but have only read some of them.

    I like or love just about all of DC’s magic and supernatural characters, but I don’t think they should be on a team together. JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK was better than it had a right to be when Jeff Lemire and Mikal Janin were on the book, but I still don’t think these various characters should be bonded to a team structure, whether you call it Shadowpact or JL Dark or whatever, first and foremost because many of them are NOT superheroes. Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Madame Xanadu, Etrigan the Demon–these guys aren’t superheroes. I would argue that the ghostly Deadman and the Spectre really aren’t either, even if they help the mainstream heroes. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t ever crossover, and they can definitely be brought together to face a world-threatening danger every once in a while. But magic characters and supernatural heroes thrive in unstructured, controlled chaos group-settings, not teams with signal devices and charters.

    1. I haven’t covered any Phantom Stranger stories on MIDNIGHT…THE PODCASTING HOUR yet, but I’m hoping that will change a lot in 2018.

  5. You guys know I enjoy both of your work on the show, so don’t take this the wrong way, but I couldn’t seem to pay full attention to this episode and dosed off a bit for chunks of it. I’m not going to pretend to have my finger on the pulse of Spectre fandom, but have you ever noticed how no one seems to care that this book existed? When someone brings up the Spectre, it’s usually in relation to the Fleisher/Aparo or Ostrander/Mandrake runs, but certainly the Golden Age material and ’60s Showcases and even ol’ Crispus Allen have their fans. But this run? It came out of a spotlight performance in Crisis On Infinite Earths and the prestige reprint Wrath of the Spectre. It routinely featured a who’s who of DC’s magical sphere. It arrived as an upscale direct market edition when Swamp Thing still had heat on it and the run spanned tie-ins to both Millennium and Invasion! What happened in this series? Uh, Jim Corrigan was a p.i. or something and Madame Xanadu had a tarot card shop in the same building maybe and I think the Spectre was a separate entity like Johnny’s Thunderbolt? Right? How long did it actually run for? I’d don’t recall seeing any issues beyond the teens, but I’m not confident I’d have noticed, either. Oh wait, the issue you covered was already in the 20s, and a 6-part story arc was announced to follow? Okay then. Who drew it? Mignola and Art Adams (and Kaluta?) did some covers, and I believe Gray Morrow did interiors at some point. I definitely remember that Doug Moench wrote most of the run, I think, possibly. *Checks cover scan* See, he wrote this one!

    People may condemn the Jared Stevens Fate series (plural,) but at least they know one existed. Which is a worse circumstance, I wonder? For the record, optics notwithstanding, the first run of Fate was surprisingly good… If you can get past the lousy first story arc by John Francis Moore to the odd couple pairing with Alan Scott written by the sadly underrated Len Kaminski. Then they restarted the title with Giffen & Wagner, which was actually as bad as everyone assumes the first series would have been. I definitely prefer Dr. Fate as a concept more than any specific incarnation, so I’m more open to varied interpretations. I could certainly see Fate running around with a battle ax more readily than I can Stephen Strange.

    The Demon Etrigan is my favorite of the characters featured in this issue. Unlike Kent Nelson, I still own my DC Direct Etrigan action figure, which is on one of my shelves right now. My podcasting partner Mister Fixit owns the final pages from the last issue of the ’90s series (and I’m the one who turned him on to the Ennis/McCrea run in the first place.)

    I have no use for “Justice League Dark.” I can’t stand that every DC character is a Leaguer and every Marvel one is an Avenger. Sentinels of Magic. Shadowpact. Call it something that means something and we can talk. I agree with Ryan that it’s better to toss these guys together for a crisis that really sells the stakes when it can bring such a motley band together. I don’t want “Boston” always razzing “Ma’am-Xan” who’s dating “Jason” who’s constantly antagonizing straight-laced team leader “Kent” or some crap like that.

    Forget this revisionism. Geo-Force, Halo, and Looker are all garbage characters. The later additions are garbage characters with extra hobo piss and hooker vomit on top. Their villains are a searing commentary on how awful the heroes were. Katana only gets a pass because she’s one of DC’s first and still few Asian super-heroes. Black Lightning and Metamorpho are a peanut butter and salmon sandwich. BATO can GTFO.

    As I guy who has been notably dismissive of Cyborg and Black Lightning as characters with long histories of comic book lameness, I applaud their transitioning to live action and hope they prove to have greater value in that medium than in this one. I’m not sure I’m up to extending Extrano even that pale acknowledgment (can you smell the musky stank of my straight white maleness?) but I’m glad his mere existence offered comfort to the otherwise invisible portions of ’80s mainstream readership.

    “Flying capes made from cow stomachs? What a bunch of tripe!”

    I got that. Also, I have never really liked Deadman, either. Been waiting to elaborate on that, but Midnight’s coverage seems to have stalled.

    1. To answer your questions about The Spectre vol.2, it lasted 31 issues plus an Annual. Its initial artist was Gene Colan. And Doug Moench wrote the whole of the series.

  6. Wow, this did seem to be ill-advised on all levels. A non-crossover crossover issue. Why bother?

    Chris Wozniak never did much for me. His figures were too bulbous and extreme. His work now looks like a chunky Todd McFarlane with line weight added in.

    I’m going to beat my drum again about Doctor Fate. He was at the all-time height of his popularity around 1985-87… and DC let Giffen and DeMatties chuck all that for the whole Linda/Eric thing. I had a subscription to the ongoing series, but it wasn’t the Fate I wanted. They’ve been scrambling to get back to a classic Doctor Fate ever since, but it never felt right. They missed that window to etch the “cal-lassic” version in stone, hence the character’s shaky foundation since.

    I will always have a soft spot for the Phantom Stranger thanks to his important role in the Greatest Batman Story Ever Told, “To Kill A Legend” by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano from Detective Comics #500.

    Fun episode, despite the non-tie-in nature of the comic.


  7. Started listening to the podcast very late, thus the extremely tardy comment.

    Very much enjoyed the episode, even though I still have no interest in reading the comic in question. That’s how it goes sometimes. But good job, S&B.

    Side note 1: I haven’t read any classic Phantom Stranger stories, but in recent years he seems like part Uatu the Watcher. Just introduced to see the action, but only narrates and lets other characters save the day because it’s “fate”. Sigh.

    SIde note 2: Who remembers the real first DC all-magic team? It was in Blue Devil Summer Fun Special #1! Yes, that one. Black Orchid. Madame Xanadu. Creeper. Etrigan. Phantom Stranger. And of course, Blue Devil! It was also great in that the characters all agreed, “that’s sorted, now let’s never do this again!”

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