1. The Spectre
This is very easy. The Spectre represents the Wrath of God. At first, the Spectre was merely more of a force that was used to accomplish tasks, but then it became necessary to bind it to something else, preferably a human. (There is a great summation of this here. And there’s pictures!)
Its job has always been simple, its not a superhero, it is the force of the unavenged dead. The Spectre is not inclined to save you from death, but it will absolutely kill the person who killed you, if it notices the crime. And there’s nothing anyone else can do about it, because it is within its rights.
The definitive Spectre run was John Ostrander’s. The story began when a brutal 1930’s police officer named Jim Corrigan was betrayed and killed by a local crime boss. Faced with the prospect of Heaven, Corrigan rejects it, as he wants justice. Since the Spectre needs to be bound to a human anyway, he gets his wish.
Corrigan is unleashed on the Earth to act as the spirit of vengeance. And then comes the brilliance of Ostrander’s run. Most heroes have issues of power and overcoming their archvillain. The Spectre’s problems are more complex.
He has power, but no perspective. Sometimes he doesn’t know how to judge something, or who is guilty. Sometimes he’s unfair, and someone points it out him. He’s bound to the Spectre, which a lot of other creatures wouldn’t mind getting their hands on. The Spectre can raise the dead, heal diseases and wounds, stop crimes ahead of time, but it doesn’t want to and Jim can’t really make it because its will is too strong.
And the Spectre doesn’t actually like him.
Corrigan starts to tire of his mission, and then the true horror of it sets in, he will roam the Earth, until he learns to understand, and he has no idea how. You see, Corrigan cannot separate his idea of God from his abusive father, and as the run continues he realizes all of his interactions with Heaven and Hell may actually just be inside his head and that all of his adventures as the Spectre is part of his own psychodrama. Empathy is not his strong point.
Its an amazing smart run by a former seminary student. I highlight the plot because the power stuff on the Spectre is very simple – it is the most powerful creature in creation. When the Spectre came across a horrible civil war in Vlatvia, and he couldn’t determine guilt, he destroyed the entire country.
When he thought the world was corrupt, he contemplated destroying the Earth. The response from Heaven?
They started preparing plans to make a new Earth, with new creatures, because doing that made more sense than trying to fight the Spectre. When DC had one of their numerous confusing crisis where realities started to merge, the Spectre stopped it… by grabbing them.
When Darkseid got in his face, he killed him instantly. Darkseid was later revived as part of a divine plan… but there was no fight. You don’t fight the Spectre.
The Spectre is another neglected and misused character because of the scope of his power. There are a lot of lame excuses for why the Spectre didn’t stop the Holocaust, or the destruction of Coast City. During one alien invasion for instance, the Spectre got lost inside of a robot. Seriously. After Corrigan moved on, the Spectre got bound to Hal Jordan, which sucked, and then to Crispus Allen, which sucked (mostly because Crispus was a character in the brilliant Gotham Central series). But the hands of a great writer, he’s a rich character.