First Published: November 2009
Contents: Ghost Rider #51 (December 1980) to #65 (February 1982); Marvel Two-In-One #80 (October 1981); Ghost Rider story from Marvel Super-Heroes #11 (October 1992); and Avengers #214 (December 1981)
Key Creator Credits: Michael Fleisher, Don Perlin, Jack Sparling, Herb Trimpe, Alan Kupperberg, Luke McDonnell, and others
Key First Appearances: Asmodeus, Hamilton Slade/Phantom Rider, Red Fowler
Story Continues In: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 2
Story Continues From: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 4
Overview: Ghost Rider is back in action with another Essential volume reprinting his original series from the early 1980s. Stunt rider Johnny Blaze travels the American West, going from one gig to the next, doing his best to stay out of trouble as well as keeping the demon Zarathos from taking control of his soul.
Without a lot of supporting characters from issue to issue, many of these stories are one-and-done as Ghost Rider finds himself in a different location each issue. It’s not to say that Johnny doesn’t run into some familiar faces along the way. We get crossovers with the Thing, the Avengers, the Arabian Knight, Werewolf by Night, and others.
What makes this Essential?: I’m sure there is something I am missing here, but I just don’t get Ghost Rider. I understand the origins of the character. I can see how some people would be attracted to this character. But from what I have read so far in these Essential volumes, I find it disappointing. The stories and the art seem very average. I have read more contemporary Ghost Rider stories and found them much more interesting. My only thought is that these Ghost Rider issues filled a niche in the market and the followers were extremely loyal and vocal to keep Ghost Rider around.
Footnotes: Marvel Two-In-One #80 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 4.
If you like this volume, try: the original Marvel mini-series, Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions. This was originally planned on an oversized special to coincide with the 1980 Summer Olympics. But when the United States pulled out of the games, Marvel shelved the project and resurrected it two years later as a three issue mini-series. In Contest of Champions, the Grandmaster engages in a game against the entity representing Death. He wants to get his brother, the Collector, resurrected, and wages his own life if he should lose. The two participants choose teams of heroes from around the globe and make them square off against each other. While Ghost Rider is not featured in this series, the Arabian Knight and the Thing are both participants in the game. This series has been reprinted multiple times, making it easy to track down in some format.
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I remember reading in the fan press at the time that it was a series that just would not die. It had sales that put it near the top of the bimonthly sales, but if they bumped it to monthly, then it was at the bottom of monthly sales. So yes, Marvel kept printing it because just enough people kept buying it. In a day when a great cover could sell a book on the newsstands, GR had a very good visual appeal. It’s no coincidence that as the direct market became more and more of the total sales for Marvel, GR finally got cancelled.
First, thank you for the feedback! Good to know I was right in my thinking regarding the fan support. I know that the cancellation came at a time when Shooter was trying to get rid of many of the low-selling books in that time. Looking at ComicBookDB, looks like the final issue of Ghost Rider (#81, June 1983) came out the same month as the final issue of Spider-Woman (#50).
After the DC Implosion, Warner execs stated that only books that could support a monthly schedule would be published – no more bi-monthly books. Marvel kept the bi-monthly for a little longer, but by 1983 was pretty much going in the same direction as I recall. I’d have to go back to the fanzines of the day to refresh my memory of over 30 years ago, though.
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