Thursday, October 9, 2014


The question of which Charlton Comics characters ended up at DC Comics during the acquisition of the company’s stock remains a bit up in the air. The rights to Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, of course reverted to the estate of his creator and has recently popped up at Dynamite, while the characters commonly referred to as the company’s “Action Heroes” were definitely sold, including such relative obscurities as the Son of Vulcan.

Among the unknowns is Pat Boyette’s Spookman, a ghostly, time-travelling tomb raider dressed in Cotton Mather’s spare suit. Debuting in Charlton Premiere vol.2 No.1 (September 1967), the character enjoyed a single appearance which made it difficult to call him a “hero” necessarily. He ends up being a bit more of a super-strong, fright-masked time burglar with no particular penchant for damage control.

Crispin, you fuckup.
Debuting alongside equally lesser-known Charlton inventions The Shape and Tyro Team, Spookman is “a terrifying monstrosity of strength,” which is also what they used to call me when I sand the blues. Headquartered just off Gramercy Park in New York (his address lands him right next door to the National Arts Club, if you want to go sightseeing for nonexistent comic book abodes like a weirdo), Spookman is actually the brilliant but easily dissuaded archaeologist Aaron Piper. “Disillusioned by his failure to decipher Etruscan texts,” according to the story, Piper opens an art gallery featuring great treasures of history he’s plundered and is making a buck offa. Some hero.

One of his expeditions, undertaken while accompanied by his biographer and assistant Crispin X. Crispin (not to be confused with Crispin X Versus Sever), puts into Piper’s possession an enchanted moonstone which “provokes the metamorphosis” into Spookman! Decked out in proto-Puritan garb and armed with a Malacca cane (according to one cane-centric website I used for research, this is referred to as “The King of Canes”) and Opera cape, Spookman possesses an advertised array of weird powers, the chief among which are his tremendous strength and apparent ability to hop around the timestream with relative impunity.

For all of his tremendous powers, though, Spookman’s raison d’etre is to hop around history, stealing special orders for his cash-happy clientele. His first adventure takes him and Crispin X.Crispin (of the Connecticut Crispins and also the Baltimore Crispins) to ancient Rome and the court of Nero, with the intention of swiping a valuable statue. When Nero’s guards take notice of the time-displaced duo, Crispin actually does the day-saving – sort of – by offering Nero his cigarette lighter in exchange for the statue. Let’s see, that statue is worth thousands and the lighter he probably got for forty-nine cents at Circle K, some profit!

"Bitcoins, Sealand dollars, you know, cryptocurrency ..."
Naturally, giving Nero a flick lighter leads to the predictable historical outcome, and when Spookman takes his dogsbody and heads back homeward, it’s with a burning empire in the background. Oh well, he got his statue, get paid baby. It’s a cash world.

No origin is ever given for Spookman or the moonstone which transforms him, much less for the off and incongruous powers which he possesses.  This is a terrible shame, because imagine all the neat potential story ideas inherent in a time-travelling Puritan. Just think of all the things he’d expunge from history! At the very least, you’d think he would’ve used his time-travel powers to, like, throw a few Popes into the ocean or something. Maybe destroy all iconography, possibly arrange for everyone to be named Prudence and Goody and stuff. High times with the monstrously strong Puritan time-traveler, is what I’m suggesting basically …

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