Welcome back to the second week of the inaugural installment of Four-Color Flashbacks! This week I will be focusing on a few of my favorite covers from the original Ghost Rider series. In future installments there will be no set number of covers used for this part to keeps things interesting, plus there isn’t really a specific order they will be put in. For this installment, numerical order seems easiest though, so let’s see what covers we have:
Let’s start with the very first issue, Ghost Rider #1 (Sept. 1973), which featured John Constanza’a cover art, and was almost a remake of the Rider’s first appearance from Marvel Spotlight #5 (Aug. 1972), only instead of criminals taking shots at him it’s the police trying to take him down. One of the things that I’ve always liked about this cover was it always felt like an EC Comics cover which, I can’t say was an inspiration for the set up, but either way it’s what always attracted me to this cover. Besides being the first issue in a very nice run, this issue also features the very first appearance of The Son Of Satan, Daimon Hellstrom who, ironically, would go to headline Marvel Spotlight #12-24.
At last year’s Detroit Fanfare Comic Convention I found an over-sized print of this cover. I had to get it, and as soon as I am able to find a frame that I like for it, it’s going on my wall!
Jumping forward quite a bit, another favorite cover is Ghost Rider #63 (Dec. 1981). This one I like only because it shows both the power and menace of what the Ghost Rider is at this time. At this point in the series Blaze was having more and more trouble controlling the demon and he’s becoming more of a villain than a hero. This Bob Budiansky cover captures this perfectly, in my opinion. When I picture the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider in my mind, this is the image I think of most often.
Inside the issue we have long-time Ghost Rider nemesis The Orb, a guy with a giant eye-ball helmet on that can hypnotize people, getting upgraded weaponry from Madame Menace who was a regular enemy of Machine Man. This issue also features the first appearance of the Quentin Carnival and it’s cast of characters. Years later, Blaze would end up owning this Carnival.
I collect figures from Eaglemoss, The Classic Marvel Figurine Collection. They are hand painted lead and resin figures modeled after Marvel characters. Eaglemoss also does DC, and once in a while they do bigger figures. I’ve always wanted this picture done as a figure: the original Ghost Rider on his flaming motorcycle. How sweet that would be!
Next up is Ghost Rider #68 (May 1982). A truly dynamic cover, again by Budiansky, that perfectly captures the torment Blaze went through when he was cursed by Satan, who is revealed to be a different Marvel demon-lord. I’m not going to say much more about this one because this issue will be featured in next weeks installment of Four-Color Flashbacks — Favorite Stories. I will add this, however, on Wizard Magazine’s list of “100 Best Single Issue Comics Since You Were Born”, this issue was #100. Again, more on this one next week!
Now, while I could honestly go on with even more covers that I loved from this series, I’ll do just one more. What better way to end this week’s installment than with the cover of the final issue? Ghost Rider #81 (June 1983) featured still another fantastic cover by Budiansky, and really does a great job of showing how troubled Blaze is at this point. The demon that made him Ghost Rider, Zarathos, has all but regained its memories and powers, and the two were in a near constant fight for control over their body. I always felt this cover captures this perfectly with Blaze, obviously troubled and worn from his struggles in the foreground, while the demonic Ghost Rider both rages behind him on his motorcycle, as well as looms over every aspect of the man’s life threatening to never let him rest or win.
The story follows Blaze as he is finally freed of the demon Zarathos, as both the demon and the equally evil Centurious are sucked into the Soul Crystal and taken my Mephisto deep into his realm. This is where the demon would remain until 1986 when he would appear in Amazing Spider-Man #274 (March) when, during Secret Wars II, Mephisto would challenge The Beyonder in an attempt to prevent himself (and by extension the whole of reality) from being destroyed. As for Johnny Blaze? After this series wrapped up he all but disappears but would make a major comeback when the Ghost Rider resurfaced in the 1990’s.
Well, there you have it. Just a few of my personal favorite covers from the original Ghost Rider series. Of course, this book had many other dynamic covers, but I had to narrow it down to something manageable, right? Keep an eye out next week for the third part of Four-Color Flashbacks: Ghost Rider!