Saturday, January 3, 2015

You WILL Believe In The Ghost-Breaker!!

Because I love a good self-referential cover, and because I also love the "infinite regression" cover, allow me to give you two treats in one, with the cover of Ghosts #100 (1981):

Ah, but the self-reference hasn't stopped yet...look at the splash page:

Hey, they're allowed to celebrate. Just imagine a comc book reaching issue #100 these days...

But yes, that is Terry Thirteen, a.k.a. Dr. 13. Why is he here? Well, he was in the middle of a brief 7-issue stint in the pages of Ghosts.

If you don't know who Dr. 13 is, well, shame on you (and shame on DC). He started waaay back in 1951, in Star Spangled Comics #151, as a skeptical parapsychologist out to prove that all ghost stories are false. When we finally got his origin, we see young Terry learn that many of his ancestors had been executed for "practicing magic," when they were really trying to advance science.

So Terry made a pact with his father to debunk the supernatural, and to prove that there was always a rational explanation behind spiritual events. He became Scully without a Mulder, a one man Scooby Doo gang, proving that ghost and ghoul haunting were really hoaxes.

Which made this placement for his series a bit odd. You have a comic whose cover usually headlined that "You WILL Believe In Ghosts..."

...having a cover star whose raison d'Etre is ensuring that you don't believe in ghosts!

Yeah, that's a great logo.

Of course, DC had kind of lost Doc XIII's mission when they began to integrate him into the DC Universe proper.

In stand-alone stories, it's perfectly acceptable for him to be a skeptic, and to have every "ghost" he encounters be a scam.

But as readers of DC Comics, we KNOW that characters like the Phantom Stranger and the Spectre are real (within that universe). So when Terry 13 starts hanging around those guys yet still insists that they're fakes, he's violating the rules of suspension of disbelief for that particular universe. The reader knows that he is wrong, and this ruins his credibility as a likeable character. He stops looking like a rational skeptic and more like the idiot who won't believe the plain facts in front of his face:

The skeptic aspect of Dr. 13 kept shriveling away over the years, until the nu52 made him into an actual ghost-buster, a man who believes in the supernatural and hunts them down, a family tradition. Sigh...

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