Title: The Sinister Lives of Captain Skull!
Writer: Gardner Fox
Penciller: Murphy Anderson
Inker: Murphy Anderson
Letterer: Ira Schnapp
Colorist: Jack Adler
Cover Artist: Murphy Anderson
Editor: Julius Shwartz
Characters: Jim Corrigan, Spectre, Joseph Clanton, Sir Guy the Cruel, Commodus, Paris Prince of Troy
Villain: Captain Skull
An experimental operation conjures a long dead, pirate, Captain Skull into the body of an American ambassador. Captain Skull pillages and plunders Gateway City until The Spectre intervenes to fight him throughout time and space. A wacky time travel, body swapping, reincarnation, science fiction, fantasy!
When popular American Ambassador, Joseph Clanton is publicly shot, the country's best surgeons do everything they can to keep him alive including the implementation of an experimental and untested anesthetic.
The surgery lasts for three hours. As the surgeons are speaking outside the operation room, a muscular man emerges, plowing through the doctors and out of the hospital. The doctors deduce that the man may have been the injured ambassador who is no longer on the operating table. Meanwhile the muscular menace is seen stealing a pirate outfit from a costume store by Detective Jim Corrigan.
As the pirate steals a car, Jim realizes he fits the A.R.B Bulletin of a mysterious character who rushed out of the operating room where ambassador Clanton was in surgery. A high-speed chase ensues while Jim draws his firearm and shoots out one of the pirate's tires which immediately re-inflates. Jim realizes that this is no ordinary case.
Jim pursues the pirate to Gateway Park where the statue of Gateway City's Spanish American Rough Rider Bucko Benjamin resides. Though Jim knows there are mystical forces at work, he decides to get out and apprehend the pirate anyway. As he approaches, the pirate is tearing apart the iron cage surrounding the monument without breaking a sweat. Jim punches the pirate in the back of the neck because I guess that's what you do to mystical, super strong pirates, only to himself take one on the jaw. The pirate, unaffected by Jim's attack mounts a fallen Jim Corrigan who has strategically placed his left leg and arm. The pirate speaks in first person as Cap'n Skull. Skull's speech is full of pirate slang and old English which clues Jim in that he is of the past. Using that to his advantage, Jim attempts a Judo throw figuring a pirate wouldn't know how to counter.
Successfully throwing Skull (who curses Jim in pirate speak), Jim notices that he's knocked the wind out of his opponent. A comforting thought that quickly dissipates as Skull begins to levitate into the air. Captain Skull nose dives into Jim who is laid out on the lawn around the statue.
While Jim is dazed on his face, Skull picks up the monument statue and hoists it above his head in preparation to crush Jim. As he hurls the statue downward, a giant, green gloved hand on a long pale arm emerges from the ground to catch it before any harm can come to Jim. The mysterious interception is revealed to be none other than The Spectre! Spectre asks Skull what he is doing in Gateway Park and why he is attacking Jim Corrigan.
Spectre demands an answer and an agitated Skull responds with an attack. The Spectre grows in size and becomes intangible (classic) but when the enraged pirate passes through him The Spectre notices a strange energy about the pirate. The energy has a quality that weakens Spectre's spectral power enough that he decides he has to defeat this enemy without touching him. His idea? Pick up a tree and bash Captain Skull into unconsciousness.
The Spectre's attack is countered by Skull who twirls his cutlass so fast it shreds the tree to nothing. Spectre senses the same harmful energy radiating off of the pirate's sword as he jumps over Skull's slash. Spectre summons a spectral sword to duel with but Skull summons a second sword that levitates and fights for him via remote control.
While Spectre defends himself against the self-wielding sword, Skull lifts the base that the statue once stood on and digs up a treasure chest. Seeing this, Spectre also figures the pirate is from another time period. As Skull is making his escape, Spectre is caught up dueling the phantom sword. He devises a plan to materialize in the fallen statue to confuse the sword.
His plan works and while the possessed sword hesitates to locate him, he breaks the enemy sword in two with one swing! With the threat defused he searches far and wide but yields no leads as to Skulls whereabouts. Spectre decides to meet up with Jim Corrigan to rest and compare notes.
Jim and The Spectre connect the dots that the the pirate and the ambassador are one and the same. To be sure of their findings, Spectre visits the astra-dimensions "where are to be found the many answers to perplexing problems" great stuff. The Spectre discovers that Captain Skull's psychic spirit was released when the experimental anesthesia was applied to Joseph Clanton (the ambassador).Because Skull was wrenched out of time it caused his psychic soul to become inundated with Cylic Forces as it reached the ambassador's body. He also learns that these Cylic Forces are a threat to his spectral power and that if he is unable to stop Skull, war will erupt on Earth. Meanwhile on Earth, Jim Corrigan hits the history books and discovers Captain Skull lived 1710-1764. He robbed and looted in his ship "The Bonny Venture" in the Caribbean Sea and off the Carolina coast. Spectre returns to tell Jim what he's uncovered in the mysterious Astra-Dimensions.
The next day Captain Skull is seen by two pilots flying a commercial plane at 50,000 feet! As Skull runs on air toward the plane, the giant Spectre crushes him between two giant rocks in each hand. When he separates them to see the state of the Skull, he is unaffected and left the impression of his body in the rock!
Skull fires several cannon balls filled with Megacylic energy from his sword? Magic is crazy...The Spectre creates a wind current with his cape while striking a hell of a pose. After the cannon balls go god only knows where he whips his cape back around creating a vortex of Astral Power!
Skull and Spectre are pulled into a (ever so 1960's looking) vortex. When they come out on the other side it's 1751 (The day Skull buried his treasure in what would become (Gateway City). Spectre expels Skull's evil spirit from the body of the ambassador using ripples in his cloak which at this point is a very handy garment.
The spirit of Captain Skull emerges from the ambassadors body. Now glowing in the harmful Megacylic energy, Skull is able to accelerate Spectre's vortex and drags them to Medieval times. Skull's aura enters the body of of Sir Guy the Cruel (who is Skull in a past life). Skull plans to use his old body with his new powers to become the richest and most powerful man of this era.
Sir Guy the Cruels face changes into Captain Skull! Skull orders the men of his army to fire arrows at the castle, which charged with Megacylic energy, do some serious damage. Spectre must end this but still can not make contact with him!
Spectre takes a moment to appreciate the oddity that the great American ambassador, Joseph Clanton could be such a rotten guy in two past lives. As Skull and his army charge the castle, Spectre rides a sunbeam reflecting off a sword into the eye of a soldier. "He's walking on sunshine! Wooooahhhh!' He materializes in the soldier without Skull knowing.
The Spectre (in a solider's body) clobbers Skull with a mace enchanted with Megacylic energy. The blow weakens Skull enough that Spectre can now handle Skull without harm. He brings Skull back into the vortex but he wakes up and flies back out of the vortex and into the famous Colosseum. Emperor Commodus, as it conveniently turns out also was Skull's ancestor. Hard to believe this guy was the ambassador about to bring about world peace on the first page...
Skull's opponent gladiator throws a net over him and The Spectre pulls down a lightning bolt from above the Colosseum which strikes down on the temporarily captured Skull. The electricity forces Skull out of Commodus' body. Skull is weakened enough from the lightning strike for Spectre to grab him and head back into the vortex only to again lose him to another time period. This time Skull steals the body of Paris, Prince of Troy.
Waiting till after Skull kills Achilles, Spectre's giant hand pushes down on the ground beside him releasing Earth's mighty natural gasses. Skull becomes numb and the arrow from the bow of Philoctetes strikes Paris (Skull) as history intended. Pulled back into the vortex, Skull summons up the very motes of time and hurls them at Spectre before unleashing cosmic winds that pull The Spectre away threatening to fly what's left of him after the attack in all directions throughout space and time!
As Spectre feels the cosmic tides washing through him, he uses every strange power he has. Basically Spectre turns it up to 11. Upward he stretches and grows until the universe is but a speck. Spectre bathes in the radio wave energy of a quasar (Megacylic energy) which cannot hurt him when not directed by a malignant mind. He sets history straight and then turns to Skull, who he no longer has to avoid contact with. Oh, it's on now! Spectre punches Skull precisely hard enough to send him to his respective timeline.
With the spirit of Skull in his proper body/timeline, the ambassador, Joseph Clanton is revived and the whole spirit, body swap thing has cured him somehow. Happy ending indeed. Meanwhile, Jim Corrigan has a cup of coffee.
Ok...wow. A lot is happening here and there are so many inconsistencies I won't even get into it. This story is proof to me that The Spectre works best when he is all powerful. He comes across goofy and awkward here as a hero type who struggles to save the day. I am much more interested in Jim Corrigan struggling and The Spectre owning it. That being said, I am not apposed to The Spectre having his own trials and tribulations but this comic really goofs him up. The M.V.P. (most valuable page) for me is definitely when Spectre defeats the remote controlled sword and then goes looking for the pirate. The panel where The Spectre stands giant over the city makes the whole thing! It's possible that I am being too hard on this book. I am a bronze age fan at my core but I appreciate and enjoy silver age stories. I think if the main character of this story was Superman or The Legion of Superheroes I could get down and enjoy some light hearted cheese. This is a Spectre series I have not yet read at this point (I know...) so I accept the challenge of changing my attitude about this silver age series! There was an entry by Bob Butts, South Bend,Ind. in one of the "Readers' Rendezous--Extra" (letters page) that really spoke to how I felt about this story and the handling of this character. Here it is:
Stay spooky folks!
James von Boldt