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Ghost of the Past, Part 4

How a Silver Age hero got a second chance to shine

By Arnold T. Blumberg     July 27, 2002


Cover to SPECTRE #2. Hal is now part of the cosmic machinery.
© DC Comics
In the final part of our chat with SPECTRE scribe J.M. DeMatteis, the writer talks about the future of Hal Jordan, Spectre, and his opinion of the Kevin Smith-scripted reunion between Hal Jordan and the resurrected Green Arrow.

While DeMatteis has been shepherding the reintegration of Hal Jordan into the DC Universe via his new role as the Spectre, other creators have taken a stab at their own takes on the character. Not all of them necessarily meet with DeMatteis' complete approval.

Hal discovers a multitude of Spectres exist within him. Talk about an identity crisis!

"Kevin Smith did a story where [the resurrected Green Arrow and the Hal Jordan Spectre] encountered each other," says DeMatteis. "I don't know if I would have written it the same way, but it was certainly a good story."

For his part, DeMatteis too has succumbed to the urge to bring old friends in to see Hal.

A very spiritual image from the cover of SPECTRE #7.

"In the early issues we had Superman and Batman show up," says DeMatteis, "and Batman is extraordinarily suspicious of him from all the stuff he did before. Now I'm doing a Prestige Format two-part Justice League/Spectre story called SOUL WAR. On the one level, it's this big cosmic story, but a lot of it revolves around how these people react to Hal, especially focusing on the Batman/Hal Jordan relationship. Batman, of all of them, really does not trust this guy at all, although by the end of the story they connect. It probably won't be out until next year sometime, and with any luck hopefully there will still be a Spectre comic book next year too [laughs]."

Given the extreme identification fans have with Hal, does DeMatteis ever foresee a time when the Spectre will shed his human persona?

The Hal Jordan Spectre takes flight in front of the World Trade Center towers.

"What I envision is not so much a shedding of Hal, but an expanding of Hal," says DeMatteis. "We're always going to need something to relate to. In metaphysical or religious ideas, an avatar of God - that divine energy - always comes and puts on a human face somehow. We need a face to relate to, so I don't know if I'd even know how to write a Spectre [without Hal]. Then it becomes like those big cosmic Marvel characters that are really more embodiments of ideas as opposed to characters. [They're] very cool, but you wouldn't want to do a monthly Eternity book. You just can't [laughs], so I think there always has to be a human character to anchor it. Right now, that character is Hal, and we will expand the parameters of who and what Hal Jordan is, and he is expanding the parameters of how he perceives himself."

DeMatteis can accept the notion of Hal abdicating his Spectre responsibilities in favor of another host, however.

"I can envision someone else coming along to be the Spectre while Hal Jordan moves off to some other destiny or to some final peace," says DeMatteis. "I don't think they want him to do that, but I can envision that, and in my mind...I don't want to say, that's giving away storylines, never mind [laughs]. But I have a very specific idea of where the character could go and who else could be the Spectre along the way."

A surreal image from the cover of SPECTRE #12.

With that tantalizing tidbit dropped, we have to wonder: if the Hal Jordan Spectre is here to stay, what about DeMatteis?

"[I'll write it] as long as I sit down and go, 'I'm interested in writing this story today,'" says DeMatteis. "[It's] the combination of maintaining my own enthusiasm, and we do this fine dance to please everybody. It's a weird market and it's hard for books to sustain themselves, so I'm amazed - we're just about to the two-year point, and that's pretty astonishing that it's still being published. But it's astonishing when I look at the numbers that anything is being published right now. My feeling is, I can't say, 'Yes! I'm so excited I'm on this book for another five years if they keep publishing it!' It might be five years, it might be five minutes, and it all depends on how I feel and how my enthusiasm is at the moment. Right now I know I'm on it for the next three issues or so [laughs]."

Before his ascent to the Spectre role, Hal Jordan was a vicious villain known as Parallax. He came down a long way from his GL days.

Now for the ultimate What If (with apologies to Marvel)? If DC suddenly did an about-face and decided to restore Hal Jordan as Green Lantern...would DeMatteis take up the writing reins?

"An interesting question," admits DeMatteis. "I had never even considered that because of the affection that I have for the character. I did a graphic novel this past year which was set in the early Hal Jordan days, although it was a very different kind of GL story, and it was really fun to play with that character. I certainly wouldn't mind doing that for a short period of time - a graphic novel, a one-shot, a miniseries."

DeMatteis notes that even such a fan-pleasing scenario would have its down side.

"Even then, you're not going to please everybody," says DeMatteis. "He can't be the same guy! Unless you do what Kevin Smith did with Green Arrow, which is essentially to erase time and put him back exactly where he was in 1972 - and it's comics, they can do whatever they want. But the other thing is, they've got a GL that's functioning quite nicely right now with Kyle Rayner. I think they were surprised at how well that transformation turned out, because it could have been a disaster, so I give them a lot of credit for that."

Nevertheless, DeMatteis knows that the restoration of Hal as Green Lantern could be but a few short steps away.

The Hal Jordan Spectre cries out on the cover of LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #34.

"All it takes is a couple years - a change in an editor here, and a change in a publisher there - and the next thing you know, it's 'We want Hal Jordan back as GL. He's the icon, he's the guy that we need,'" says DeMatteis. "So it's so hypothetical, but just on a pure fantasy level, I'd love to do a miniseries or a graphic novel certainly. [But] there's no way he's going to go back and be Green Lantern again until they find some way to erase time and say this all never happened. In comic books there's always a way, but certainly not in the foreseeable future. The fun, of course, is you can still do that. I can come up with a great Hal Jordan idea and do it as a graphic novel."

Whether or not the day ever comes when DeMatteis gets to write a new Hal Jordan Green Lantern, he's happy with the way things have gone so far. In fact, he's momentarily struck by the strangeness of it all.

"It's a funny thing, but as we're talking about this, I'm realizing what a weird gig this is [laughs]," says DeMatteis. "And it really is, but I have to say for the most part, it's been a lot of fun."

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