When 1968 rolled around things were shifting at DC Comics. New styles and new talents were emerging as the old guard gave way somewhat. This generational change came as some slid gracefully into retirement and others sadly were pushed away because of labor strife. But a book that heralded a new style of comic book was certainly The Spectre featuring the groundbreaking artwork of uber-talent Neal Adams.
The "Prologue" of The Spectre #3 begins in another dimension where two exceedingly alien-looking sorcerers sling spells at one another. One of the spells gets a way and slips into the orbit of Earth-2 and settle into a small-time thug named "Sad" Jack Dold.
"Hang 'Em Up Wildcat -- You're Finished!" by Mike Friedrich and Neal Adams begins with Ted (Wildcat) Grant punching at some thugs in Knickerbocker City. He needs the help of the police to completely subdue the robbers, and later feels like his age is catching up to him. To quell his somber mood he dons his Wildcat gear gain and jumps on the Catocycle to cruise the town and finds "Sad" Jack heading to a museum robbery he's late for. Wildcat jumps in but is stopped by Dold who suddenly demonstrates great power over others. The hoods escape and later scheme to use their partner's new powers to commit great crimes. The pick a prize fight and again when they arrive Ted Grant is the guest of honor. He finds the robbery in progress, becomes Wildcat and intervenes. But he is stopped cold by Dold who is finding his powers are greater than he imagined. He orders everyone in the arena and over television to freeze while he goes into the ring with Wildcat and defeats him with a single thought. The section ends with Wildcat frozen prone on the canvas for the first time in his career.
"Menace of the Mystic Mastermind" stars Gateway City's The Spectre. The Spectre as Jim Corrigan had seen the fight on television but was likewise frozen. When the power passed, he became Spectre and rushed to help his fellow Justice Society member Wildcat. He finds Ted Grant quite glum and feeling old and worthless. He can find Dold when he uses his powers and suddenly he feels him so he goes to fight the mystic enemy only to find the gang whom he defeats but no Dold. After giving Grant some hopeful words Spectre heads to Gateway City where Dold has come to fulfill his super-villain promise. Giving himself a wild costume he plans to level the city with an atomic blast. The Spectre arrives and absorbs the blast and then tricks Dold into using his power again at which time Spectre sucks out the sorcery from Dold and sends it back into the dimension from which it came leaving Dold helpless and sad once again.
"Epilogue" shows Jim Corrigan back in Knickerbocker City to see Ted Grant, who has turned his talents to helping kids in his own gym, thus showing that even the older among us have vital purposes to perform.
I cannot but help to wonder if the message in this story has something to do with the changes at DC at the time. Probably not directly then, but I sure see parallels. As energetic and powerful as youth is, it must also give way to experience and all of us have something more to give to those around us. Nice message.
The Spectre is the most successful of the Earth-2 launches of the time. While other JSofA members failed to catch on with readers apparently, Spectre did well enough in his Showcase run to warrant a ten-issue series of his own. That's not bad really. Certainly great talents like Neal Adams had something to do with that success. The Spectre also showed up a few times in Brave and Bold and proved over the years to be one of Bob Haney's go-to heroes. Here's a great link that discusses The Spectre's Earth-2 identity and his somewhat convoluted publishing history. Below is a cover gallery of his 60's run.