Following the success of the Batman TV show, the sales of superhero titles went through the roof at both DC and Marvel. But, by 1969, both companies had scaled-back some of their titles and their competition (Archie, Charlton, Tower, Gold Key, etc.) had pretty well cancelled their superhero titles. Fearing that the superhero cycle of the Silver/Marvel Age of comics was over, both DC and Marvel experimented with other genres in the early 1970s. DC had a lot of success with its line of four-colour "Mystery" comics, which were basically a revamped variation of the old horror anthology comics engineered to meet the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority.
But the superhero titles were still the top sellers, so it made sense that both companies would launch suernatural heroes. Marvel's Ghost Rider was one such hero. To save the life of his adopted father, Crash Simpson, Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the devil. He is cursed to become the skull-faced Ghost Rider by night. A dark avenger out to reclaim his soul and help innocent victims of evil along the way. He rode a cool bike too.
Johhny Blaze is a hero that could only have come out of the early 1970's. At the time, Evil Knevel was risking his life in death defying stunts. Having Johhny Blaze starting out as the world's greatest stunt rider seemed very topical.
The art is generally good, especially the first three Marvel Premiere issues which feature the art of Mike Ploog. Ploog was Marvel's answer to DC's Berni Wrightson at the time and had launched Werewolf By Night and had been the artist on the Man Thing title. Other artists include Frank Robbins (not one of my favourites, but not bad here), Herb Trimpe, Tom Sutton, and some early John Byrne.Read more ›
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
GREAT FUN WITH THE ORIGINAL GHOST RIDER!Nov. 14 2005
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The Ghost Rider was one of those quasi-horror/superheroes of the 1970's similar to The Son of Satan. The comics code, while still in effect had been relaxed allowing for comics to depict things like demons although I wonder just what type of restrictions they had. The Ghost Rider was Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist for a traveling who sells his soul to Mephisto to save his father's life and is then bound with the demon Zarathos which allowed him to transform into the skull-headed, hellfire wielding avenger who could bring pain to criminals with his penance stare.
He would make his first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #5 and appear there through issue # 11 before getting his own title in 1973. Remarkably, Ghost Rider would actually run for 10 years and 81 issues which is quite an incredible run given that he was a rather minor character, all things considered. Ghost Rider would also for a time be a member of the defunct super team called the Champions in the mid-1970s. This massive essential book reprints those issues of Marvel Spotlight along with the first 20 issues of the Ghost Rider series.
The Marvel Spotlight books were all written by Mike Freidrich with art by Mike Ploog and then Tom Sutton, both very good artists. Once the regular series began things got dicey. Part of the series' inconsistency was in the revolving door of writers who worked on the titles including Freidrich, Marv Wolfman, Doug Moench, Tony Isabella, Bill Mantlo, Gerry Conway, and Jim Shooter...all of them within just the first 24 issues of the regular series. I'd love to ask Roy Thomas, who was editor-in-chief at the time, why the book seemed to be passed around like a hot potato. Things were not much better in regards to the artists. Ploog would be replaced by the VERY average Jim Mooney who was one of those long-time staff artists whose style was still early 60'ish. Mooney does most of the issues in this book although Ploog does return for #10 where Ghost Rider battles the Hulk and Sal Buscema does issues #11 which completes the two-part Hulk story. After that, we get the horrible Frank Robbins on most of the next several issues. Robbins was another one of those old Golden Age artists who style never really progressed and doesn't fit this type of book at all. John Byrne does the pencils for issue #20.
It is this inconsistency that makes the book somewhat maddening. Some writers such as Freidrich and Isabella concentrate more on the horrorific aspects of the character and his battles against demonic foes while others played the character strictly as a super hero. The review by John Q. Public is completely ridiculous. He claims Ghost Rider's villains are poor takes on DC's Vertigo characters yet these books were written in the mid-1970's, more than 15 years or so before DC even started the Vertigo line of comics. All in all though, it's still fun to read these books again after so many years.
Reviewed by Tim Janson
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Satan turns Johnny Blaze into a flaming skeleton on a motorcycleDec 20 2005
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"Ghost Rider" was one of several horror comic books that Marvel put out in the early 1970s where you got hooked on the title because Michael Ploog was drawing the book and then he moved on to something else and it was just not the same with the replacement artist. This happened with "Werewolf By Night," "Monster of Frankenstein," and "Ghost Rider." No wonder the fact that Gene Colan was the artist on "The Tomb of Dracula" from start to finish was one of the reasons that comic book was far and away Marvel's best horror title. Ploog's distinctive style made him ideal for drawing horror titles (only Berni Wrightston was better, but he was working for DC), which is why the four issues of "Marvel Spotlight" that he drew that introduced the character of Ghost Rider are the best in this collection of black & white reprints.
As our saga begins we meet Johnny Blaze, the son of the famous stunt motorcyclist Barton Blaze, who is the headliner at Crash Simpsons' Daredevil Cycle Show. After Barton is killed doing a dangerous stunt, the orphaned Johnny is raised by Crash and his wife Mona. Traumatized by the death of his father it takes Johnny a while to ride one and look death straight in the eye, and when he does at the age of fifteen his motorcycle catches on fire, explodes and kills his foster mother. She makes him promise never to ride in the show. Johnny keeps his promises, but Crash and his daughter Rocky think it is because he is a coward, but Johnny practices on his own (he only promised not to ride in the show, right?). The he learns that Crash Simpson has less than a month to live.
So Johnny calls on Satan to spare Crash from the deadly disease that is killing him. The Prince of Darkness agrees and will be back one day soon to collect his fee. Crash decides to go for the world's cycle jump record (22 cars) and is killed (he did not die from the disease did he?). Johnny then performs the jump himself, which does not exactly endear his to the distraught Rocky, and then Satan shows up and intones: "From this day forth...you will walk the earth as my emissary in the dark hours, and in the light, you will join me in Hades!" Rocky intervenes to send Satan back to Hell, but each night Johnny Blaze becomes a burning skeleton. He just usually wears biker leathers so that all you see is his burning skull.
Actually it is not Satan but the demon lord Mephisto, but we do not learn that for a while and it really does not matter unless you are trying to reconcile the Marvel Universe with Judeo-Christian traditions. What is important is that while Mephisto was forced to leave without Blaze's soul, he was able to graft the essence of the demon Zarathos to Blaze's body. It takes Johnny a while to learn this and he thinks the Ghost Rider is just his own dark side manifested as a burning skeleton. The early stories keep the focus on what is now Johnny Blaze's Daredevil Cycle Show, and Mephisto brings back Crash Simpson as a slave to sacrifice his daughter to his dark lord. Unfortunately, by the time we get to the end of that storyline Ploog has been replaced by Tom Sutton as artist and it is just not the same. Part of the problem is that coming up with stories that bring together Satan and motorcycle each month becomes a bit difficult, which would explain why the comic featured more multi-issue storylines than most Marvel titles. This is why we get stories like "Death Stalks the Demolition Derby" ("Ghost Rider" #4) and our hero riding against the Stunt-Master (#7). Then there is the powerful stranger with the long hair and bear in "Ghost Rider" #9. Could that be....Him?
After that point the Ghost Rider takes on the Hulk (#10-11), the Phantom Eagle (#12), the Trapster (#13), and the Orb (#14), as he ends up in Hollywood as a movie stuntman and gets romantically involved with the actress Karen Page. This explains why Daredevil pops up at the end of this collection. By the time we get to the point where the Ghost Rider is fighting Spider-Man, the Thing, Hercules and a bunch of other superheroes in Hell to try and rescue the mysterious Jesus-like figure and save Karen (#18), "Ghost Rider" has jumped a whole lot more than the shark. Writer Tony Isabella creates one of the most convoluted storylines of all time and when the Son of Satan returns to help our hero (#17) trying to figure out what it all means is just not worth the effort. However, of the artists that replaced Ploog I have to say that Frank Robbins did give the book a unique look and his name should be included on the cover instead of Herb Trimpe (Robbins drew four issues included here and George Tuska three, while Trimpe just did the Son of Satan origin).
"Essential Ghost Rider Volume 1" collects together "Marvel Spotlight" #5-12, "Ghost Rider" #1-20, and "Daredevil" #138, which is the penultimate story in the collection because it is a crossover with "Ghost Rider" #20. Also, "Marvel Spotlight" #12 ends up being another crossover because Ghost Rider has his own comic book at that point and the spotlight is now on "The Son of Satan." Chances are that is one Marvel comic book that is not going to get the Essentials treatment, so this may well be the only time you see this "Ominous Origin Issue!" reprinted. In case you were wondering, yes, "Ghost Rider" was better than "The Son of Satan," a note on which I have to end.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Roaring down the highway to nostalgiaDec 27 2005
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When I found out that the Ghost Rider was getting the "Essential" treatment, it made this Marvelite's day. I've been a fan of old skull-head since childhood, although the Rider I grew up with was the Dan Ketch version. As I got older, I became more curious about the original Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, and as I read those comics I found him even more to my liking. It seemed like Ketch was in a coma or something all the time, while Blaze was very much aware of (and tormented by) the demon within him. This essential volume collects the Hell-spawned biker's earliest adventures.
You know the plot if you've read the summary: to save his dying stepfather, stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze makes a deal with the devil that goes terriby awry. Now, not only has Blaze lost his stepdad, but he periodically turns into a flaming-skulled spirit of vengance! The plot expands from there as Ghost Rider squares off against the likes of the devilish Son of Satan, the seductive Witch Woman, the Orb, and even Satan/Mephisto himself.
The biggest complaint by far in the above reviews has been the comic's insconsistency. This can be traced back to the fact that Marvel really didn't know what they wanted to do with Ghost Rider for a while. They first played him strictly as a horror character like Werewolf by Night or Dracula (especially during the Marvel Spotlight comics, in my opinion the best part of this collection). Soon, though, they decided to try writing him as a semi-traditional superhero like Daredevil or Spider Man. Whether or not this worked out is up to debate, but it DOES make an interesting read. For what it's worth, they later returned the Rider to his horror roots, and the segment of Ghost Rider from around issue 50 to the end is (in this reviewer's opinion) the best comic run ever published. I can only hope they collect this segment in future "Essential Ghost Rider" volumes.
Back to this volume, though... It has quite a bit to brag about, too. The quality of the artwork remains high throughout; I only wish it were in color. (We have to take the good with the bad, I guess.) The plots are fantastic for the most part -- there is a noticeable drop in quality near the end, largely caused by two writers giving in to the temptation to "erase" parts of the story written by their predecessors that they weren't happy with (I'm looking at you, Tony Isabella). The resulting confusion is annoying, but it isn't bad enough to detract much from what is still a fantastic reading experience. Overall, I couldn't be happier with this book.
Although "Tomb of Dracula" might have been more popular in its day, and "Werewolf by Night" and "Monster of Frankenstein" may be more emblematic of the horror genre, the fact remains that "Ghost Rider" has outlasted all of them. The original comic lasted longer than they did (10 years versus TOD's 7), and it has managed to spawn a new series (the afore-mentioned Dan Ketch Ghost Rider) and an upcoming movie. Although this "Essential" doesn't contain the BEST part of the Rider's adventures, it is still essential reading for those who wish to discover what this whole "motorcycle-riding demon from Hell" thing is all about.
Try it, then buy it. I doubt you'll be disappointed.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Riders in the SkyMarch 25 2006
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In the late 1970, Marvel was revamping its line. They were offering readers new and seconary stars in their own books...like such marvel characters Power man (Luke Cage), Iron Fist (started in their Fist of the Dragon magazine), The Punisher, Werewolf by Night, Dracula (Tomb of Dracula), , ROM, Moon Knight and even Howard the Duck. These characters books ran aside books of Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Thor, The Avengers and the X-men.
Most of these books, if bought today in the collector's comic book shops, would cost thousands. Marvel in an intelligent business move created the Essental series. A wonderful way to buy classic comic books in a black and white format (most books over 500 pages) at a price you can afford. Some would rather have them in color, to those I suggest think of these as Black and White Classics uncolorized.
To save his dying stepfather Crash, Circus performer and stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze makes a deal with the devil that goes awry. Similar to the classic Faust legend (they had to steal from somebody), Blaze lost his step parent, but he turns into a flaming-skull spirit of vengeance to serve a better good!
Ghost Rider which started in Marvel Showcase number five thru twelve. Then continued into his own book. These classic stories recant thr 1970's hero which Nic Cage as Blaze will play in 2007. Get the book now before the movie!
I do not consider this a horror book like Tomb of Dracula, as i do a superhero book. Ghost Rider may involve the devil but under it all here is a hero in the Marvel vein... tormented like Spiderman....a lonely like wolverine...Powers like Son of Satan..and still out to save the world one person at a time
MY advice as i said before--Get the book now before the movie come out!
Bennet Pomerantz. Audioworld
A Comic Book Collection for True Fans OnlyJan. 23 2011
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Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1 contains the best stories of the Johnny Blaze version of the character: His introduction in Marvel Spotlight No. 5 and the ensuing two issues of the comic (before the company gave him his own title). The first three issues (Marvel Spotlight issues No. 5-7) have art by Mike Ploog, whose style perfectly fitted the spookiness of the stories. Unfortunately, after those three issues comes a series of artists of lesser quality, ranging from competent (Tom Mooney) to poor (Frank Robbins at his worst). The series begins to ramble, as different writers take Ghost Rider in different directions, and it just becomes hard to care about any of the characters. One late highlight of this book is the inclusion of Daredevil issue No. 138, the second part of a crossover story. The issue contains art by John Byrne. For an expanded review, check out my Squidoo lens by searching goldenrulecomics on that site. All-in-all, this book really is for readers who want every appearance of a character. If you really aren't into the Ghost Rider, this book isn't for you.