Between The Night Stalker (1972, 1974-1975) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992, 1997-2003) came an occult investigator who switched from being a horror-comic host to a bona fide adventurer, brought together a burgeoning comic universe, and faded too soon. Along the way he rode the growing wave of 70s occultism and vampire fandom, attempted-- awkwardly-- to racially diversify comic books, and fought all manner of things that go bump in the night.
Imagine a man in his late thirties with black hair, Satan's goatee, and a vampire's fashion sense. Dark coats and cloaks fly back in the breeze, and he rarely makes the scene without his bolo tie. He lives in a mansion and battles the ancient, eldritch Dark Gods. He takes his tea with sorceresses and witch doctors. His circle of friends includes a psychic medium and a vampire with a soul or, at least, a conscience. For a time, he became a werewolf-- a trying experience, to be sure, but one which gave him further insight into the darkness he explored. If there was something strange in your neighborhood, from 1973 to 1977, you called Adam Spektor.
A number of factors likely encouraged Gold Key's creation of the occult detective. In 1972, The Night Stalker, with its tale of a detective on the trail of a genuine vampire, gained the highest ratings of any American made-for-TV movie to date. A short-lived television series followed. Gold Key had a hit with their Dark Shadows comic, and it continued after the show ended. However, adaptation rights, long the company's bread and butter, were proving shaky. They'd just lost the rights to Tarzan and related properties to industry heavy-hitter DC. They replaced the Ape Man with their own "Jungle Twins." Horror comics were experiencing a minor boom, but the Key's horror titles were tied to hosts who charged royalties, Rod Serling and Boris Karloff. They looked to expand, with an old witch named Grimm cackling her way through Grimm's Ghost Stories. Spektor, originally, had been another in-house host, created by Donald F. Glut and Dan Spiegle. Someone soon tapped him to become an in-house hero, a Dark Shadows/Night Stalker surrogate.
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor also connected Gold Key's various original properties. His family lineage included both the titular cave-man from Tragg and the Sky Gods and the Conan-inspired mercenary, Dagar the Invincible. He and Dagar battled the same Dark Gods in different eras, and occasionally crossed over with characters through time-travel and mystical longevity. Gold Key's lackluster, unlicensed superheroes existed in the same universe as Spektor, and they worked together. Given time, I'm certain the good doctor would have encountered the Key's biggest unlicensed successes, Magnus Robot Fighter and Turok.
Most of the time, however, Spektor worked with his own supporting cast, doing battle with original horrors and those from literature. Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, a descendant of Dr. Jekyll, Varney the Vampire, and Sheridan le Fanu's Carmilla all tussled with Spektor, some of them more than once.1
Typical of Gold Key's adventure comics, The Occult Files boast impressive, painted covers. The writing (by the prolific Dan Glut) and art within vary in quality. Although stories reference each other and characters develop, specific stories conclude in one issue. Often-- especially in early issues-- a short back-up feature complements the main adventure. Some of these have Spektor playing his original job as horror host, introducing an unrelated scary story. Other features tell tales involving his supporting cast, or give background on guest characters.
The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor attempted to be racially inclusive, with uncomfortably mixed results. For most of its run, the doctor's secretary / girlfriend, "Lakota Rainflower," was of "Sioux" background. Unfortunately, the comic often put her in skimpy buckskin outfits and had her make Hollywood Indian-type references. While some of these might be read as the character's sense of humor, having her refer to money as "wampum" or threaten to "scalp" a leering male makes for prime cringe material. After Adam's occult obsessions drove Lakota away, he hooked up with Lu-Sai, the daughter of a Fu Manchu rip-off named "Dr. Tong." She swore by "the Gods of China" and ran that shade of lemon-yellow used by Caucasian comic-book colourists long after anyone should have considered it accurate or acceptable. The local Chinatown which they visited looked like something one might expect to find in a comic twenty-five years earlier. She shared with Lakota a love of revealing clothing.
Spektor also got support from Elliot Kane, an African-American medium. The comic generally managed to make him a credible character, though, of course, he had to be a descendant of an African witch doctor. His girlfriend, meanwhile, worked as a model, a job requiring her to sometimes wear some idiot's idea of African tribal wear. She posed with a spear at least once.
Another recurring character, Baron Tibor, was a once-evil vampire trying to follow the straight and narrow path.
Gold Key faltered and died in the late 1970s. Spektor last appeared in their pages in 1977; Whitman Comics continued with reprints for a short time thereafter.
Despite the dated and occasionally racist references, literary lapses, and frequent cheesiness, the stories hold up as pulpy comic-book adventures. Valiant Comics owned the rights for a time, while Dynamite Comics attempted to revive the character in the twenty-first century. The original tales have been reprinted, and collector's issues can be found for comparatively inexpensive prices.
1. As a strange bonus, the comic sometimes made passing references to characters outside of Gold Key's grasp, including Charlie Chan and Marvel's Morbius, the Living Vampire.