The Spectre, not seen since his final appearance in More Fun Comics at the start of 1945, makes his return in trio of Showcase tryouts during the period 1964 – 1967: The New Look. These issues would succeed in gaining the Spectre his own book, but that would not begin until the start of the next period. But the ghostly hero would make one other appearance before then, teaming up with the Flash in an issue of Brave and the Bold. These stories brought back not only the Spectre but also his policeman alter ego, Jim Corrigan. The later Spectre stories, where he was the invisible helper to Percival Popp, the Super Cop, were quietly ignored.
Showcase 60 features the Spectre’s return, and the issue contains a one page text page detailing the origin of the character, how hard boiled policeman Jim Corrigan was betrayed and murdered, and then brought back as a vengeful ghost. The page briefly indicates how Jim and the Spectre split shortly before the series ended. The splash page makes no qualms that this is going to be a big cosmic return. Holy crap, the Spectre and some devilish looking guy (Azmodus) are hitting each other with comets! It looks a bit silly, but Murphy Anderson does let the reader know that this will be a Spectre tale aiming to hit the heights of the original series. It does so, almost. Not grisly at all, which is the one failing, but it was the wrong period for that. The story starts off very normal and average, a treasure in a castle, and Jim Corrigan introduced, along with two others, who will take part in a seance. The seance has the unintentional effect of releasing the Spectre from Jim's body. Neither the Spectre nor Corrigan know how or why the Spectre got sealed up inside of him for decades. Hoods are trying to kill Jim, the same ones who stole money earlier in the story.
The action is neatly divided between tough cop Jim and the deadly Spectre, who displays a variety of powers, including growing to giant size, swallowing bullets, flight, intangibility, and the power to transform objects. Putting him up against commonplace hoods is no match at all. Fortunately, their leader turns out to be Azmodus, a cosmic entity very similar to the Spectre, inhabiting a human host. Azmodus was the reason the Spectre got sealed in to Corrigan, as they were too similar, and could not both exist on Earth at the same time. When the Spectre got freed from his host, so did Azmodus. We get a big awesome comet hurling fight, as Jim fights Azmodus' host. When Jim triumphs, the Spectre is able to best Azmodus. The Spectre traps Azmodus in non-space. It works really well. Azmodus does not return until the 90s, in John Ostrander's run of The Spectre.
Showcase 61 tries to top this, as villain builds its power by offering people on the verge of dying to extend their life, in exchange for their shadow. Jim Corrigan notices the absence of a shadow on a window washer who miraculously survived a fall, and sends out the Spectre to investigate. The Spectre almost immediately gets thrust "completely out of the physical universe." He winds up in a scary, evil, parallel universe, Dis. Anderson does some great work with the art in this issue. The Spectre growing to such a massive height that he can crush demons under his foot is one example. The Spectre learns about Dis from its ruler, Shathan. The Spectre finds out that Azmodus was one of Shathan's agents. Shathan was born at the moment of creation, as the Spectre witnesses, along with Dis.
In Earth-1 terms, this is the story of the creation of the anti-matter universe, and the Anti-Monitor, rather than something magical. Shathan is more powerful than the Spectre, but still thinks the guy is enough of a threat to send some of worshippers after Jim Corrigan. There is another excellent Anderson page on him trapped in a falling elevator. The Spectre triumphs only by luring Shathan back to the moment of creation, and then tossing the entity into the big bang, which rips Shathan apart.
After popping up in that year’s Justice League/Justice Society team up, the Spectre gets his last tryout appearance in Showcase 64. This story, which gives the Spectre more than ample opportunities for shape changing and growing, centres on a gambler, Ace Chance, killed for not paying his debts. Corrigan is on the case of the killers, and even the Spectre is helping out when the ghost of Ace Chance moves into Corrigan's vacated body. The Spectre knows Ace Chance is in Corrigan, but is unable to oust him.
Meanwhile, Chance creates problems, having Corrigan quit his job and propose marriage to the world's richest woman. The two spirits wind up in a really dramatic battle on the astral plane, and Anderson goes all out with this. The story pits the Spectre's good energy against Chance's bad energy, and of course the Spectre wins. Ace Chance has one last trick up his sleeve, casting an illusion to make Corrigan's body look like his own, but the Spectre sees through this.
A few months later the Spectre would team up with the Flash in Brave and the Bold 72. The cover is great, but the story doesn't really live up to its promise. The tale takes place on Earth-2, while the Flash is visiting the alternate world. The Flash winds up getting captured and handed over to the Ghost Ace, the ghost of a World War 1 pilot who wants vengeance against his former flying comrades. He turns the Flash into a sort-of ghost (because he doesn't actually kill him), and in this form can control him, and sends him out to capture the others, forcing them to fight dogfights with him. Detective Jim Corrigan gets onto the case of the missing men, and enlists the aid of his ghostly side, the Spectre. It doesn't take the Spectre long to find the Ghost Ace, and he rescues the kidnapped men.
The Spectre challenges the Ghost Ace to a dogfight, but the guy backs out, instead sending the Flash to fight the Spectre. The last few pages, detailing the fight, are really the only time the story kicks into high gear. The battle begins on Earth, but in the fashion of 1940s Spectre stories, moves to the cosmic. The resolution is a little weak, though, as a passing comet somehow restores the Flash to normal human form. The two heroes head back to Earth, and rather than face them, the Ghost Ace just sort of kills himself. He's already dead, so he isn't really killing himself, but he will now cease to exist in ghostly form.
The Spectre continues in the next period, 1967 – 1970: It’s a Happening!
The Spectre: Showcase 60 – 61, 64 (Jan/Feb – Mar/April 66, Sept/Oct 66)
Brave and the Bold 72 (June/July 67)
Next up – Hourman!