With Johnny Blaze’s origin story out of the way (see Marvel Spotlight), Marvel opens up and gifts the spirit of vengeance his very own book, and it’s a winner through and through. Released way back in September of 1973, Ghost Rider was one of the more popular horror titles post-code for Marvel Comics, who’d been hot and cold with genre titles for years thanks to the lunacy of the Comics Code. But the code’s stranglehold continued to loosen sometime around 1970 and Marvel got right down to introducing all sorts of killer monster books. While there are a few vintage titles I love, none had the staying power (or sales) of Ghost Rider, who remains a hot commodity today.
In this opening issue, written by Gary Friedrich and illustrated by Tom Sutton, we see Blaze nearly killed in the opening pages by the police, who are hot on his trail and mystified by his strange new ability to transform into something else entirely. A high speed chase leaves Blaze in the hospital, but night soon falls and the Ghost Rider emerges. He’s on a race to get to his road manager, the jealous Bart Slade, who plans to make a name for himself and separate his presence from Johnny Blaze’s by standing in for the injured man in a stunt that will see him jump the Grand Canyon. But Slade is no Blaze, and things don’t go too well for the man, who, doesn’t clear the jump, shall we say.
While this primary plot unravels we jump back and forth into the life of a young woman who’s been possessed by Satan. As you may have guessed, Satan wants a little piece of Blaze, so the king of all things evil is off in pursuit, now wearing the flesh of a cute young looker. But the paths of Satan and Blaze are not to cross in this debut issue. We won’t see this conflict continue to blossom until issue two… which you know I’ll soon cover!
It’s a great book, and what stands out most to me is the rate at which the story moves. It flies by, but it nurses Blaze’s conflicts surprisingly well for such a busy book. Friedrich really does a tremendous job in getting Ghost Rider off to a strong start, and Sutton’s artwork is generally fairly sharp, although I think his style may have better lent itself to a black and white book. All around, however, I can’t complain about the quality of this significant Marvel #1. There’s a reason Ghost Rider has enjoyed the longevity he has, and it has an awful lot to do with the talent that’s been behind the book and the character for decades now.
You probably won’t find a physical copy of Ghost Rider #1 just laying around, but if you have the chance to purchase a digital copy, it’s completely worth the investment.