Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 4

ghostrider4First Published: October 2010

Contents: Ghost Rider #66 (March 1982) to #81 (June 1983); Amazing Spider-Man #274 (March 1986); and New Defenders #145 (July 1985) and #146 (August 1985)

Key Creator Credits: J.M. Dematteis, Roger Stern, Michael Fleisher, Don Perlin, Bob Budiansky, Tom Sutton, Ron Frenz, and others

Key First Appearances: Asmodeus, Hamilton Slade/Phantom Rider, Red Fowler

Story Continues From: Essential Ghost Rider Vol. 3

Overview: Get your motor runnin’ as Ghost Rider races to the finish line of his first series. This Essential collection brings the 1970s series to an end, perhaps with some of the best issues of the entire run.

This is an interesting take on the character, as I think the book finally gets the right creative team and directions for the comic. Rather than treating the book as a reluctant hero, it becomes more of a horror title, focusing on a title character struggling to keep a demon in check. It’s too bad that the direction came so late because there was no way to avoid the dreaded cancellation ax by this point. I almost wish Dematteis & Budiansky had more issues to play with this concept.

Despite the cancellation of the title, we do get two epilogs of sorts to Johnny Blaze and to the demon Zarathos. Johnny Blaze gets to bid farewell to many of his former Champions teammates over in the pages of New Defenders, while Zarathos is used as a pawn by the Beyonder to test the limits of Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man.

What makes this Essential?: The good news is that this is the final Essential volume for this character. I’m running out of ways to be diplomatic with my comments. Nonetheless, I like the way that writer J.M. Dematteis and artist Bob Budiansky brought the whole series to a conclusion, picking up many of the plot threads and characters introduced years earlier. Given the way so many other titles abruptly ended in this era (I’m looking at you, Spider-Woman!), this was a nice way to say so long (for now) to Johnny Blaze. 

If you like this volume, try: the Ghost Rider by Jason Aaron omnibus from Marvel. Released in 2010, this collects writer Jason Aaron’s run with the Ghost Riders (Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch), with art by the likes of Tony Moore and Tan Eng Huat. My issues with Ghost Rider is not that I don’t like the character. The 80+ issues that I have read over the four Essential volumes are just not that great. Whether the stories do not hold up over the years or that the stories are just really bad can be debated. There have been some writers on this run who I really like, but I don’t know that their Ghost Rider work is the best example of their abilities.

So, with all of that said, I truly believe that Jason Aaron is one of the best writers at Marvel today. His volume of work stands out across multiple titles and genres. I think you could find the most obscure Marvel character, and Aaron could find a take on the character that will blow everyone away. Please check out his current work (Mighty Thor, Doctor Strange) and track down the Ghost Rider omnibus.

Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1

werewolf1First Published: October 2005

Contents: Marvel Spotlight #2 (February 1972) to #4 (June 1972); Werewolf by Night #1 (September 1972) to #21 (June 1979); Tomb of Dracula #18 (March 1974); Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974); and Marvel Team-Up #12 (August 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Mike Friedrich, Doug Moench, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Mike Ploog, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Jack Russell/Werewolf, Lissa Russell, Phillip Russell, Buck Cowan, Tatterdemalion, Raymond Coker, Topaz, Tigra,

Story Continues In: Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2

Overview: Jack Russell is your typical teenage boy growing up in southern California in the 1970s. He’s just turned 18, he can’t stand his stepfather, and his mom is always nagging him about something. But turning 18 brings on a change to Jack Russell, as he finds out that he carries a recessive trait thanks to his birth father, who he never really knew. Turns out dear old dad was also a lycanthrope, and now Jack is too. Not familiar with the lycanthrope term? Let me save you the time of looking it up and clue you in on the more common term – a werewolf! This is Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 1.

So now at the start of each full moon, Jack Russell undergoes a transformation into a werewolf. He retains very little of Jack’s memories and values, reverting more to a wild animal looking for the hunt and trying to escape the city for the forest. For three days, Jack must worry about the setting of the sun and the rise of the moon, when his transformation kicks in. He’s constantly looking for a cure and often falls into traps because someone offers him the solution to his monthly hairy situation.

I think we can all agree that being a werewolf is not the easiest of curses to deal with. For starters, you go through a lot of shirts – good thing you live in SoCal as the weather generally works in your favor. You try to protect your family members, like your sister. When people realize your secret, they create schemes or plans to make that work for their own personal gain.

Many of these issues are one-and-done, or they might have a story that carries across three issues with each issue covering one night of the current full moon. Right or wrong, there are a lot of foes or characters that only appear once or twice, and never appear again in any other comic.

Now, just because he is based in California doesn’t mean that he is isolated from the Marvel Universe. A trip to Europe in search of clues about his birth father leads to an encounter with Dracula in a memorable crossover between the respective books. Back in California, he meets up with Greer Nelson as she becomes Tigra for the first time. And in the craziest of meet-ups, the Werewolf meets up with Spider-Man in San Francisco, after Peter Parker is sent to the west coast to get pictures of Daredevil and Black Widow.

What makes this Essential?: There were parts of this collection that I really enjoyed. Reading individual issues were good, but reading these issues back-to-back seems to fall apart. The problem I had is that Jack Russell’s condition is triggered by the full moon, which runs for roughly three nights every 28 days, give or take. So as I am reading this, I’m curious to find out what is going on in the 3 1/2 weeks between the end of one transformation period and the start of the next transformation period. (I had this same problem with Showcase Presents Martian Manhunter Vol. 2 when he was fighting a villain that would only appear at the start of a full moon.) If I had been reading this month-to-month, I think I would have appreciated the title more. But reading this as a complete collection, I think it doesn’t hold up.

Footnotes: Werewolf By Night #15 and Tomb of Dracula #18 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 1.

Marvel Team-Up #1 was also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

Giant-Size Creatures #12 featured the first appearance of Greer Nelson as Tigra. However, Greer’s first appearance in comics was in The Cat #1 (November 1972). In this short-lived series, Nelson and another woman were part of an experiment to imbue them with cat-like abilities. Greer used her abilities for good, while the other woman used hers for bad. Guess how that worked itself out? Anyway, in the Giant-Size Creatures issue, we Greer transformed yet again, this time into Tigra. Somewhere along the lines, Greer’s original Cat costume was left in the care of the Avengers. It was later claimed by Patsy Walker, who went briefly by the name of the Cat as well before settling on Hellcat.

If you like this volume, try: the Fables series from DC/Vertigo and created by Bill Willingham. The basic concept of the series is that the fables we are told as kids to teach us morals and values are all true. The characters are real and still alive. In fact, they have migrated from the Old Lands and have set up residence in Fabletown, a hidden neighborhood in New York City. In addition, there is a farm in upstate New York to host the animal characters from the fables. One of the main characters from the series is Bigby Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf from ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or ‘The Three Little Pigs’ fame. Bigby Wolf serves as the sheriff of Fabletown, and can switch back and forth between his human, werewolf, and wolf forms. This series ran for 150 issues and is easily found in trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

First Published: July 2009

Contents: Doctor Strange #30 (August 1978) to #56 (December 1982); Man-Thing #4 (May 1980); and back-up story from Chamber of Chills #4 (May 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roger Stern, Ralph Macchio, Tom Sutton, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Marshall Rogers, and others

Key First Appearances: Sara Wolfe, Madeleine Saint-Germaine, Morgana Blessing

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

Overview: You’ll have to pardon me here. I’ve read a lot of Doctor Strange issues over the last couple of years, and I think I am getting the feel for some of these spells. Let me practice a few of them as we go through this review for Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4.

“By the Ruby Rings of Raggadorr!” OK, in terms of content, this book gives us a nice, uninterrupted run of full-length stories from the pages of Doctor Strange. The majority of this book is helmed by either Roger Stern or Chris Claremont, with art by a rotating crew of legendary and upcoming artists, such as Gene Colan, tom Sutton, Marshall Rogers, Brent Anderson, Michael Golden, and Paul Smith. While most stories remain one-and-done, we do get a couple of multi-issue story arcs, including one by Claremont that crossed over with another title he was writing, Man-Thing.

“By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!” While a lot of random threats pop up from time to time to challenge the good Doctor, we do get a lot of Baron Mordo, Nightmare, and Dormammu throughout the collection. We get a fun time-travel story – consider that Strange usuals travels between dimensions, not time – that sends Strange back to World War II (where he encounters Sgt. Nick Fury and the Howling Commandoes) and ancient Egypt (where he inadvertently gets involved in one of the earliest adventures of the Fantastic Four.)

“By the Vapors of the Vishanti!” For many years, Doctor Strange has had a tight circle of friends. For some characters like Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four, I could fill up a blog post just listing their friends, family, and close associates. For Doctor Strange, you have Wong, Clea, and Victoria Bentley. That’s the list. However, in this volume, we see three new women enter the picture.

First up is Sara Wolfe, a Greenwich Village neighbor who starts working for Strange as an office manager of sorts, to handle the bills and accounts for the household. Then there is Madeleine Saint-Germaine, a former paramour of Stephen’s youth, who re-enters his life during a consultation that leads into a multi-issue arc traveling from England to the Florida Evergreens.

Finally, there came a point where Stephen realizes his relationship with Clea is not working. He can’t serve as a mentor to Clea, while being in a romantic relationship with her. So he puts that relationship on hold, so they can focus on her training. That opens the door for Morgana Blessing to come into the picture. She seems to be mystically-inclined, able to see through Strange’s spells. She also becomes a pawn for Baron Mordo, who disguises himself as Morgana’s missing cat in order to attack Strange when his defenses are down. Seriously! Going to go out on a limb here and just say that Mordo doesn’t win this battle!

What makes this Essential?: Want to know the sign that this was a good Essential? As soon as I finished this volume, I started searching for Doctor Strange #57 and subsequent issues to keep the story going. I’ve never been a big fan of Doctor Strange, as I have noted in these previous reviews, and generally, it has only been the art by the likes of Colan to keep me with the book. But this volume, written primarily by Stern, was a dramatic turn for me. Stern made this character his own, and a much more intriguing one at that. While a lot of the stories still remain one-and-done, there is an ongoing narrative that develops, as we see more and more about Stephen’s life when he is not being called to defend the Earth.

In some ways, Doctor Strange has become very much like DC’s Superman, in that as the strongest and best at what he does, the threats it takes to overcome him become greater and greater, and generally more and more absurd. To get away from that, a good writer has to reverse the direction and keep that title character more human with definite limitations. You create situations where the character has to not use their skill sets, but rather go in the opposite direction. For Superman, that means using his head more than his fists. For Doctor Strange, it would be the exact opposite, making him more physically involved in the action, versus standing safely in the background and recanting spells. Stern does a good job of getting Strange into the action, and showing that despite all of his talents, he is still a man with flaws and issues. Issues which I now want to keep reading about.

Footnotes: Man-Thing #4 and Doctor Strange #41 are also reprinted in Essential Man-Thing Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: the 2009 story arc from New Avengers, Search for the Sorcerer Supreme, from Brian Michael Bendis, Billy Tan, and Chris Bachalo. Within this volume, we saw Dr. Strange and the mysterious Brother Voodoo cross paths in issue #48, and given the nature of their line of work, it would not be their only encounter. Following the events of World War Hulk, where Dr. Strange was forced to use dark magic to stop his ally from the days of the Defenders, Stephen renounces his title as Sorcerer Supreme and protector of the dimension. The Eye of Agamotto leads the “new” Avengers on a search for a suitable replacement throughout the world, before leading them to New Orleans and giving the title to Brother Voodoo. Of course, what is not known at this time is that there really was a character by the name of Agamotto, and not only does he want his eye back, but he wants to take over our dimension. Dr. Voodoo and the other Avengers are able to keep that from happening. I know a lot of people have mixed reactions to Bendis’ run with the Avengers, but I found stories like this one to be fun “What If”-type stories actually occurring in ongoing big picture narrative of the Marvel Universe.

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3

First Published: February 2009

Contents: The X-Men #54 (March 1969) to #66 (March 1970); Amazing Spider-Man #92 (January 1971); Incredible Hulk #150 (April 1972) and #161 (March 1973); the Beast stories from Amazing Adventures #11 (March 1972) to #17 (March 1973); and Marvel Team-Up #4 (September 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Werner Roth, Arnold Drake, Don Heck, Neal Adams, Tom Palmer, Steve Englehart, Tom Sutton, Herb Trimpe, and others

Key First Appearances: Living Monolith, Lawrence Trask, Karl Lykos/Sauron, Savage Land Mutates (Amphibius, Barbarus, Brainchild, Equilibrius, Gaza, Lorelei, Lupo, Piper), Shiro Y0shida/Sunfire

Story Continues From: Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential X-Men Vol. 1

Overview: Here we go, readers! It’s the final adventures of the original X-Men as members of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Havok, and now Polaris go on a non-stop run of adventures that take them from the sands of Egypt to the jungles of the Savage Land to the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip.

The highlight of this collection is the Roy Thomas and Neal Adams all-to-brief run on the title. Adams had been doing work for DC for about two years when he came over to do some work at Marvel. (At that time, creators generally worked for just one company at a time. If someone did work for more than one publisher, one of their jobs would be done under a pseudonym.) At the time that he came onboard with X-Men #56, the book was floundering in the sales column. Adams came in and helped plot a wild adventure ride, introducing new threats to the mutants.

While this is the most creative peak in the title’s seven-year run, it could not stop the cancellation ax. The final issue with original content was X-Men #66. Beginning with issue #67, the title ran reprints of old X-Men stories. Let this sink in for a minute. There was a time when X-Men was strictly a reprint book. It was more profitable for Marvel to re-run old stories versus commissioning new stories. Unbelievable!

Now, the title may have been in reprint mode, but the characters still existed and became free game to use in other books. So Iceman makes an appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, and Havok & Polaris show up in the pages of the Incredible Hulk.

The volume concludes with the solo adventures of Hank McCoy, who finally graduated Xavier’s school and landed a job in a Brand Corporation research lab. McCoy works on isolating the chemical cause of mutation into a liquid solution. Trying to keep his work from falling into the hands of corporate spies, McCoy swallows the formula, and his body is mutated into a furry gray Beast. (In later issues, the fur would change permanently to blue, but that’s not important for this black & white collection.) The Beast finds that he is trapped in this further-mutated body. Despite attempts to hide his mutation, Hank finally embraces his blue-furred identity. These stories are written by Steve Englehart, and he would continue the Beast’s story in the pages of The Avengers.

What makes this Essential?: In my humble opinion, this really is an essential volume to own. First, the Thomas-Adams run on this title is the first “great” story-arc in the history of the X-Men. The Sentinels are more menacing, the Savage Land is more savage, and the introduction of Sunfire opens the door for the international approach to the X-Men in the mid-1970s. In addition, by collecting the X-Men adventures in the other Marvel titles of the 1970s, it highlights how a proper Essential should be put together. The books should be reprinting the character stories, and not necessarily just within a specific title. The solo adventures of the Beast would never have been reprinted in any other Essential volume, so including them here was perfect. While some of the characters’ appearances can be found in other Essentials (see Footnotes), having these stories in one book reads so much better for the X-Men fan.

Footnotes: Amazing Spider-Man #92 is also reprinted in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 5.

Incredible Hulk #150 and #161 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 4.

Marvel Team-Up #4 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.

Amazing Adventures #17 reprinted the origin of the Beast, originally told in backup stories from X-Men #49 to #53 (see Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 2). The cover to issue #17 and new framing pages are included in this Essential.

X-Men #67 to #93 and X-Men Annual #1 & #2 reprinted classic X-Men stories from the 1960s. New covers were created for those issues, and the covers are included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the X-Men: Hidden Years series by John Byrne from 1999 to 2001. This series was designed to pick up the story of the original team following X-Men #66, the last original issue of the series. Byrne begins his story with what should be issue #67, but numbered as #1, and continues the adventures. Over the next two years, Byrne told new stories set in the Marvel Universe of the early 1970s, so the mutants encounter a Fantastic Four with Crystal subbing for Invisible Girl. We meet a young Ororo before she has her official first appearance as Storm in Giant-Size X-Men #1. The problem with this book is that it was written and drawn by John Byrne. Not that he necessarily did a bad job with either, but more that Byrne became a very polarizing figure in comics by the early 2000s. A new leadership team took over the reigns as Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief and opted to cancel the book as the X-Men universe was too convoluted and needed to be streamlined. (Note that streamlining of the X-Men books lasted for about one month.) You can read into that the cancellation was due more to personality conflicts between Byrne and management, and not due to poor sales, poor stories, or a convoluted X-Men universe. This entire series was collected in two trade paperbacks in 2012, so it should be relatively easy to track down. If you are a Byrne fan, by all means check this series out.

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Doctor Strange #1 (June 1974) to #29 (June 1978); Doctor Strange Annual #1 (1976); and The Tomb of Dracula #44 (May 1976) and #45 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Jim Starlin, Roger Stern, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Silver Dagger, Gaea, Domini

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Overview: As a part of the Marvel Universe for over 10 years, Doctor Strange served as the co-star of Strange Tales, which was later renamed (but not renumbered) as Doctor Strange; he was the focus of attention in Marvel Feature and Marvel Premiere; and he helped found a non-team in the Defenders. But it took until 1974 for Doctor Strange to finally get what every hero craves – a #1 issue!

Having finished his run in Marvel Premiere, Doctor Strange once again got his own bi-monthly title with the same creative team of Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner. But the title really picks up when Gene Colon returns to the title with issue #6.

There are some interesting stories in this volume. Doctor Strange becomes the last man alive, as the Earth is destroyed and then replaced with an exact duplicate. Doctor Strange travels to Boston where he encounters Dracula to save Wong from becoming a vampire. And who else could defeat Doctor Strange but a Doctor Stranger. Thankfully, Doctor Strange still has friends like Clea, the Ancient One, and Nighthawk to stand by his side as he faces down these new challenges.

What makes this Essential?: I do try to be original for each one of these reviews. But I run the risk of repeating myself with this review. So, I’m still not a big fan of Doctor Strange. But the art of this volume, in particular that of Gene Colan, is simply spectacular. I think that the black & white format actually enhances the art. This volume could serve as a primer for aspiring artists looking to understand page layouts and characters forms. The stories seem rather average against the artwork – for all of the talk about current writers stretching out stories for the trades, they should read some of these stories.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #3 contains reprints of Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #126 and #127, framed with new pages. These Strange Tales stories were previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

Doctor Strange #14 and The Tomb of Dracula #44 and #45 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 2.

Doctor Strange #21 is a reprint of Doctor Strange #169, which retells the origin of Doctor Strange. This story was previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: exploring the works of P. Craig Russell. Serving as the artist of Doctor Strange Annual #1 in this volume was one of Russell’s earliest jobs in comics. Over the years, he has been a modern master of the art, which a very distinct look and creative layouts. Russell is known for incorporating operatic themes into his work across multiple publishers and decades. He had a memorable run with Killraven, which can be found in Essential Killraven Vol. 1. Russell’s most recent work includes a two-volume graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

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!

Essential Godzilla Vol. 1

Essential Godzilla Vol. 1

First Published: March 2006

Contents: Godzilla #1 (August 1977) to #24 (July 1979)

Key Creator Credits: Doug Moench, Herb Trimpe, Jim Mooney, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Godzilla, Tamara Haskioka, Yuriko Takiguchi, Rob Takiguchi, Doctor Demonicus, Red Ronin

Overview:  Making his way from coast to coast is Godzilla, King of the Monsters. Breaking free from an iceberg, Godzilla comes to shore in California. Battling the Champions of Los Angeles, Godzilla makes quick work of the heroes and starts a cross country trek.

Following in the wake of the monster is the Godzilla Squad, a team organized by S.H.I.E.L.D. to capture and contain the monster. Dum Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones represent S.H.I.E.L.D., who want to put the monster down; and Rob Takiguchi and Tamara Haskioka are working to preserve the monster.

Along the way to New York City, Godzilla encounters a batch of Pym Particles which reduces the monster down to eight inches in height. However, the particles slowly start to wear off in the Museum of Natural History, as the Fantastic Four try to stop him. Reed Richards has the idea to use Dr. Doom’s time machine to send Godzilla back in time, where he ends up battling the Devil Dinosaur.

Eventually, Godzilla returns to the present time and faces off against the Avengers in a final battle. Godzilla finally trudges off into the Atlantic Ocean as the series ends.

What makes this Essential?: To me, a volume like this is very Essential. The reader gets the complete series in one volume. The creative team remained the same across the entire run of the series, which strengthened the storyline. In this corporate age of comics that we find ourselves in, it’s highly unlikely that Marvel will ever own the rights to publish a Godzilla comic again, much less include it in the actual Marvel Universe. With all of the various cameos of Marvel characters, this is a fun volume. Track it down if you do not already own it.

Footnotes: For a period of time in the late 1970s, Marvel had rights to both Godzilla and Shogun Warriors, both Toho properties. During this time, Moench and Trimpe created the Red Ronin, a Shogun Warrior-type mecha that has remained part of the Marvel Universe despite the loss of the two properties.

If you like this volume, try: the new Godzilla movie that is opening this weekend. It looks really good, and I can’t wait to see it. Or go find some of the classic Godzilla movies to watch. Some movies are better than others, much like some comics are better than others. There is bound to be a Godzilla movie that suits you best.