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Books – Dara
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Image of Igor Movie Prequel
Image of Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland (Witch & Wizard (Idw))
Image of Terminator: Salvation Movie Prequel
Image of Witch & Wizard Volume 2: Operation Zero (Witch & Wizard (Idw))
Image of Ghostbusters: Haunted Holidays
Image of Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now
Image of The Absurd Adventures of Archibald Aardvark Volume 1: Bullets, Booze, and Beelzebub
Image of MGM Drive-in Theater: Motel Hell and IT
Books -Panel
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Image of Comic Book Tattoo Special Edition
Image of Saint Germaine: Tales of an Immortal
Image of Sherlock Holmes & Kolchak: Cry For Thunder S/N Limited Edition HC
Image of Ghost Sonata
Image of Vampire The Masquerade Volume 1: Blood and Roses
Image of Moonstone Monsters Volume 1

Ghost Rider #1

Well, this is awkward…

I was all set to do a post  expressing my excitement regarding the sequel to the B-movie glory that was Nicholas Cage’s Ghost Rider, a responsibility which weighs most heavily on me since I’m apparently the only one on Earth who enjoyed that magnificent piece of kitsch.  Little did I suspect that the corporate masters behind the character would pull off the worst p.r. stunt possible as they quite publicly attempted to destroy the life of the writer who chronicled the character’s earliest appearances a week before the movie opened.  That kind of puts a damper on things.

The coverage I’ve seen talks much about how Marvel has done all these terrible things to Gary Friedrich, which tells me what a good job Disney does of keeping their corporate name out of the conversation.  I’m not surprised about the lengths they’ve gone to if it’s true they want Friedrich to have no claim as Ghost Rider’s creator; they seem to want their characters to be bigger than the mortals behind them.  Anyone want to tell me who created the Disney versions of Beast, or Aladdin, or Simba?  (Actually, my cousin was married to one of Disney’s chief animators way back when and I’m told she served as the model for Ariel, but that’s another story…).  You might notice I didn’t refer to Friedrich as the creator of Ghost Rider in the first paragraph.  I don’t have any particular insight into GR’s origins, but many of the characters from that era were created by committee, and Marvel had a western hero in the sixties called Ghost Rider who affected supernatural powers.  The Phase Two version swapped the horse for a motorcycle and set his head on fire, and voila!  A new character!

I also don’t blame the Marvel of old for guarding their ownership of the characters they published.  They would need to keep their cast of characters consistent when artists and writers would come and go from month to month (as mentioned in my previous WBM post, Son of Satan went through six different creators in about the first ten issues).  Comic publishers weren’t being passed around for billions of dollars a few decades ago; the 1970’s were a rough time for Marvel and DC, and imagine how long they would have lasted if an artist took Character X off to another publisher, or disallowed it’s use, after just a few issues.  Marvel almost didn’t survive the seventies anyway, but for their luck in licensing a series based on a goofy long shot sci-fi movie in 1977 that turned out to be a huge moneymaker for everyone involved.  The competition was experiencing the “DC Implosion” at about the same time.  Establishing a system where artists could share the next-to-no-profits of your publishing house, but still shut down any of your titles if they decided to move on, doesn’t sound like a viable model to run a business without which the artists wouldn’t eat anyway.  (And for all that people gripe about Marvel’s treatment of Jack Kirby, he ran his own studio as a work-for-hire operation when he was the boss.)

All of which is merely to say that I won’t judge the business practices of yesteryear with the benefit of today’s hindsight.  Now that there are billions of dollars changing hands and the people who created and developed the characters are living in poverty, however, the company that doesn’t share the enormous wealth and give credit where it’s due are certainly subhuman bastards.

Okay, now that I’ve stirred that pot, here’s a bit about the comic itself…  Like many first issues of it’s time, it actually picks up from a long run in an anthology title and continues a story from another issue, so it’s hardly a first appearance or a seamless jumping on point, but this was from a time when no one actually cared about the numbering of an issue beyond organizing the pile of books in the corner of your closet.  A good thing, too, because as a first exposure to Satan’s cyclist, it doesn’t quite hold up.  Let’s examine the brilliant concept behind the character: like Aquaman, who can only battle criminals who stray too close to major waterways, Ghost Rider is designed to specialize in motorbike-borne Satanists.  That’s a pretty narrow niche to build a series around; good thing he’s got that awesome visual.  As for the plot of this particular issue, well…

It opens with Johnny Blaze charging a police barricade for totally obscure reasons before crashing his bike and being rushed to the hospital.  His manager, irked at his disappearance before a major stunt show, decides to take Blaze’s place in the spotlight and suffers a horrible crash.  Ghost Rider sneaks out of the hospital, and the awesome spectacle of that blazing skull atop a chopper is shelved in favor of watching him climb into the back of a taxi, and later steal a pickup truck.  Seriously.  Why that scene with the cab isn’t on the cover of the book, I can’t imagine.  That’s all that happens in the first issue; the closest we have to seeing a villain is a subplot involving a possessed Indian girl whose boyfriend answers a newspaper ad for a mysterious exorcist who is seen only in shadow, which leads to another book entirely

A close look at the image at the top of the post will reveal a little G-shaped chicken scratch on the cover.  Gary Friedrich made an appearance at MidOhio a couple years ago and signed my copy; he remains the only creator I have encountered who charged for a signature, but I had no problem ponying up the change to have a couple books signed– I would only say if he’s going to charge for autographs, he needs to leave a bolder, more flamboyant mark on the cover, but that’s a minor quibble.  Given what’s happened this past week, I wouldn’t mind having had to shell out a little more, or would have had a couple more books signed.  I’ll likely join the boycott of the movie, or maybe grab a bootleg from that guy outside the convenience store across from my workplace, and send Friedrich a check in the amount of a movie ticket.

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One Response to “Way Back Machine”

  • Tom Williams says:

    I just read a piece over at Robot 6 about Sean Murphy’s dust up with Marvel over his Marvel ABC’s art series. While different than Gary’s legal trouble, it seems that (Marvel)Disney’s lawyers are starting to get more aggressive about what creators sell at shows (that sport Marvel properties). I don’t think it will ever affect the ol’ con sketch or buying originals, but the printed merch might be in trouble. I’m talking about prints, and art books/ashcans with licensed Marvel characters. Everyone’s always looked the other way until now.


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