[ENGLISH] This month: Gentleman Ghost. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
A Farewell To My Readers
Last month I teased you all about who the next issue’s character would be. Little did I know at the time that I would make a decision about writing this column, one that would have me doing it just this one last time. Many issues were a factor in making that decision but the most appropriate ones worth mentioning here is that if you are a columnist and you know that you are getting close to completing something you have done for years, a round number like 40 issues seems a reasonable time to do it. Along with that, it closes 2013 quite perfectly for this column’s course.
In the new year please look for me as I will be far from a disappearing presence online and you will find me in many places I assure you as I work towards other projects which I hope will be well considered as I hope this column was since I first premiered with it in Comic Box in September of 2010 with one of my favorite villains, the seductive and deadly Poison Ivy.
We’ve covered a lot of character ground together since Professor Pamela Isley. Villains from Electro to Bullseye, heroes and heroines from The Phantom Lady to The Avenger. Even some very special characters in the comic book mythos, once lesser known like Senorita Rios and one whose presence in the comic pages arguably ushered in the Silver Age, Gwen Stacy.
It has been an honor to write these articles for you for more than three years and a part of me will always miss the monthly excavations of characters, especially the ones we don’t see too much of any more. Yet with all writing, changes must come, in projects, in inspiration, in timing. I will not push this column past its time for it would suffer for it and so would you. Therefore I leave you with one last journey into a character of mythic lore and as all things must in life, we will come full circle. As I started with a villain, I shall close with one. Don’t worry, the heroes can take the blow to their ego. The villains could not.
And so, one last world of deepest thanks, readers, for attending these journeys, whether you have perused them only occasionally or faithfully engaged each issue, and I hope in return I have given you a few moments of passing enjoyment in my reflections upon those characters from the Endless Age of Comics…..
Your Humble Scribe, J.P.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the creation by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert certainly does exist in the land of myth we know as comics. A classy haunt in a top hat, he first appeared in Flash Comics #88 in the Fall of 1947. He was connected with various notorious and well-known supervillain organizations such as the Injustice society and The Secret Society of Supervillains. He was sometimes called simply The Ghost or Gentleman Jim but with his cloaked and gloved presence, his regular handle always fits him best.
His identity was that of James Craddock and as the Gentleman Ghost he had some fantastic and unique abilities. As one might expect from a ghost, he could make his apparition state disappear and be invisible and let anyone or anything pass through him as well. He was able to instantly teleport himself to where he wished and carried ghostly sidearm, flintlocks from a bygone era and with which he was a deadly shot against the heroes who dared to challenge him. Perhaps, however his most unique gift was his ability to cause a deep enveloping feeling of the deathly cold whenever someone tried to touch him. If an enemy’s hand reached for him and was unfortunate enough to connect, the icy touch would let the challenger know just what he was up against.
The son of an English (you guessed it ) gentleman, he had an unfortunate youth living in absolute poverty because his father left him and his mother to their own fates. With such conditions brought upon him, rather than rise to the challenge to find honest labor, he chose instead to become a highway robber. It had been the prediction of a gypsy that this would be his fate. His ghostly fate, however, came about from an unfortunate encounter with two gunfighters, Nighthawk and Cinnamon. It was unfortunate because Nighthawk believed that Craddock had attacked Cinnamon when in fact he had not tried to do anything sexual with her.. That fact did not keep Nighthawk from hanging him while under than impression and so ended the life of Craddock and began the existence of the Gentleman Ghost.
The misfortunes of Craddock’s experiences do not end there. He may move onto to find peace on the next plane if the spirit of his killer does so, but Nighthawk and Cinnamon are the reincarnated spirits who will live again in the future as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and no matter how many times they die they will reincarnate on earth because of the Nth metal of Thanagar which prevents such normal passage. It was only natural that the Gentleman Ghost would be an enemy of the flying Thanagarians, just as he was of the gunslinger forms which did him in.
Not that this ghost didn’t get around. He was a problem for Batman too, as well as The Atom, Star Girl, The Flash and a number of others but his apparition always prefers to haunt the children of Thanagar who he owes so very much wrath. He had his moments when he was not against them but let us allow that such things are unbecoming of villains and by and far he was their enemy. The origin of the character is played with in the new millennium. The pverty is still there but now his father is present and abusive. This time he turns to crime as well but explores the supernatural while still human.. A gypsy still predicts his ultimate fate once again and he is hanged as well. Only this time it was by British Redcoats. Still, the flavor was still very much the same. Notable Gentleman Ghost appears in Infinite Crisis while he attacks Metropolis with the rest of The Secret Society of Supervillains.
In most recent comics, the character has managed to maintain his haunts of popular culture by being part of DC’s New 52 mythic landscape. And it shouldn’t be a surprise that he is still a robber and has the power to raise the dead when he gets his hand on an object called the Mortis Orb. He was not able to hold onto it for long, however, with Hawkman’s help, which is just as well because he is quite dangerous enough. Gentleman Ghost generally appears without a face and only a monocle and his top hat, cloak and sometimes a cane out of which he can discharge spectral flames. He can be hurt by enemies but it is difficult. Those or royal blood, however, can make a painful impression yet he cannot be truly destroyed.
Since his first appearance in 1947 he has mostly graced comics but in contemporary times he has found his way into video games (Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and animated series (Batman: The Brave and The Bold, Justice League Unlimited, The All-New Superfriends Hour). Truly he haunts us everywhere with his unique presence, a gentleman who forever walks in two worlds. So, if you don’t believe in ghosts yet, maybe there’s a gentleman out there somewhere who might change your mind. If he happens to cross your path, mind your manners for the ghost may terrify you but the gentleman may just let you pass unharmed. Approach him without consideration, however, and you won’t have a ghost of a chance.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.