[[caption-width-right:300:If you're a criminal, and you meet this guy, you're screwed.]]

The Spectre is a Creator/DCComics character. He's a superhero ghost, though in practice [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation he has been everything]] from a supernatural serial killer (of criminals) to the Agent of {{God}}'s {{Wrath}} over the years.

The character first appeared in ''"More Fun Comics''" #52 (February, 1940), created by [[Franchise/{{Superman}} Jerry Siegel]] and [[ComicBook/{{Hourman}} Bernard Baily]]. In his origin story, the Spectre was Jim Corrigan, a police detective who was murdered by criminals. In the afterlife, he decried the injustice of his murder, and an unseen voice (later interpreted as being {{God}}'s) granted his wish: he returned to life, but with supernatural powers that he soon used to kill his murderers.

At this point, other than in his physical appearance, Spectre was your typical supernatural avenger character. However at the time, superheroes were getting in vogue, so he was soon added to the roster of the ComicBook/JusticeSocietyOfAmerica, and treated pretty much as any other superhero; he even acted and talked as casually as the others. He also found himself [[TheWorfEffect easily defeated despite his nonliving nature and his incredible powers]], just so the other members of the group could have a chance to save the day. As for Corrigan, he broke off his engagement to Clarice Winston since he was no longer a living human being, but otherwise he just went on with his life, as if nothing had happened (his murder never having been discovered.)

The relationship between Corrigan and The Spectre varied over the years; at one point, they were actually separate characters, with The Spectre merely using Corrigan's body to "rest" when he needed to, much to the latter's chagrin.

The Spectre held his own series in ''"More Fun Comics''" until issue #101 (January, February, 1945). He was regularly featured with the Justice Society in ''"All-Star Comics''" #3-23 (Winter, 1940 - Winter, 1944). The character was then dropped for the following twenty years. He was revived in ''"Showcase''" #60-61 (January-April, 1966). He also appeared in #64 (September-October, 1966), before gaining his own magazine. ''"Spectre''" vol. 1 lasted for 10 issues, from December, 1967 to June, 1969. In the [[TheSeventies 1970s]], the Spectre was revamped, now being taken back to his original horror roots: he would track down murderers and then execute them in some pretty twisted ways (for example, turning a hood to wood and then cutting him with a buzzsaw.)

The Spectre also found himself becoming more and more powerful: in his fight against Shathan (a poorly disguised Satan stand-in) they hit each other with ''planets''. Spectre was eventually acknowledged as one of the mightiest beings in the Franchise/DCUniverse, even more so than UsefulNotes/{{the Silver Age|of Comic Books}} Superman. About the only beings stronger were ComicBook/ThePhantomStranger (though pretty much DependingOnTheWriter) and God himself. This limited him to making appearances only when the universe was threatened by supernatural menaces, and usually [[DeusExMachina only long enough to fix some problem and then leave]].

ComicBook/PostCrisis, The Spectre was reinvented as the actual embodiment of God's Wrath. He had his own series again, which explored the reasons for his existence. Ultimately it was revealed that the Spectre was actually a fallen angel pardoned by God by being turned into his personal avenger and not just part of Corrigan's soul. Corrigan in fact was tired of living and willingly separated from The Spectre and went on to Heaven.

This left the Spectre without a host, which made it reckless; eventually he bonded with the then-dead [[GreenLantern Hal Jordan]], who tried to twist the Spectre's mission from vengeance to redemption. This was later undone by Jordan's resurrection. Again left without a host, the Spectre was tricked by Eclipso (who ironically was once God's Avenger as well) into killing most of the magic-users in the Franchise/DCUniverse since she convinced him that "magic goes against God's will". (This turned out to be part of a larger GambitRoulette to recreate the DC Multiverse, as seen in ComicBook/InfiniteCrisis.) He was stopped only by being bonded (by God) to Crispus Allen, another recently-murdered cop. (DC teased the audience by having his killer also be named Jim Corrigan.)

After the ComicBook/{{New 52}} reboot, [[LegacyImplosion the original Jim Corrigan]] is back as the Spectre once again, although under different circumstances this time, tying into the rebooted version of ComicBook/ThePhantomStranger as well.

The Spectre received [[WesternAnimation/DCShowcaseTheSpectre a twelve-minute animated short]] as a bonus on the ''WesternAnimation/JusticeLeagueCrisisOnTwoEarths'' DVD. A pre-Spectre Jim Corrigan made an appearance on ''Series/{{Constantine}}'' with a quick vision indicating his grim future.

!!Tropes involving this character:

* AesopCollateralDamage: During John Ostrander's run on it, this was sometimes used to demonstrate the AntiHero's BlackAndWhiteMorality extremism. Such as threatening to destroy every person in the state of New York if the ''legal'' State of New York sent an innocent man to death.
* AffirmativeActionLegacy: The current host of the Spectre is an African American. Not quite "Black" since the Spectre is always whiter than the moon.
* AllCrimesAreEqual: Has a tendency to believe this when not bound to a human host. Once when he was between hosts he went from murdering a serial killer (eaten by crows), then a cheating wife and her lover (strangled by their bedsheets), then a little boy who stole six dollars from his mother's purse (drowned in a sea of pennies), then a girl who spoke rudely to her father (beheaded), then a man who cheated on his taxes (impaled on a giant pen).
* ArchEnemy: Has several:
** Zor, another spirit wandering the Earth, who chose to spread evil instead of fight it.
** Eclipso, his predecessor as the personification of God's Wrath who turned evil.
** Azmodus, a demon who seduced the Spectre's first human host.
** [[Characters/GLSinestroCorps Parallax]], who holds a grudge on him for separating it from Hal Jordan.
** [[Characters/GLRedLanternCorps Butcher]], whom the Spectre considers to be a perversion of his mission as the embodiment of God's Wrath.
* TheAtoner: The Angel Aztar, who was one of the rebellious angels, but apparently the only one that repented. As penance, he must fuse with the soul of a dead man and purge the world of evil. [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption One sinner at a time.]]
* BalefulPolymorph: A usual punishment meted out by Spectre.
* BewareTheSuperman: The most powerful RealityWarper in the [=DCverse=] is also dedicated to the explicit purpose of murderously punishing anyone he considers a "sinner". And he has no sense of scale (all crimes warrant death, from rape and murder to taking some pocket change from your mother's purse) or reluctance to slay innocents in pursuit of his goals.
* BumblingSidekick: Yes, even the Spectre had one in the Golden Age - "Percival Popp, the Super Cop."
** Eventually TookALevelInBadass after he died; he's still bumbling, but not to be messed with.
* CementShoes: This is how Jim Corrigan became the Spectre in the first place. He was hit on the head, put in a barrel, covered with cement and then tossed in a river. When his spirit returns from death he looks over and sees the barrel lying on the bottom of the river with his dead hand sticking out. Gruesome.
** Retconned by John Ostrander: [[spoiler: Corrigan choked to death on the cement before he could drown.]]
* CrisisCrossover: Since ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'' the Spectre has fallen to the WorfEffect or been conveniently absent.
** During ''ComicBook/CrisisOnInfiniteEarths'' itself, the Spectre wrestled the fully-charged [[BigBad Anti-Monitor]], at the Big Bang, empowered by all the magic-users of the multiverse, to determine whose hand would shape the cosmos. At the peak of the battle, the Spectre was implicitly more powerful than ''God.'' The result was the collapse of the multiverse into the unified DC Universe. After that, ''everything'' is a letdown.
* CrossoverCosmology: In the DCU, every god is real.
* CruelAndUnusualDeath: A specialty of the character
* DramaPreservingHandicap: For a character as powerful as the Spectre he sure has a lot of problems.
* DeusExMachina: He's literally a DeusExMachina because he is God's personal hitman.
* DeusExitMachina: A frequent victim because of his immense power.
* FallenAngel: Aztar was one who repented before he became the Spectre.
* FlatEarthAtheist: One host of the Spectre ''was'' an atheist -- before God revived him as The Spectre.
* {{Foil}}: Reporter Earl Crawford in the Jim Aparo series. While the Spectre believed in punishing criminals beyond their crimes, Crawford believed that wrong doers deserved a fair trial and a chance to face up to their crimes.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: See FridgeHorror above. One point of the Comic Code Authority was that it said humans couldn't be set on fire. One comic got around this by removing the "Human" part of the equation and letting Spectre turn a criminal into a candle. There was no rule against burning a candle, even if it was screaming in pain as you did it.
* GodIsGood: The Spectre is a superhero in that he avenges those who were innocent and cry out for justice. But...
** See ThrowAwayCountry below for a more extreme example.
* TheGodsMustBeLazy: The Presence only intervenes when it damn feels like it. He's been noticeably sparing about using his gifts against people like, say, actual supervillains. Apparently, there are rules. Somewhere.
** The trope is lampshaded, and explored, in ''Final Crisis: Revelations''. The Spectre and his fellow avatar, the Radiant, find themselves powerless against the forces of evil who have taken over the Earth - and not even ''they'' know why they can't do anything about it.
** The Ostrander/Mandrake ongoing Spectre series cleared up many facts about the Spectre-force: while it is the literal embodiment of God's wrath, it is not allowed to roam free, but must be bound to a mortal soul, who in turn decides how to use its power. But most of this seems to have been forgotten in recent years; for example during the ComicBook/InfiniteCrisis miniseries the Spectre, now without a host, sought to ironically kill anyone he could find [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking regardless of their crimes severity]] (i.e a kid stealing $6 from his mother is drowned in change). He then caused mass destruction (being an unwitting pawn of some villains) and God only stopped it after it caused the end of the 9th Age of Magic (by killing off the Lords of Order and Chaos.)
* HeroWithAnFInGood: He means well, but he got such a low grade in good that God keeps him bound to a human soul just to give him a cheat sheet.
* HorrifyingHero: He's a wrathful angel possessing a dead human's body with god-like RealityWarper powers and a maniacal fixation on punishing sinners... which he does by dealing out nightmarish deaths and transformations. He's also willing to deal out the same punishments for even the most meagre crimes. If it wasn't for the fact he's normally shown dealing with absolute scum, he'd be an outright VillainProtagonist.
* HumanoidAbomination: If his [[PhysicalGod power]] [[OurAngelsAreDifferent and origins]] didn't tip you off, [[NightmareFuel his disposition will.]]
* InvincibleHero: The Spectre is one of the most powerful beings in the entire universe. Needless to say, he hasn't hung out with a bunch of mere mortals like the JSA much since UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfComicBooks. A memorable run on his comics side-stepped this by having him pass judgement on morally ambiguous situations and focusing on his choices.
* JokerImmunity: The Spectre once tried to pass Judgment on ComicBook/TheJoker; he failed, because for all his viciousness, the Joker is still crazy, and thus not responsible for his acts.
* KarmicDeath: The Spectre arranges these.
* KarmaHoudini: The Spectre's purpose is to make sure murderers don't become these. He doesn't punish ''every'' murderer; only those who would otherwise escape justice.
* KnightTemplar: Has a tendency to go overboard. See (again) ThrowAwayCountry, and also his plan to kill ''New York'' if an innocent man who had been found guilty was put to death, essentially because the case was titled that man "vs the State of New York". Sometimes his human host is portrayed as the only thing holding him back from being an AxCrazy AllCrimesAreEqual nutjob.
* LackOfEmpathy: There's a damn good reason why the Spectre needs a human host -- he may want to inflict justice, but the host gives him enough compassion, and hence restraint, to prevent [[KnightTemplar going overboard.]]
* LovecraftianSuperpower
* MonsterModesty: Despite being an all-powerful instrument of God, he has a strange knack for wearing as little as possible.
* MurderousMannequin: In ''Adventure Comics'' #434 (during the Michael Fleisher run), the Spectre battles a mannequin maker whose mannequins come to life and commit murder. After defeating his creations, the Spectre transforms the maker into a mannequin himself.
* TheOmniscient: As a divine agent, the Spectre has access to virtually all of the knowledge in the universe and is even aware of events that have been altered by distortions in time.
* OmniscientMoralityLicense: What makes the Spectre so creepy; while his intentions are good, in many ways he's just as bad as the criminals he punishes, making him arguably not much more than a SerialKillerKiller with superpowers.
** An interesting interpretation behind why he [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption can never return to Heaven]] is that he ''thinks'' he has this, when the reality is that he does ''not''. In other words, God Himself disapproves of the lengths the Spectre goes to in pursuit of vengeance, but can't really punish or reprimand the Spectre, because he is still technically doing what God wants him to do, beyond denying him a return to Heaven until he realises he's staining his soul with evil in the name of good.
** Post ''ComicBook/{{Flashpoint}}, this has changed somewhat. The presence has claimed that the Spectre is not the embodiment of wrath but instead the embodiment of justice. He also stated that both the Spectre and Phantom Stranger need to open their eyes to what they are meant to be. How this affects the Spectre's divine status is not yet known.
* OurAngelsAreDifferent: The non-human half of the Spectre Entity.
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: The human half of the Spectre Entity.
* PowerCreepPowerSeep: Makes Superman's climb look puny.
** Lampshaded by [[ComicBook/{{Hellblazer}} John Constantine]] in ''ComicBook/TheBooksOfMagic'':
--->'''Constantine''': Sometimes it's one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Sometimes it's little more than a bloke in green tights.
* PowersThatBe: The Voice, aka The Presence, aka God.
* RealityWarper: The Spectre is capable of warping and controlling reality. He can use his ability to control reality to simulate any form of superpower or ability from shapeshifting to warping time and space.
* RefusingParadise - Done as a SadisticChoice early on to The Spectre; the Voice (implied to be God) says he's now earned the ability to pass on to Heaven, one time only offer... just as his love interest has a bullet speeding at her head.
* SemiDivine: The Spectre, as a dead human who is the host of (the [[OurAngelsAreDifferent angel]] that represents) God's Wrath/Vengeance.
* ShoutOut: To ''Toys/{{BIONICLE}}'' [[http://www.collectinghq.com/im/0000912.jpg here]].
* SociopathicHero: Ruthless and with a slightly-off morality, he's nonetheless pointing in the right direction.
* StoryBreakerPower: [[JustifiedTrope Being a virtually omnipotent entity with all the powers of a god]], this is a given.
* ThrowAwayCountry: Vlatava, a minor European country, was ''completely slaughtered'' by the Spectre after passing judgment on it for war crimes, presumably even including the children. The sole survivors were two opposing politicians. Curiously, one of them was the supervillain Count Vertigo.
* {{Teleportation}}
* VoiceOfTheLegion: He speaks in fiery or dripping green speech balloons.
* VoluntaryShapeshifting
* WeaksauceWeakness: As nigh-omnipotent as he is, he's completely powerless against any opponent that does not possess ''both'' a.) a soul and b.) free will. This stipulation on his powers [[HoldingBackThePhlebotinum prevented him from ending]] both ''Comicbook/FinalCrisis'' and ''Comicbook/BlackestNight'' instantly.
* WhatTheHellHero: Happens very often, including burning an entire country to the ground.
* TheWorfEffect: He has a tendency to be defeated by whatever villain writers are favoring that week. Mostly because if he ''did'' intervene, he'd kill the villain instantly making for a boring story.
** WorfHadTheFlu: The writers are usually good enough to give an in-universe explanation.