Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4

flash4First Published: October 2012

Contents: The Flash #162 (June 1966) to #184 (December 1968)

Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Ross Andru, Frank Robbins, Cary Bates, and others

Key First Appearances: Julie Schwartz

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 3

Overview: DC Comics published 124 Showcase Presents volumes over the last 10+ years. These volumes covered much of the Silver Age and Bronze Age covering all aspects of the DC Universe. If I had to narrow down my reading adventures to just one volume that best represents the potential of DC Comics, it would be this volume, which has a little bit of everything in the collection. This is Showcase Presents The Flash Vol. 4.

On the surface, this is a fast-paced (pun intended) superhero comic book. You have a true hero, in and out of the red tights, who fights a never-ending battle against a colorful assortment of costumed villains. But The Flash goes beyond the superhero concept. This is a great science fiction title, as the title hero can travel between dimensions. As always, the stories are filled with science facts, making it a learning tool for the reader. Finally, this may be a stretch, but the romance between Barry and Iris is true and would match up to the stories found in Young Love.

This volume contains so many memorable moments that helped shape the DC Universe. We get the wedding of Barry and Iris, which is nearly interrupted by Professor Zoom. We get one of the earliest races between the Flash and Superman, trying to determine who the fastest man alive is. Another Earth is visited, and we finally see a face to go with a familiar name from the credits page. As always, there are some Kid Flash short stories, we get a crossover appearance by Green Lantern, and so much more.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I really like how this title was always moving forward when other titles were happy maintaining the status quo. This volume sees Barry and Iris finally tie the not, and Barry reveals his secret identity to his wife. Over in the Superman books, a Superman-Lois marriage would only be considered as an imaginary story. I do like these stories, even following the shake-up in the mid-1960s when Broome, Fox and Infantino left the title. Newcomer Cary Bates would have a long run with the Flash’s friends and foes.

Welcome to Earth-Prime!: The Flash comic helped re-introduce the Justice Society characters as still alive and well, but living in an alternate world designated as Earth-2. In issue #179, we are introduced to a new world that would become known as Earth-Prime. On this world, there are no superheroes. In fact, superheroes are only found in the comic books. The Flash travels to New York City to meet DC Comics Editor Julie Schwartz, who is the one person on this Earth most likely to believe the Flash’s story and help him return to Earth-1.

Footnotes: The Flash #169 and #178 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection.

If you like this volume, try: the Superman vs. The Flash trade paperback collection from 2005. DC fans for years had debated over which hero is the fastest man alive, Superman or the Flash. Beginning in 1967, we saw a pair of races in each of the characters’ main titles (Superman #199 and The Flash #175). Neither race was conclusive, so it led to future races across multiple books. This trade collects many of those race stories from the Silver and Bronze Ages. The book sports a spectacular Alex Ross cover. So want to know who is faster? Read this trade and find out for yourself.

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5

First Published: October 2011

Contents: Batman #216 (November 1969) to #228 (February 1971); Batman stories from Detective Comics #391 (September 1969) to #407 (January 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Frank Robbins, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, and others

Key First Appearances: Ten-Eyed Man, Arthur Reeves, Kirk Langstrom/Man-Bat, Francine Langstrom

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 6

Overview: It’s time to head back to the Batcave for another set of Batman adventures. But wait, what’s this… the Batcave is closed? This is Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5.

This volume looks at the Batman stories from the early 1970s. Dick Grayson has finally left to go to college at Hudson University, and Bruce Wayne (and Alfred) suddenly realize how large and empty Wayne Manor feels now. So they close up the Manor (and the Batcave) and relocate to the Wayne Foundation tower in downtown Gotham City. Bruce lives in the penthouse suite but has a secret elevator to a hidden garage where the Batmobile is stored. This keeps Batman in Gotham at all times, allowing him to respond quicker to threats to his city.

But just because he is away at college doesn’t mean that we do not see Robin in this collection. He still makes the occasional appearance, such as in Batman #222, when they are tasked to discover the truth behind the rumors surrounding a Beatles-type group and  the possible death of the lead singer, Saul Cartwright. (This was cashing in on the ever-ongoing rumor that Paul McCartney had died years previous and had been replaced in the Beatles.)

A major new addition is added to the Batman Family in Detective Comics #400, with the introduction of the Man-Bat. Kirk Langstrom is a curator at the Gotham City Museum, and he has a keen interest in bats. Developing a serum, Langstrom hopes to modify himself into the next generation Batman. Unfortunately, the serum does not work as planned, and Langstrom is transformed into a living man-sized bat. With the origin of the Man-Bat in place, Batman works to stop as well as cure Langstrom. The curator is returned to normal, but we know that the Man-Bat will return multiple times in the future.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: A lot of the problems that I had with Vol. 4 still carry over into this collection. While there is nothing wrong with focusing on the Batman as a detective, these issues have me wanting more. If you have an artist of the caliber of Neal Adams on the title, should you be using him to draw common street criminals month after month? The redeeming point of the book is that towards the end, we start to see Denny O’Neil introducing the story elements for the future stories to be read in Vol. 6, where we will finally be introduced to Ra’s al Ghul.

Footnotes: Batman #218, #223 and #228 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection. 

Batman #217 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

Batman #225 contains two Batman stories, “Wanted for Murder One, The Batman” and “Shutdown on York Street!”. However, the “Shutdown on York Street!” story is not reprinted in this collection.

Detective Comics #404 is also reprinted in Showcase Presents Enemy Ace Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: The Joker series from 1975 and 1976. During the period collected in this volume, more emphasis was being put on Batman being a detective. When he did battle “villains”, it was newer creations such as Man-Bat, the League of Assassins, and Ra’s al Ghul. The more colorful villains that we associate with Batman, such as the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman, were only being used in The Brave and the Bold from time to time. In early 1975, DC launched a bi-monthly series focusing on the Joker. With the Comics Code Authority still in place, the creative team had to adhere to a lot of rules in order to feature a villain as the protagonist. The Joker could not kill, he had to be captured at the end of each story, and Batman could not be used in the book. Even without the Caped Crusader, plenty of other characters made appearances in the run, such as Commissioner Gordon, Green Arrow, Black Canary, the Creeper, Catwoman, Two-Face and even Sherlock Holmes. The series ran for just nine issues, and the entire series was reprinted in a trade paperback in 2013.

Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4

batman4First Published: July 2009

Contents: Batman #202 (June 1968) to #215 (September 1969); Batman stories from Detective Comics #376 (June 1968) to #390 (August 1969)

Key Creator Credits: Frank Robbins, Gardner Fox, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, and others

Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5 

Overview: The Batmobile is fueled, the Batcopter is set, and the Batcycle is ready to race. Pick your Bat-vehicle of choice, because we got a new collection of adventures featuring Batman, Robin, and Batgirl to talk about. This is Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4.

As quickly as Batmania took over the country in the mid-1960s, it faded away even quicker with the demise of the Batman TV series. While ABC was able to find other shows to fill the programming schedule, it feels like the DC Comics took a step back without the show to leverage. The colorfully costumed villains are used less frequently, replaced by stories requiring Batman to showcase his detective skills against common gangsters and other ordinary criminals.

The bulk of this volume is written by Frank Robbins, with art duties shared by Irv Novick and Bob Brown, and an occasional cover from Neal Adams. While I am on the record of not being a fan of Robbins’ work later in his career, his stories here are quite serviceable for that era. There wasn’t the demand for multi-issue epic stories. These are one-and-done issues, and everything resets with the next issue. These are predominantly Batman and Robin stories, but some team-ups with Batgirl are scattered in here too.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: I know that it’s an unwritten rule on the Internet that we should not speak (or write) ill of the Batman. But I was really disappointed in this collection. I really felt like the series turned the corner with Vol. 3, as we start getting Batman’s most familiar foes month after month, and we had the addition of Batgirl to the family. But the stories in this collection just feel like a let-down in comparison. There are no significant introductions of new characters during this time. Many of the stories seem to be reinterpretations of stories seen in the prior volumes. For the Batman completist, I understand the need to have this volume on your bookshelf. For the casual fan, I would say go back and get Vol. 3, or look for Volumes 5 and 6 when we get Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Jim Aparo more involved with Batman.

Footnotes: Batman #203 and #208 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection. 

Batman #214 and the lead story from Detective Comics #385 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

Batman #213 and Detective Comics #386 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: The Batman Adventures series which started in 1992 in support of the then-new animated show on FOX. As we are all well aware, Batman: The Animated Series is considered to be one of the greatest interpretations of the Batman Universe ever. The show gave us Harley Quinn and cemented in this writer’s head that Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. What often got overlooked or dismissed as a kids comic was The Batman Adventures comic series. This is an outstanding series and still remains my favorite run of Batman in the 1990s. The talent that worked on this book read like a Who’s Who of great creators – Kelley Puckett, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Mike Parobeck, and much more. They took the concepts introduced in the series and expanded on them month after month. DC has started a new line of trade paperbacks to reprint this run, as many of these issues are hard to find – see The Batman Adventures #12. If you are a fan of the show, you need to read this series!

Essential Captain America Vol. 5

Essential Captain America Vol. 5

First Published: June 2010

Contents: Captain America and the Falcon #187 (July 1975) to #205 (January 1977); Captain America Annual #3 (1976); and Marvel Treasury Special Featuring Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles #1 (1976)

Key Creator Credits: John Warner, Frank Robbins, Sal Buscema, Tony Isabella, Jack Kirby, and others

Key First Appearances: Moonstone, Threkker, Contemplator, General Argyle Fist, Brother Inquisitor

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 6

Overview: You recall the creation of Captain America, right? I’m not talking about the character’s origin story in the comics. Rather, I refer to the creation of the character in 1940. Writer Joe Simon doodled out a concept called Super American, but decided there were too many Supers in comics those days. So he gave him the title Captain, tweaked the name, and brought in artist Jack Kirby to flesh it out. Captain America Comics #1, featuring Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler, came out in late December of 1940, nearly a full year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So the history is there that Jack Kirby has been there since Day 1 with the adventures of Steve Rogers.

Flash forward to 1975, and Marvel re-signs Jack Kirby to a contract after a five-year run at DC. Part of the deal gave Kirby creative control of his books, so he did a lot of titles that fell on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, such as The Eternals and Devil Dinosaur. But he was also given the chance to write and draw Captain America. Kirby jumped in head first and turned the action level up to 11 with the start of his run in the monthly Cap book.

Kirby takes Captain America (and the Falcon) on a MAD run across the country in search of a BOMB. (Yes, that is a subtle plug to the main storyline, Madbomb.) In typical Kirby fashion, there are a lot of Nazis, a lot of 1950s monster references, and a lot of fist-fighting — maybe this is what Kirby was most comfortable drawing, or what he thought would sell best. Marvel really didn’t care, because it was still new art by the King.

What makes this Essential?: If Marvel had planned things out more in advance, they could have easily made this an Essential Captain America by Jack Kirby volume. This volume contains six issues before Kirby took over the title. This Essential ends with issue #205, and Kirby’s run ends ten issues later (including Annual #4) with issue #214. So it could have been possible to get all of the Kirby run in one Essential. Alas, it did not work out that way.

Regardless, this collection is worth a look for the Kirby issues. I will be the first to admit that this is not Kirby’s greatest work. Part of the deal to get Kirby to return to Marvel required giving him more creative freedom and less editorial supervision. I’ve contended for many years that writers and/or artists should not be their own editors. The stories could have been helped some by another voice providing input and suggestions. These are action-packed stories, but there is very little character development going on here.

Footnotes: Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles #1 was initially published as an over-sized Treasury edition. Because of the size of the treasury, the page dimensions to not scale down properly for the Essential formatting, which leads to extra white space on the bottom of each page.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain America volume from 2013 by Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr. This was another re-launch with the All-New Marvel event. In this storyline, Captain America is thrown into Dimension Z, a post-apocalyptic world ruled by Arnim Zola. There is no United States or no American Dream to defend. Steve Rogers just has to be a man standing up for what is right. While this storyline ran over the course of 1 year in publishing time, the events of the story cover 10 years in Captain America’s life. Along the way, Cap gains a son, but is he the father? The story as well as the art echoes back to the frenzied approach that Jack Kirby took in the stories in this Essential. And much like the 1970s Kirby run on Captain America, this run by Remender & Romita, Jr. is either really loved or really hated. This isn’t your typical Captain America storyline, so you have to be willing to accept the character in this different environment.

Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Essential Captain America Vol. 4

First Published: January 2008

Contents: Captain America and the Falcon #157 (January 1973) to #186 (June 1975)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Stever Gerber, Tony Isabella, Mike Friedrich, John Warner, Sal Buscema, Alan Weiss, Frank Robbins, Herb Trimpe, and others

Key First Appearances: Viper (I), Solarr, Deadly Nightshade, Helmut Zemo/Phoenix (I), Moonstone (I), Roscoe Simons/Captain America (V), Viper (II) (Madame Hydra), Nomad (Steve Rogers)

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 5

Overview: Just a word of warning before we get too deep into this review. You may want to take some notes along the way, because this one might get confusing. In this book, we have two Captain Americas; we have two Vipers; we have the first appearance of Phoenix, but it’s not THAT Phoenix that you are thinking about. Likewise, we meet Moonstone for the first time, but it’s not THAT Moonstone that you are thinking about. I’ll do my best to keep things clear, but your best bet might be to pick up a copy of Essential Captain America Vol. 4 and follow along with me.

Now, if you were to make a list of Captain America’s most fearsome foes, we probably would put Baron Zemo on that list. The problem there is which Baron Zemo. There’s been at least a dozen Baron Zemos. One dies, and the next crazy Zemo takes on the costume and title and rushes off to face Cap. In this volume, we meet Helmut Zemo, who works under the Phoenix identity. He won’t become Baron Zemo for another 100 issues, but we are more familiar with him as Citizen V in The Thunderbolts.

This volume is a slow build up to the Secret Empire storyline. We met the Secret Empire years ago, as an offshoot of Hydra. Remember Hydra – cut off one limb, two more rise up! So it turns out that the Secret Empire has been inserting agents into the highest offices in the United States government. And not just the highest offices, but the oval offices too, if you catch my drift. With the help of the Falcon, members of the Avengers, and the X-Men, Captain America is able to uncover and take down the Secret Empire (for now).

Following the battle with the Secret Empire, Steve Rogers finds that he is questioning everything he thought he knew. He finds that he can no longer wear the costume of Captain America, and walks away from the role. Nature abhors a vacuum, and several volunteers step up to assume the mantle of Captain America. The most notable of those was Roscoe Simons, who finds an outfit and tries to partner up with the Falcon. Unfortunately for Roscoe, the pair encounter the Red Skull, who is not happy that his most hated foe is no longer wearing the Captain America uniform. He beats Roscoe senseless, hopefully teaching him a lesson.

Meanwhile, Steve Rogers has adopted a new identity in Nomad, the man without a country. Nomad discovers the beaten Roscoe Simons, and realizes he still has a responsibility. He can represent the American people and the American spirit, even if he does not always represent the American government. Steve Rogers returns to the Captain America identity, and the hunt is on to track down the Red Skull.

What makes this Essential?: This is an intriguing collection. While I personally do not care for many of the stories here, I recognize that they are important to the history of the Marvel Universe. The Secret Empire/Nomad story came out during the Watergate era in Washington, D.C. Coupled with the Vietnam war, many people were disillusioned with the United States government. It makes complete sense that Steve Rogers would walk away from the uniform and his government. The story appealed to a lot of readers at the time, and Sal Buscema and Steve Englehart have indicated in interviews that this run put Captain America into the top ten books sold during this era. So from a historical perspective, I think this is worth reading.

Footnotes: During the Secret Empire story arc, the X-Men were working alongside Cap. During this era, the X-Men comic was reprinting issues from the 1960s. The only way readers could keep up with their favorite mutants was following their adventures in other titles, such as Captain America, Avengers, Marvel Team-Up, and the Incredible Hulk.

If you like this volume, try: Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco, and Roger Stern. Originally published as a 12-issue mini-series, this is the ultimate Avengers time-travel story. Immortus is targeting Rick Jones, who uses the Destiny Force to bring Avengers from different eras to help him out. One of those Avengers is the disillusioned Captain America that we saw at the end of the Secret Empire story. This Cap is still strong enough to inspire his fellow Avengers, but he doesn’t take over the book. Captain America and the other Avengers (current day Wasp and Giant Man; a Hawkeye from right after the Kree-Skrull war; Yellowjacket post-breakdown but pre-marriage to Jan; a future Captain Marvel; and an alternate universe Songbird) go toe-to-toe with Immortus across time and space. This is an epic story that only a master storyteller like Busiek could have pulled off. This story initially came out 15 years ago, but I still pull it off of the shelf every couple of years to re-read and marvel (pun intended) at how well done this book is. You can find this in both trade paperback and hardcover, as it has stayed in print over the years.

Showcase Presents Robin Vol. 1

First Published: January 2008

Contents: Robin stories from Batman #184 (September 1966), #192 (June 1967), #202 (June 1968), #213 (July-August 1969), #217 (December 1969), #227 (December 1970), #229 (February 1971) to #231 (May 1971), #234 (August 1971) to #236 (November 1971), #239 (February 1972) to #242 (June 1972), #244 (September 1972) to #246 (December 1972), #248 (April 1973) to #250 (July 1973), #252 (October 1973), and #254 (January-February 1974); World’s Finest Comics #141 (May 1964) #147 (February 1965), #195 (August 1970), and #200 (February 1971); Robin stories from 
Detective Comics #342 (August 1965), #386 (April 1969), #390 (August 1969), #391 (September 1969), #394 (December 1969), #395 (January 1970), #398 (April 1970) to #403 (September 1970), #445 (February-March 1975), #447 (May 1975), #450 (August 1975) and #451 (September 1975); Robin stories from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #91 (March 1966), #111 (June 1968), and #130 (July 1970); and 
Justice League of America #91 (August 1971) and #92 (September 1971)

Key Creator Credits: Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, Gil Kane, Mike Friedrich, Irv Novick, Dick Dillin, Elliot S. Maggin, Bob Rozakis, and others

Key First Appearances: Frank McDonald, Lori Elton

Overview: For being a teenage sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder is looking pretty good for 74 years old. Sit back and enjoy the solo tales of the most recognizable sidekick of all time.

The early stories have the sweet innocence of the 1960s. We get a retelling of Robin’s origin: A young Dick Grayson is the youngest member of the Flying Graysons, the star attraction of Haley’s Circus. When the circus refuses to pay off mobsters, the Graysons suffer a fatal accident, leaving Dick Grayson as a mourning orphan. Attending the circus that night is millionaire Bruce Wayne, who knows first hand the pain that Grayson is feeling. He brings the young lad into his home as a ward and makes him a partner in his war on crime as Robin.

As we enter the 1970s, Dick Grayson finally completes high school and is ready to head to college. Once he leaves Wayne Manor to attend college at Hudson University, Robin starts to shine as an independent character. He finds a steady girlfriend in Lori Elton and gets to know the Hudson Security Chief Frank McDonald both in and out of the Robin outfit. Robin’s maturation becomes a decade-long process, but we finally get to see Robin completely break free of Batman’s shadow much later in the pages of New Teen Titans.

Why should these stories be Showcased?: As one of DC’s oldest characters, Robin definitely needs to have his solo stories collected like this. The stories collected here generally fall into two categories – either a filler story to complete an issue of Batman or Detective Comics, or a genuine attempt to tell a stand-alone story and advance the character of Dick Grayson. However, Dick Grayson’s story is not complete here. It’s been 7+ years since DC released this volume and Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1. My hope is that some day, DC will continue to collect Dick Grayson’s (and Barbara Gordon’s) adventures in a Showcase Presents Batman Family Vol. 1, which would ideally collect the original stories of Robin, Batgirl, Man-Bat and others from Batman Family #1 to #20.

Footnotes: The Robin story from Detective Comics #342  was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 1.

The Robin story from Batman #184 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2.

The Robin story from Batman #192 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3.

The Robin stories from Batman #202 and #213 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4.

The Robin story from Batman #217 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5.

Detective Comics #400 & #401 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.

World’s Finest Comics #141 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 2.

World’s Finest Comics #147 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 3.

World’s Finest Comics #195 and #200 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents World’s Finest Vol. 4.

Justice League of America #91 and #92 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Justice League of America Vol. 5.

If you like this volume, try: The New Teen Titans: Judas Contract. This was one of the best Teen Titans stories ever and definitely was among the greatest stories done by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. The main story here deals with the betrayal of the Titans by their newest member, Terra. Inserted into the team a year prior, we find out that she had been working as a mole for Deathstroke, the Terminator. Over the course of the story, we see Dick Grayson undergo his transformation into adulthood, which had it’s beginnings in this volume when Robin struck out on his own at Hudson University. By the end of the story, Dick Grayson has adopted a new identity (and costume) as Nightwing. This has been collected multiple times, as both a trade paperback and as part of The New Teen Titans Omnibus Vol. 2. I can’t recommend this story enough – this is one of the essential stories for Dick Grayson, for the Teen Titans, and for DC Comics.

Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 1

First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972) to #12 (October 1973); Ghost Rider #1 (September 1973) to #20 (October 1976); and Daredevil #138 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog, Tom Sutton, Tony Isabella, Jim Mooney, George Tuska, Frank Robbins, Marv Wolfman, John Byrne, and others

Key First Appearances: Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, Roxanne Simpson/Katy Milner, Crash Simpson, Daimon Hellstrom/Son of Satan 

Story Continues In: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 2

Overview:  Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle daredevil with a traveling road show. When the owner of the show, Crash Simpson, announces he is dying from cancer, Blaze seeks out and strikes a deal with Devil for his soul in an attempt to save Crash. The Devil accepts, but like any deal with Satan, the deal works against Blaze. Crash is saved from cancer but still dies in a stunt accident. As part of his deal, Johnny Blaze is transformed into a mystical servant of Hell, known as the Ghost Rider.

The early stories deal with Blaze trying to free his soul from the control of Satan. This leads to the introduction of the devil’s estranged offspring, Daimon Hellstrom, who would become an anti-hero in his own right as the Son of Satan.

Eventually, Blaze gets his soul released, but he still retains the Ghost Rider abilities. Early on, his transformations occurred at dusk, but now Blaze finds that he can now control the transition for anytime day or night. He can also extend his powers to create a flaming motorcycle out of the hellfire at his control.

In the later issues, Blaze starts working in Hollywood as a stuntman on a television show, where he meets the actress Karen Page. For longtime Marvel readers, you will recall Page as the one-time secretary of lawyer Matt Murdock. So it’s only natural that Ghost Rider would cross paths with Daredevil, the man without fear, which is exactly what happens as this volume concludes.

What makes this Essential?: I will be the first to admit that I have never been a Ghost Rider fan. I held off getting this book for as long as I possibly could, just out my general dislike for the character. What I found reading the early stories of Johnny Blaze is a far different Ghost Rider than the one that gained such popularity in the 1990s. This Ghost Rider seems more human, whose initial changes were brought on by the setting and rising of the sun. He’s a true anti-hero, never viewing himself as a super-hero; just much more interested in riding his bike at the next show. Based on his history in the Marvel Universe, the Ghost Rider is an important hero to read. But the Ghost Rider in these stories is much different than the Ghost Rider you picture in your head. 

Footnotes: Marvel Spotlight #12, and Ghost Rider #1 & #2 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Horror Vol. 1.

Ghost Rider #10 is a reprint of Marvel Spotlight #5. The cover to Ghost Rider #10 is included in this volume. In the letter column in Ghost Rider #11, it was revealed that the cover for issue #10 went to press before Marvel realized that the issue would not be ready in time.

Ghost Rider #19 & #20, and Daredevil #138 are also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 6.

There are two early Ghost Rider appearances that are not collected in this volume, but they can be found in other Essential volumes. Marvel Team-Up #15 (November 1973) can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1, and Marvel Two-in-One #8 (March 1975) can be found in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1. In my opinion, both should have been included, given the number of references to those stories in the Ghost Rider title. In particular, the Marvel Team-Up issue features the first appearance of The Orb, who returns as a foe in Ghost Rider #14 and #15.

If you like this volume, try: Marvel’s first team of heroes in California, The Champions. Created by Tony Isabella to feature Angel, Iceman, and Black Goliath, it was retooled without Black Goliath and with the additions of Black Widow, Hercules, and Ghost Rider. Given the diverse line-up of the team, there were a lot of wild adventures during the team’s all-too-short 17 issue run. The Champions #1 (October 1975) debuted during the period covered in this Essential Ghost Rider, and several issues make references to his adventures with the team. While the entire series is collected in two Classic volumes, this is a series that shows up frequently in back issue bins. Make a point to track this series down!