Saturday, 12 November 2011

Preview Post: GHOST RIDER

24 Panels will soon be back to wrap up our Marvel-ous Halloween series with the 2007 film Ghost Rider! OK, we are a bit late, but we will be back to a more regular schedule soon!

So what is the history of the Ghost Rider? Well, it is a little….complicated. To go all the way back to the beginning, there was Ghost Rider # 1 from 1967 which introduced the world to… Carter Slade, the 19th century cowboy who took up wearing a costume to fight crime as the Ghost Rider.

So iconic and powerful was this character, that his comic was cancelled after seven issues. He does appear in the film, but very little of the character in the comics translates over.

Anyway, the Ghost Rider you’re probably most familiar with (well, probably - we’ll get to that in a second) is Johnny Blaze, who debuted in Marvel Spotlight # 5 in 1972. When his stepfather Crash Simpson is diagnosed with cancer, Johnny Blaze, a young motorcycle stunt man, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for Crash getting his health back. Crash recovers, but the deal turns out to be a trick: Crash dies in a stunt jump gone wrong shortly after his health is restored.

When the Devil comes to collect Johnny’s soul, he is saved by the love of Crash’s daughter, Roxanne. As revenge however, the devil bonds Johnny with a demon called Zarathos, and became the Ghost Rider, a force to punish the wicked on Earth at the Devil’s beck and call, transforming into the skulled creature covered in flames whenever he is in the presence of evil. In the 1970s, the character looked like this:

While the film is based on the Blaze character, it does take elements, and the look, from a Ghost Rider which came later: Danny Ketch, who first appeared in Ghost Rider #1 in 1990. Ketch is the first to have the leather jacket, spikes and chain look that has become the defining image of the character. In this version, Ketch and his sister are attacked one night in their hometown of New York by a local gang, leading to Ketch hiding in a garbage dump. While there, he finds a motorcycle with a sigil gas cap. When the sigil is touched, Ketch transforms into the Ghost Rider, who pretty much has the same powers as before, save for two major differences: he possesses the “penance stare” in which he can force his enemies to feel all the pain and suffering they have caused others, and a chain which possesses magical powers.

Oh, and by the late 1990s, Marvel decided to have him wear… this:

Anyways, it was the Ketch version which appeared in various media during the 1990s, first in a half-second appearance on the X-Men animated series, and then on the Fantastic Four cartoon, voiced by the man and legend, Richard Grieco, of 21 Jump Street fame. This clip from the episode in which he appears might just be one of the most awesome things to ever come out of Saturday morning cartoons:

The Grieco Ghost Rider would once again appear in animation, this time in the Sunday morning UPN animated Incredible Hulk TV series:

Ketch will apparently be featured in the upcoming Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as a child character that is central to the plot.

As noted though, it was the Blaze character who would star in the 2007 film, from director Mark Steven Johnson. Who is Johnson? Why, he is the writer behind such classics as Big Bully and Grumpy Old Men:

And to be fair, he was also the writer and director of the 2003 Marvel film Daredevil, which we’ll get to one of these days:

But first things first, and that is Ghost Rider! So join us next episode, and remember: selling your soul to the devil might sound like a good idea, but you will always pay a price. Unless you’re Spider-Man.

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