Doctor Spectrum

Doctor Spectrum
Doctor Spectrum
The first villainous Doctor Spectrum (Kenji Obatu) battles Iron Man on the cover of Iron Man #63 (Oct. 1973).
Art by Gil Kane.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Villain:
Avengers #69 (Nov. 1969)
Avengers #85 (Feb. 1971)
Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema
In-story information
Team affiliations Squadron Sinister
Squadron Supreme (Earth-712)
Squadron Supreme (Earth-31916)
Abilities Via Power Prism:
Energy projection and manipulation
Ability to survive in space
Intangibility (first Doctor Spectrum)
Marvel Comics Alternate Universes
Marvel stories take place primarily in a mainstream continuity called the Marvel Universe. Some stories are set in various parallel, or alternate, realities, called the Marvel Multiverse.

The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe: Alternate Worlds 2005 designates the mainstream continuity as "Earth-616", and assigns another Earth-numbers to each specific alternate reality.

In this article the following characters, or teams, and realities are referred to:

Character/Team Universe
Kenji Obatu Earth-616
Billy Roberts Earth-616
Alice Nugent Earth-616
Joseph Ledger Earth-712
Joseph Ledger Earth-31916

Doctor Spectrum is the name of several fictional characters that appear in publications published by Marvel Comics. There have been five versions of the character to date - three supervillains from the mainstream Marvel Universe belonging to the team Squadron Sinister (Earth-616) and two heroes from different alternate universes. The two heroes each belong to a version of the team Squadron Supreme, the Squadron Supreme of Earth-712 and the Squadron Supreme of Earth-31916 respectively).


Publication history

Doctor Spectrum - the supervillains

Kenji Obatu

The first villainous version appears in the final panel of The Avengers #69 (Oct. 1969), the first chapter of a three-issue storyline by writer Roy Thomas and penciller Sal Buscema. The story arc introduced the supervillain team the Squadron Sinister, whose four members were loosely based on heroes in DC Comics' Justice League of America, with Doctor Spectrum based on Green Lantern.[1]

The Squadron Sinister are created by the cosmic entity the Grandmaster to battle the champions of the time-traveling Kang - the superhero team the Avengers. Doctor Spectrum battles the Avenger Iron Man, and is defeated when the hero deduces that the villain's Power Prism (a sentient entity called Krimonn) is vulnerable to ultra-violet light. The Avengers eventually defeat the Squadron and they in turn are abandoned by the Grandmaster.[2] Doctor Spectrum reappears in the title Iron Man and after a series of battles is defeated when Iron Man crushes the Power Prism. A powerless Obatu is arrested and deported back to his native Africa.[3]

Billy Roberts

Unknown to Iron Man, the Power Prism reforms and is found by a sanitation worker, who eventually brings it to evangelist Billy Roberts, who after learning of the Prism's abilities becomes the second Doctor Spectrum.[4]

The Squadron reappear in the title Defenders, reunited by the alien Nebulon (although the team are unaware of the fact that this a new Doctor Spectrum). The villains receive greater power in exchange for the planet Earth, and create a giant laser cannon in the Arctic to melt the polar ice caps, thereby covering the entirety of the Earth's surface in water. The superhero team the Defenders prevent the scheme and defeat the Squadron (and Nebulon), with Doctor Strange defeating Doctor Spectrum.[5] After this defeat Doctor Spectrum and his two remaining team mates are teleported off world by Nebulon, returning with an energy-draining weapon. The Squadron Sinister plan to threaten the Earth again but are defeated once again by the Defenders and the Avenger Yellowjacket.[6]

The Power Prism is kept by Yellowjacket, who decides to modify the gem and present it to his wife Janet Van Dyne (also the Avenger known as the Wasp). The Power Prism seizes control of the character and transforms her into a mind-controlled female Doctor Spectrum, who battles several Avengers but is then defeated by the Vision's use of the Prism's ultraviolet weakness (Spectrum's own arrogance meant that s/he assumed that Iron Man had kept that information to himself rather than sharing it with others and thus 'giving up an advantage'). The Power Prism bonds to the Wasp in an attempt to save itself, but is eventually removed by Billy Roberts after he is located by the Avengers. Roberts becomes Doctor Spectrum once more, although on this occasion the Power Prism is in control and seeks to bond with the most powerful Avenger, the Thunder God Thor. The Power Prism succeeds in taking Thor as a host, infecting Mjolnir to use as a focal point to control him and defeat the other Avengers, but fails to take into account that to wield Mjolnir, Thor must be "worthy". No longer worthy to wield the hammer due to him being tainted by the gem, Thor drops Mjolnir and reverts back to his mortal alter-ego Donald Blake during a fight with Iron Man, which results in the Power Prism losing control and becoming inert, apparently forever.[7]

Alice Nugent

The Grandmaster reappears and reforms the Squadron Sinister: an apparently resurrected Hyperion is joined by the Whizzer (now called Speed Demon); Nighthawk and a new Doctor Spectrum (complete with Power Prism) - Alice Nugent, former lab assistant of Henry Pym. Courtesy of a phenomenon known as the Wellspring of Power - an interdimensional source of superhuman abilities - the Grandmaster increases the Squadron Sinister's powers and they battle the New Thunderbolts. Thunderbolts team leader Baron Zemo defeats the Grandmaster, and in the ensuing chaos Doctor Spectrum and the members of the Squadron Sinister scatter and escape.[8]

Doctor Spectrum - the superheroes

Joseph Ledger (Earth-712)

Roy Thomas and penciller John Buscema created an alternate-universe team of heroes called the Squadron Supreme, who debut in The Avengers #85 (Feb. 1971). After an initial skirmish with four Avengers, the teams unite to stop a common threat.[9] The characters (including Doctor Spectrum) were identical in name and appearance to the Squadron Sinister, which caused confusion in Marvel's production department, as the covers of The Avengers #85 and #141 (Nov. 1975) "cover-blurbed" appearances by the Squadron Sinister, when in fact it was the Squadron Supreme that appeared in both issues.

The heroic Doctor Spectrum and the Squadron Supreme have another series of skirmishes with the Avengers engineered by the group the Serpent Cartel, but eventually team together and prevent the use of the artifact the Serpent Crown.[10] The character and his team mates briefly feature in the title Thor, when the evil version of Hyperion attacks the Earth-712 version and then Thunder God Thor.[11] The Squadron are mind-controlled by the entities the Over-Mind and Null the Living Darkness, but are freed by the Defenders and aid the heroes in defeating the villains.[12]

The character features with the Squadron Supreme in a self-titled 12-issue miniseries (Sept. 1985 - Aug. 1986) by writer Mark Gruenwald.[13] Gruenwald revealed each member's origin, with Joseph Ledger being a former astronaut who saves a Skrull in space. The grateful Skrull, called the Skrullian Skymaster, rewards Ledger with the Power Prism. The series also explains why there are the Squadrons Sinister and Supreme are similar: the Grandmaster creates the Squadron Sinister modelled on the already-existing Squadron Supreme of the Earth-712 universe.[14] Gruenwald, Ryan, and inker Al Williamson created a graphic-novel sequel[15] which maroons the team in the mainstream Marvel universe. Doctor Spectrum and team mates encounter the hero Quasar, and relocate to the government facility Project Pegasus. After another encounter with the Overmind and a visit to the laboratory world of the Stranger;[16] attempts (with the Squadron) to return to their universe [17] and with fellow members Hyperion and the Whizzer battle the entity Deathurge.[18]

The entire Squadron Supreme appear in a two-part story with the Avengers that finally returns them to their home universe, where they disband for a time.[19] Doctor Spectrtum rejoins his teammates to aid the interdimensional team the Exiles.[20]

Joseph Ledger (Earth-31916)

The Doctor Spectrum (Joseph Ledger) from the Earth-31916 universe in Doctor Spectrum #2 (Nov. 2004). Art by John Dell.

The mature-audience Marvel MAX imprint showcases the adventures of the Earth-31916 version of the Squadron Supreme. The title Supreme Power relates how Joseph Ledger, a soldier in the United States Army, accidentally bonds with a crystal found in the vessel that brings Hyperion to Earth.[21] The story continues in the limited series Doctor Spectrum, written by Sara Barnes and art by John Dell and Travel Foreman, with the experience placing Ledger in a coma, and after reliving his life in his mind for the benefit of the apparently sentient crystal, the character awakens and adopts the codename of Doctor Spectrum.[22] Operating in a military-style uniform as opposed to a prismatic costume, Doctor Spectrum encounters and battles Hyperion, forming a truce with him to hunt down a super-powered serial killer. Doctor Spectrum also begins a tentative romance with fellow superhuman Amphibian[23] Both eventually join the US-backed Squadron Supreme in the 2006 title of the same name.[24]

Powers and abilities

All versions of Doctor Spectrum derive their abilities from an alien gem called the Power Prism. The original prism, used by the Kenji Obatu and Billy Roberts versions of Doctor Spectrum, is a sentient being called Krimonn. Krimmon relates his origin in the title Iron Man, explaining how it had previously been a Skrull, who after failing to usurp the Skrull Emperor was transformed into a living prism as punishment.[25] When the Grandmaster requires champions to battle the Avengers, he retrieves the prism and grants Krimonn several energy-based powers that can be used in conjunction with a host. Kenji Obatu is the first to coin the term "Power Prism", and discovers that although trapped in prism form, Krimonn remains aggressive and asserts his will via telepathy. Krimonn's mind is "muted" by Nebulon when the Power Prism is given to Billy Roberts, although Krimonn reasserts itelf during the quest to find and bond with the character Thor. When the plan fails and the gem is shattered, Krimonn's consciousness apparently dissipated forever.

Krimonn could bestow on a host the ability to project and manipulate energy; create energy constructs of various shapes and sizes; flight; protection from the rigors of space and in the case of the original Doctor Spectrum, Kenji Obatu, the ability to become intangible. The Power Prism has one weakness: being vulnerable to ultra-violet light.

The Earth-712 Doctor Spectrum gains his power from tiny fragments of the Skrullian Power Prism, given to him by the Skrullian Skymaster, which have bonded to his skin and imbedded within his body. When the Power Prism exploded, his skin, hair, and costume were bleached chalk-white. The Earth-712 Power Prism is identical to the Earth-616 version in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

The Earth-31916 Power Prism is a sentient power source removed from the spacecraft that brings Hyperion to Earth.


  1. ^ Interview with Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails in The Justice League Companion (2003) pp. 72 – 73
  2. ^ Avengers #69 - 71 (Oct. - Dec. 1969)
  3. ^ Iron Man #63 - 65 (Oct. - Dec. 1973) & 66 (Feb. 1974)
  4. ^ Seen in flashback in Avengers Annual #8 (1978)
  5. ^ Defenders #13 - 14 (May - July 1974)
  6. ^ Giant-Size Defenders #4 (1974)
  7. ^ Avengers Annual #8 (1978)
  8. ^ New Thunderbolts #15 - 16 (Jan. - Feb. 2006) & Thunderbolts #102 - 108 (July 2006 - Jan. 2007)
  9. ^ The Avengers #86 (Mar. 1971)
  10. ^ Avengers #141 - 144 (Nov. 1975 - Feb. 1976) & #147 - 149 (May - July 1976)
  11. ^ Thor #280 (Feb. 1979)
  12. ^ Defenders #112 - 114 (Oct. - Dec. 1982)
  13. ^ Squadron Supreme #1 - 12 (Sep. 1985 - Aug. 1986)
  14. ^ Squadron Supreme #8 (May 1986)
  15. ^ Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe (1989)
  16. ^ Quasar #13 - 16 (Aug. - Nov. 1990)
  17. ^ Quasar #19 (Feb. 1991)
  18. ^ Quasar #25 (Aug. 1991)
  19. ^ Avengers/Squadron Supreme Annual '98 and the one-shot Squadron Supreme: New World Order (both Sept. 1998)
  20. ^ Exiles vol. 2, #77 - 78 (Apr. - May 2006)
  21. ^ Supreme Power #1 - 6 (Oct. 2003 - Mar. 2004)
  22. ^ Doctor Spectrum #1 - 6 (Oct. 2004 - Mar. 2005)
  23. ^ Supreme Power #7 - 18 (Apr. 2004 - Oct. 2005)
  24. ^ Squadron Supreme vol. 2, #1 (May 2006)
  25. ^ Shown in flashback in Iron Man #63 - 65 (Oct. - Dec. 1973) & 66 (Feb. 1974)

External links

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