Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spectral Televisions

The last time Fox TV went into business with DC Comics, we emerged with Human Target, which showed enough promise at the outset  -- both creatively and in the Nielsens -- to warrant a second season pickup, but which swiftly went south on both fronts thanks to the dreaded network interference, and was put out to pasture last May. But while Target may have flamed out a lot quicker than anyone involved (and I) would have liked, that isn't stopping the net from going back to the DC well once again, with this week's news that they're developing a weekly skein based on long-running supernatural vigilante The Spectre, who first appeared in 1940 courtesy of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel (along with artist Bernard Baily).

While the character, hard-bitten police detective Jim Corrigan, whose unjust murder prompts God to revive him as the personification of His wrath, has been around for awhile -- including an acclaimed 1970s run that aroused plenty of controversy for the character's dispensing of some Old Testament-style justice (like turning crooks into blocks of wood and his own arms into chainsaws, or turning crooks into paper and his hands into scissors -- see the pattern?) -- my own Spectral fascination comes from what was at the time and remains to this day one of my all-time favorite comic runs, a terrific, and terribly-underrated, 1992-'97 series written by John Ostrander and primarily illustrated by Tom Mandrake.

During its too-short-yet-just-right 62 issue span, the book seamlessly alternated between the super-heroic and the super-horrific, with plenty of time for high-minded discussions of morality and spirituality, and a sniffle-inducing final issue that's the perfect cap to a near-perfect run. While he's probably too low-key to effectively play on the big screen (where DC can't even get its big guns to work!), the TV format is a no-brainer for this character, who can excel in smaller-scale, introspective stories. Although "in development" doesn't mean much, and could well amount to nothing when all is said and done, this is one project I really hope materializes. If they take even a little bit of a cue from the Ostrander-Mandrake Spectre, it has the potential to be something really special.


Abdul-Halim V. said...

hmmm... I'm not sure how I feel about that. Isn't the Spectre too God-like and omnipotent to be a dramatic character?

But when you mentioned Human Target (which I haven't followed at all to be honest) it made me think that it would be interesting to see something like the Marvel comic Alias with Jessica Jones would make an interesting tv series. Sort of a Noir-ish private detective at the edges of a world with superheroes in it.

Zaki said...

As far as I know, a Jessica Jones series is in development at ABC under the title AKA JESSICA JONES (since ALIAS has been claimed already).

As far as Spectre being too powerful, I think that's one of the character's appeals. It's not about what new thing he's going to use to dispatch that week's baddie, but how Corrigan reconciles the vengeful part of his nature with the human part (which, in the mythology, is the reason God joined the two aspects together -- so wrath will be tempered with humanity).

Could lead to some pretty great television if -- IF! -- it's done right. I'd almost prefer to see this thing end up on FX rather than network, where it would have more flexibility to be true to its premise.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Wow, I actually didn't know that before about Jessica Jones being in development. Thanks.

I agree that the Spectre occupies an interesting space in the DC mythology.