COMIC LEGEND: Casper the Friendly Ghost helped give us the Silver Age return of The Spectre.
STATUS: I'm Going With True
My buddy Zack Smith mentioned this to me a few years back, during his awesome Oral History of Captain Marvel at Newsarama (check it out here).
As I'm sure nearly all of you know, after the Golden Age of comic book superheroes finished (late 1940s/early 1950s, whenever you feel like saying the end was), DC Comics put a number of their Golden Age heroes out to pasture. Heroes like Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Spectre, Dr. Mid-Nite and Starman all were essentially retired.
So by the 1960s, a whole generation of new readers really were no longer familiar with these older heroes. But by then, Julie Schwartz had begun introducing new superheroes using the same names as these old characters, like the Flash...
and Green Lantern...
However, through Jules Feiffer' 1965 history of comic book superheroes, new fans could read about these Golden Age heroes again.
One such young fan, Michael Uslan (who has since went on to become a comic book writer and famous movie producer - he has produced every Batman movie since Tim Burton's 1989 film!), was particularly interested in Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily's The Spectre...
However, when he would pester Julie Schwartz about bringing the Spectre back, Schwartz would explain to him that that was not possible, since the Comics Code wouldn't allow it, as the then-current Comics Code stated "Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited." According to Schwartz, the Spectre was either walking dead or a ghoul.
Uslan wrote back asking then what about the Comics Code approved Casper the Friendly Ghost from Harvey?
Apparently that was enough for Schwartz, as Uslan told Smith,
The next thing I know, I got a note back from Julie saying, ‘You’ll be happy to know that the Spectre is coming back in Showcase #60, teamed up with Doctor Mid-Nite.’ And he did come back in that issue, though not with Dr. Mid-Nite. And that remains one of the proudest moments of my comic-collecting life, though it wouldn’t have happened without Feiffer’s book. That was essential.”
My only SLIGHT doubt on this being true is whether Schwartz was planning on bringing the character back no matter what, and it was just a coincidence, but the fact that he actually made a point to write to Uslan about the Spectre's return makes me willing to believe that it WAS Uslan's writings that compelled Schwartz to bring the character back.
Thanks to Zack Smith and Michael Uslan for the information!
On the next page, what was Marv Wolfman's "escape route" for Barry Allen at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths?