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.