THE GAY GHOSTMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Gardner Fox (writer) and Howard Purcell (artist)
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
DC Comics and All-American Publications were sister companies during the 1940s. They shared offices, creative staff, even characters — such non-headliners as The Black Pirate and Red, White & Blue were
freely picked up by one after the other had dropped them. But they also showed evidence of some level of rivalry, in the form of imitations of one company's features turning up at the other. For example, DC's answer to The Flash was Johnny Quick, and their version of The Justice Society of America was The Seven Soldiers of Victory. It went in the other direction, as well. Tho All-American's Ghost Patrol and Gay Ghost were far from exact copies of DC's Spectre, they could easily be seen as attempts to fill the same sort of niche.
The Gay Ghost debuted in the first issue of Sensation Comics (January, 1942), the main purpose of which seems to have been to provide a venue for Wonder Woman to star in. He shared the back pages with Mr. Terrific, Little Boy Blue and other minor features, the main purpose of which seems to have been to provide filler to back up the star. He wasn't the first to follow The Spectre in the "restless spirit as superhero" sub-genre — by that time, MLJ's Mr. Justice, Marvel's Vision and even Novelty Press's Sgt. Spook were all long-established — but they tended to be a short-lived lot, and he lasted longer than most.
The origin story, written by Gardner Fox (Moon Girl, The Avenger, to name a couple of his less-prominent creations) and drawn by Howard Purcell (Sargon the sorcerer, The Enchantress), began with Keith Everet, the young Earl of Strethmere, being killed by highwaymen at the dawn of the 18th century. But instead of moving on to wherever spirits usually go in such situations, he was met by a crowd of his deceased ancestors. They'd been impressed by his love for the fair Deborah Wallace, and worked up a scheme whereby he could return to Earth and be reunited with her — all he had to do was take a little training in the art of avenging injustice. When the training was done, they sent him on his way, with the admonition that he'd have to wait until Deborah's return before getting active again. Unfortunately, he found 80 years had passed, and Deborah was long dead.
He went back to his castle and took up residence in a portrait of himself, but would roam the place at night. Word went out that the castle was haunted, so it fell into disuse — until the 1940s, when it was visited by none other than Deborah Wallace, an American descendant and namesake of the original Deborah, who had inherited the place. She was accompanied by her friend, Charles Collins, who harbored romantic ambitions toward her but was repeatedly rebuffed because of his wimpiness. Also visiting the castle was a band of Nazi spies, using it as a hiding place. In his one heroic act, Charles was killed trying to keep them away from her. But Keith entered his body, re-animated it, and effectively dealt with the Nazis. Deborah was impressed with his new-found courage, but still didn't love him.
"Charles" returned to America with Deborah, taking the old portrait along. Thereafter, he frequently exercised his ability to emerge from the body and function as The Gay Ghost, a full-fledged superhero, but his other mission was to win Deborah's heart.
He kept on trying in the Sensation Comics back pages, as well as a few stories in Comic Cavalcade (an anthology of All-American stars), for the next few years. His series ended in Sensation #33, but one last story appeared in #38 (February, 1945). After that, he not only wasn't seen again in the original heyday of superheroes — he also, unlike most, didn't have much of a revival.
Apparently, his name, like that of Mr. Satan, was against him. The meaning of the word "gay" shifted considerably, and DC (which had come to own the old All-American properties) wasn't keen on publishing any "gay" superheroes. There was a reprint or two, but in them, his name was changed to The Grim Ghost, despite the fact that he'd always smiled and joked, and never acted the least bit "grim".
It was under the new name that he received an entry in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe, and an origin recap, both in the 1980s. But when Animal Man visited him, Detective Chimp and other obscuros in Comic Book Limbo, he was using the old one.
Other than that, he hasn't appeared in any new material since the 1940s.