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Contributed by Ronald Byrd

Dave Castiglione, who worked as a baker, was among the fifty-nine cable car passengers in San Francisco struck by a “jumpstart” effect, which granted all of them superhuman, or “ultra,” powers. In Dave’s case, the sudden flaming effect which he initially fears to be a symptom of AIDS (a disease which ultimately kills his friend Sandy) is the precursor of several flame-related powers. Six passengers, including Dave, join the sorceress Yrial to form the super-team known as the Strangers, receiving public acclaim and battling a wide variety of foes. Dave takes the codename Spectral due to the multi-colored nature of his powers. In addition to Yrial, his teammates are Lady Killer, Atom Bob, Grenade, ElectroCute, and Zip-Zap. Of the seven (later joined by Teknight), Dave appears to be the one with the most active social life away from the team, and by the series’ end he had acquired a boyfriend, Bill Kern.

When the characters of Malibu Comics were acquired by Marvel Comics, several were featured in new stories, including some that crossed over to Marvel-Earth, but  Spectral was not among them; his current activities are unknown, as is the status of the Ultraverse itself. Interestingly, Spectral, a believable, effective super-hero whose homosexuality was quite understated, was created by Steve Englehart, who also created the embarrassingly stereotypical gay hero Extrano for DC Comics.

Spectral can completely envelop his body in flames and project them through his hands; by changing the color of the flames, he obtains a different power. Orange gives him control over fire, blue control over water (and the ability to breathe underwater), yellow control over air and the power of flight, red super-strength (coupled with a berserker nature), purple protection from physical harm, green the ability to control plants and heal wounds, and indigo the ability to survive in outer space and extend that protection to others.

Spectral first appears in The Strangers #1 and is confirmed gay in Strangers #5. Englehart subtly foreshadowed the character’s sexuality in issue #3. Dave and the other Strangers are informally meeting and the subject of Dave’s powers comes up when Bob Hardin, an art school student and teammate, mentions the ROYGBIV acronym for the colors of the rainbow spectrum and is also a reference to the original Pride flag.

Spectral and the Strangers were created by Steve Englehart and Rick Hoberg. At by Hoberg, Tim Burgard, and Rick Schmitz.

The Strangers series was originally published by Malibu Comics and was bought by Marvel before Marvel was purchased by Disney.

All rights reserved Marvel Entertainment

September 25, 2021
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