You would think the hardest thing to do in comics is to come up with a cool new hero. Wrong! Its far harder to come up with a compelling villain. You want someone who the reader loves to see being evil. Someone on par with your hero yet not too powerful to actually kill him. And you need to do that every few issues. Needless to say there have been quite a few less-than-spectacular villains. A lot of them coming from the Golden Age. I am going to occasionally take a look at some of these villains just to remind readers that okay, Armadillo may not have been the best Captain America villain of all time…. but he could have been worse.
Today we’re going to look at Doctor Spectro! Now that is a name you’d only get in the 60’s. He was created to fight Captain Atom in issue #79 back when Charlton Comics owned the series. The issue was written by Joe Gill and drawn by Steve Ditko… which explains the rainbow colored sleeves and legs. I love Ditko’s art, but he really could have gone with the 8 color crayola box over the 64 pack.
The story is about a nameless doctor who created a series of prisms that he could use to control human emotions. So of course he was kidnapped to help a group of thugs with a bank robbery. My guess is the big plan was to make everyone cry while they stole the money. But the good doctor refused to help, so they threw him into his machinery… standard thug practice 101. And of course the doctor ended up with the prism powers himself just like when I fell into my stereo equipment I gained the power of saying “Owww!” very loud. So now that the doctor has the prism power, making him a human mood ring.. he of course decides to rob a bank. Turns out he’s a bit moody. And he immediately takes to calling himself Doctor Spectro!!! Why he didn’t go with Doctor Prism is anyone’s guess.
Doctor Spectro was confronted by Captain Atom and disintegrated when he came in contact with some high tension wires. Lesson to kids, don’t touch power lines. Mind you disintegration isn’t what it used to be as Spectro returned to face Atom again three months later.
When DC Comics bought out Charlton, Spectro was included in the package, like a twist of lime you get when you order a salmon. He appeared in issues 9 and 10 of Crisis on Infinite Earths, made a few other appearances and was killed in the novelization of Infinite Crisis at the hands of Superboy-Prime. He wasn’t respected enough to die in the actual comic. For a while he was used as the butt of jokes in the Green Arrow series, mainly referring to his rather garish costume.
He did get a moment in the multi-colored spotlight with an appearance on the animated Batman: Brave and the Bold when he teamed up with the equally vibrant Crazy Quilt and Rainbow Raider.
My biggest fear in starting these columns is that one of my writing colleagues will read this and think, “I can make the character relevant!” Maybe you could? But should you? Seriously? I think that perhaps letting Doctor Spectro stay dead would be the true gift to the comic industry.