Saturday, December 12, 2009

Marvel 1974 Week--Ghost Rider #9!!

As we come to the conclusion of Marvel 1974 week, the most important thing to remember is:

Walt Disney now owns Satan!!

Or do they?? After riding the fading crest of the nation's early 70s horror boom, Marvel began to recant. Whether because of fears of boycotts from certain religious groups, a concern over upsetting parents, or just someone behind the scenes was uncomfortable with the concept, Marvel gradually revealed that every appearance of "Satan" in their comics was really someone else!! Johnny Blaze didn't really sell his soul to Satan--it was Mephisto posing as Satan!! (Why?? Don't ask) Daimon Hellstrom's father wasn't really Satan--it was the demon Marduk posing as Satan (or was it Satannish? They kept changing their minds)!! No wonder he's not around so much these days..."Son of Marduk" is a pretty lame name. All in all, one hell of a retcon.

But today we're back when Satan was still Satan, not a watered down poseur. And he's putting poor Johnny Blaze through the wringer:

Ooh, he looks scared. And our creators??

Tony Isabella has said that an unnamed assistant editor "completely rewrote" this issue before it went to the printers...we'll discuss that more at the end.

Ghost Rider is facing one heck of a dilemma:

The demon Inferno is broadcasting fear throughout San Francisco, causing the populace to attack Blaze. That's pretty bad, as he doesn't want to hurt innocents, but can't hide from everybody, particularly when he's so conspicuous.

Except, of course, Inferno loses significant scary points because he looks like a big doofus:

And if you see him from behind and below the waist, he kinda looks like Aquaman:

So that's where he's been...Johnny is using special spirit of vengeance tricks to keep the crowd at bay:

Meanwhile, there's the other horn of the dilemma. Despite the fact the Blaze's contract with Satan has been fulfilled, the Evil One cannot claim his soul, because Johnny's girlfriend Roxanne Simpson's "purity of spirit" means that her declaration of love somehow protects Blaze. Uh....OK.

So Satan offers her a simple trade:

And he won't shut up about it!!

Man, what a dickweed!

You know, when a guy is the incarnation of all that is evil and called "The Prince of Lies," you'd think that some folks would figure out not to take him at his word...

Anyway, the impact is that Ghost Rider immediately loses all his powers (but keeps the flaming skull face, for some reason).

But he still knows how to ride, and by a ridiculous coincidence finds a motorcycle just laying around...

But Satan is still a dickweed:

Man, is he Satan, or a Black Lantern?!?

Even though he's only human, Johnny can still use "moxie" to beat the demon Inferno:

Man, I guess Inferno was really kind of a wimp, huh?

Now it's time for Satan to claim his prize!!

Until...the most literal deus ex machina in comic book history:

Jesus is just alright with Johnny Blaze!

Now, according to Isabella, in this sequence Ghost Rider was going to explicitly become a Christian, and accept Jesus as his savior. The drifter we just met was going to be revealed specifically as Jesus, and Johnny would be free from Satan forever. But, according to Isabella, "an assistant editor 'took offense' and intercepted the issue right as it was about to go to the printer and completely rewrote the story."

Well, we only have one side of the story here, and without access to the Isabella's original script there's really no way to judge the appropriateness of either the original story or the editor's actions (and, to be fair, no way to judge the accuracy of Isabella's allegations). Still, with that kind of stuff happening behind the scenes, is it any wonder that Marvel eventually bailed on all depictions of Satan?

Then again, Isabella's description of the planned future of that storyline can be troubling, too: "He retains the Ghost Rider powers he had been given by Satan, but they are his to use as his new faith directs him." Was America in 1974 ready for an evangelical demon wielding hellfire?

Anyhow, the end of our story...Roxanne decides that "purity of spirit" doesn't justify "stupidity of mind":

So she goes of to "grow up" and "become a woman." Whatever that means. And down in Hell? Satan puts Inferno into human form, the better to resolve the old "Hamlet finding Claudius praying" dilemma:

SPOILER ALERT: This plan did not work. Which is just as well since he's not really Satan. And he didn't really create Ghost Rider. And...

So that's Ghost Rider, one odd-ass character. Born as a horror character, but toned down to superhero, yet almost made into a Christian hero...constantly yo-yoing between secular and non-secular approaches. He spent the first two years of his existence struggling with Satan, then having a dude kind of like but apparently not actually Jesus somehow save him. He then becomes more or less a straight superhero type for the rest of his original run. The he finds out he's really sharing his body with a demon. And he finds out that it wasn't really Satan (because somehow Satan is more offensive than Mephisto?) Than he is "freed of the curse" and the brother he never knew he had gets his powers. Then he got his powers back. Then he was imprisoned in Hell. Then he escapes (along with Lucifer not Satan in the marvel Universe??). Then he learns that Mephisto wasn't really responsible, that it was a rogue angel who want to topple God in a coup. Man, this 1974 issue sure seems naive and innocent now, huh?

So know we can show the throne of heaven, and a rebellion amongst the angels...but not Satan?


Speaking of horror, Marvel really was riding the horror horse as hard as they could in 1974. In addition to Ghost Rider, in December we had regular series for Son of Satan:


The Living Mummy:

Werewolf By Night:

Morbius The Living Vampire:


And they were trying to introduce another with The Golem (he didn't stick).

They also had plenty of horror anthology/reprint mags, including Monsters Unleashed:

Dead Of Night;

Journey Into Mystery:

Uncanny Tales from the Grave:

Weird Wonder Tales:

and Vault of Evil:

And that was just December...on the other month of the bi-monthly schedule, they had Chamber of Chills, Creatures On The Loose (starring, Man-Wolf), Crypt of Shadows, Frankenstein, Haunt of Horror, Tales of the Zombie, Tomb of Darkness, and Where Monsters Dwell. Phew...Depending on when and how you count, 25%-40% of Marvel's output each month in 1974 was horror comics. Take that, Wertham!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post