Marvel Spotlight 7, 1972 “Die, Die My Daughter!”

In the 1970s, there wasn’t a better time for comic book readers. You had Golden and Silver Age creators still pumping out material, but you also had younger writers and artists that had been inspired by those giants, and were determined to leave their own mark on the industry. There’s also another aspect to consider as far as the content, and that is what was in the zeitgeist of the times. One of those things was most certainly the occult. Marvel then decided to re-purpose a character from a western comic that was all but forgotten. His name was the Ghost Rider (later Phantom Rider), and this time around, he wasn’t going to be lassoing people or shooting at them with a six-shooter!

In Marvel Spotlight 5 (a lot of the newer characters started off in books like this one and once they proved themselves, were transitioned to their own book), we see the tragic story of Johnny Blaze. A young kid working at a carnival, and watching his father doing motorcycle stunts. His father ends up getting killed in an accident, and the carnival owners (The Simpsons…no, not Homer and Marge) adopt him. The show becomes a huge success but then his step-mother is killed, but right before she dies, she makes Johnny promise he won’t ride in the show anymore. He doesn’t ride but the show still gets even bigger than it was before. Johnny still practices privately, and becomes an excellent rider. One day, Crash Simpson gets a phone call and he’s made the big time, as his show will be at Madison Square Garden! He seems less than excited and then tells Johnny and Roxanne that he has “the disease” and the doctor told him he only has one month to live.

After thinking about this for thirty seconds, Johnny decides as any normal teenage in the 1970s would, he uses a book to summon “Satan” to grant him a wish to heal Crash Simpson (Satan is in quotes because Marvel would later retcon it wasn’t actually Satan himself, but a demon). Yes, he really did that…so, then “Satan” obliges him and tells him that he’ll be back to collect a fee in the future. We all know that means he’s in big trouble, but Johnny apparently doesn’t care because of dealing with the grief of his own father and step-mother dying. Of course, Crash dies not from cancer, but a motorcycle accident.Ā  Then Johnny makes the jump, but is later confronted by “Satan” and his soul is bonded to a demon, which in-turn is why he changes into the new Ghost Rider!

In this issue, we see Johnny after a man named Curly, but we eventually see it’s actually a reanimated Crash Simpson! Curly is trying to sacrifice Roxanne to his master (again “Satan”), but Johnny will not allow the love of his life to perish! He fights off some occultists, then has a showdown with Crash himself!

The creative team on this issue is the same since the first appearance. Gary Friedrich (writer), Mike Ploog (art), Frank Chiaramonte (inks), Herb Cooper (letters), and Roy Thomas (editor). A few years back, there was a little controversy over who actually created most of the character of Ghost Rider. Friedrich claimed he did, and sued Marvel for creators rights. He lost of course, simply because everything was work for hire back then, and any attempts to seize control of a character simply fell short. Sadly, a lot of these creators have fallen on hard times, and could really use a helping hand from the companies that they helped become so financially robust. There is a great organization called The Hero Initiative, that can help creators in need. Definitely swing by and donate if you can at the next convention you visit.

 

 

 

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Ghost Rider 16, 1976 “Blood in the Waters”

The Bronze Age was an age of growing up for some preexisting characters, and the introduction of some new ones that were not only part of the zeitgeistĀ  of the times, but ones that would last a very long time afterward. One of these characters is the Ghost Rider! Opinions vary on who created what exactly, but we know that Mike Ploog, Gary Friedrich, and Roy Thomas were involved. Over the decades, there have been a few different people to carry the mantle of the Ghost Rider, but honestly, none are better than the original, Johnny Blaze.

In this issue, we see Blaze and his alter-ego battle dolphin killers…and a great white shark! Yes, shortly after the frenzy that was Jaws (summer of 1975), Bill Mantlo (writer), George Tuska (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Janice Cohen (colors), and Karen Mantlo (letters), gave us the awesomeness of Ghost Rider fighting Jaws (edited by Marv Wolfman, cover by Bob Brown and Dave Cockrum)!

 

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Ghost Rider 42, 1980 “The Lonesome Death of Johnny Blaze”

I’ve read a couple of good chunks of Ghost Rider (volume one), and a scant few issues of the other series throughout the years. Nothing resonates with me except the earlier stuff with Johnny Blaze. Why? I don’t know, but I can tell you that the earlier work not only dealt with the horror genre but also the biker gang phase of culture in the 1970’s as well. It may be the mystery that was so exhilarating, coupled with the horror angle, but whatever it was, it sticks with you. The very early work was tied in with Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), which also added a really cool vibe to the character. This issue (I showcased the previous one here) has Johnny still an amnesiac, and fawning over a girl named Gina. There usually was a girl who would pop up now and again, to try the romance angle, but most of them were flat compared to Roxanne Simpson.

The name Michael Fleisher (writer) isn’t one that is tossed around everyday. He had a pretty good run on this title ( as well as Conan, House of Mystery, and House of Secrets), but mostly fill-ins and such. Don Perlin (pencils and inks) is a man who I admire. Another name that’s usually lost among the titans, but one that everyone should know. Anyone that frequents my blog knows him name though! Diana Albers (letters) and Ben Sean (colors), round out the creative team. Not to be forgotten are the two Bob’s! Bob Budiansky (pencils) and Bob Wiacek (inks) gave us this cool cover!

 

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Ghost Rider #41, 1979 “The Freight Train to Oblivion”

I love Johnny Blaze! No, not the “Nicholas Cage I’m doing my Elvis impersonation” guy, but the stunt biker with an attitude that laughs in the face of danger! Listen, if all you know about Ghost Rider is from that craptastic movie, then get out and grab some old issues or Essentials of old flame-head! His early stuff is definitely solid material and when you have good creators like this title typically did, you get good results! In this story, we see Johnny get knocked out, lose his memory, and fall for a hot little lady that drives a race-car!

The writer, Michael Fleisher, had a decent run on this title. he had the pleasure to work with great artists like Don Perlin (pencils & inks). These two guys had a solid run, and really took the character in some interesting directions. Add letterer Clement Robins, colorist Ben Sean, and editor Roger Stern, and you have a great combination! Don’t forget the cool cover by Bob Budiansky and Bob Wiacek! And if all that wasn’t enough, you get a guest appearance by Laurel and Hardy!

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