SHOWCASE #60 featuring The Spectre February 1966
Murphy Anderson original artist
For what seemed likes months, the slogan "The Spectre Is Coming!"--complete with snazzy logo--crept into the nooks and crannies of the entire DC Comics line during the fall of 1965, and I for one couldn't have been more delighted!! Seeing that promise written across the bottom of at least one page of virtually every DC book really ratcheted up the excitement level!! What's the big fuss about, you ask? Well, it was the Spectre, you understand, THE SPECTRE! I'd first gazed on his ghostly visage four years earlier on a text page included in the Atom's debut appearance in SHOWCASE#34 (coincidentally my first issue as well).
In an attempt to explain the Tiny Titan's antecedents, editor Julius Schwartz reproduced a picture of the Justice Society of America and explained to newcomers (me!!) that several of that era's superstars had forefathers in what was being described as some sort of Golden Age of Comics, the Atom being the latest to take on the name of a character from the past. This notion that there had been an entire line of costumed crime-fighters that predated my interest in the field by a good fifteen to twenty years fascinated me no end! Remember, at this time old comics were neither easily accessible nor were they being reprinted in any form whatsoever. We were still a few months away from the landmark " Flash of Two Worlds" which reintroduced the original Flash to a modern audience and set the stage for the soon to be annual Justice League/Justice Society summer summits. All I had to dwell on then were several crude illustrations and scant little information gleaned from the text portion of that single page. From those paltry scraps I conjured up this glorious image of a long lost, almost mythical group of characters. Without ever reading one, I almost instantly became a lifelong fan of Golden Age comics!!

And so, finally, here was the Spectre. I say "finally" because in the intervening time, every other member of the JSA seated around that table with the Ghostly Guardian--and even some that weren't-- (it was a partial repro of the cover of ALL STAR COMICS#3 for those of you keeping score) had systematically and methodically been reintroduced to the swingin' sixties audience one by one. All except the Spectre. But when DC finally did it, they did it up right. Heralding it as "The Most Exciting Comic Book Event of the Past 20 Years", it didn't need the hard sell to send me off into an unsightly froth, but, golly, the big lead-up only intensified my anticipation!! Oboy! I couldn't wait until November 24th, the scheduled on sale date, and when it finally arrived and I'd secured a copy of SHOWCASE #60, guess what? I LOVED IT!! Beyond the truly classic cover, artist Murphy Anderson's art inspired awe with its combination of far-ranging scope combined with exquisite attention to detail. And Gardner Fox's script? Everything I needed in a cosmic comic book epic when I was twelve years old, I assure you. (Okay, okay, that's coded double speak for it really doesn't hold up anymore, but it sure seemed swell at the time...) After a few more tryout issues, our hero graduated to his own title, but it was as much a ghost as he was before long. Subsequently, he's been revived a score of times over the decades, usually without much lasting success. Maybe DC knew what they were doing when they stalled as long as they did before reintroducing the Disembodied Detective. Didn't matter. I'll always love my pale ol' pal if only for this single issue and all the excitement it drummed up. "The Spectre Is Coming! The Spectre Is Coming!" And I for one, folks, was glad he did!!

On a purely personal note (as opposed to the partially personal note above, perhaps?..), there's another reason this comic resides so prominently and so significantly in my memory banks. Y'see, up to that point, I'd bought virtually all my comics at Heisenbuttel's General Store in Yaphank, the small town we lived in. My folks stopped there most every day to pick up our daily newspapers and any stay milk, bread, or whatnot we might need. Fact is the owner, Henry Heisenbuttel, also did our taxes for us so we all knew each other fairly well. Once my interest in funnybooks became blatantly obvious, they were kind enough to allow me into the back of the store when a new shipment of books arrived and would snip the metal wires, giving me first crack at the latest releases. Although it was located about a mile from my house on Frank Avenue, traveling down to Main Street on my Schwinn bike--or even walking--was hardly a bother. But for some reason that I never fully understood, shortly after SHOWCASE #60 hit the stands at Heisenbuttels, they stopped getting Marvel and DC Comics in!?! Oh, there were Harveys, Charlton, and other lesser publishers available, but soon after even these lines disappeared!! What was I to do? It was panic time, no doubt about it, and the next year and a half was a nightmare! We'd find a new outlet, only to see it prove unreliable for some reason or other, then have to search out yet another place that sold all my faves, no easy task. Compounding the problem was the fact that none of these various places were nearby, and I was wholly dependant on my parents for getting access to them. Luckily, they were pretty good about humoring their only child, even if they never did fully grasp the mania behind my obsession (hey, I'm not even sure I do!?!...). After years of being a pampered comics consumer, it was a rude awakening to go from the kindly assistance of Henry and Helen Heisenbuttel to be thrown into an uncaring consumer environment where it's every man for himself and good luck grabbing that last copy of this month's FANTASTIC FOUR!?! SHOWCASE#60 may not've been exactly the LAST comic I purchased at my local venue, but due to the prominent advertising campaign associated with it, it sticks out in my mind as one of the final purchases I made in blissful ignorance. I do know that the very next issue was bought at a soda shop in Coram where you took your life in your hands trying to cross an extremely busy road to get to it. Within a few short months THAT place proved faulty and it was time to move on again. Sigh. Who knew that when the Spectre was coming, I'd soon be going?...