Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who's On First?

The next issue blurb at the end of Ghost Rider #16 (1976):

The sad fact is, given the state of Ghost Rider assignments in those days, I'm sure they actually didn't know.

Despite being mostly bi-monthly; despite trying to (gradually, eventually) tone down the supernatural (or at least satanic) elements; despite efforts to make him more of a super-hero, including having him join the Champions and having many a Marvel mainstay guest-star...despite all that, Marvel could not get a creative team to stick on this book to save their lives, at least for first few years. Creators changed so often on the title, it made a revolving door dizzy!

Our creative line-ups:

#1 Gary Friedrich and Tom Sutton
#2-#4 Friedrich and Jim actual regular team, perhaps?
#5 Marv Wolfman (plot) Doug Moench script and Mooney.
#6 Friedrich & Tony Isabella and Mooney
#7-#9 Isabella and Mooney. At last, stability!?!
#10 Lousy stinking reprint of Marvel Spotlight #5 (Friedrich and Ploog)
#11 Isabella and Sal Buscema
#12 Isabella & Frank Robbins, art by Frank Robbins
#13-#14 Isabella and George Tuska
#15 Isabella and Bob Brown
#16 Bill Mantlo and Tuska (this is where we came in!)
#17-#18 Isabella and Robbins
#19 Isabella ("with scripting assist by Jim Shooter") and Robbins
#20 Marv Wolfman and John Byrne (this was the second half of a crossover with Daredevil by the same team...)
#21 Marvel proudly announced the new "regular" team of Gerry Conway and Gil Kane
#22 Conway (plot) Don Glut (script) and Don Heck
#23 Conway (plot) Shooter (script) and Heck
#24-#25 Shooter and Heck
#26-#27 Shooter and Don Perlin

That's pretty impressive. 27 issues in, more than 4 years of publication, and never more than 3 issues by the same creative team? This makes the nu52 look stable. At times it looks as if Marvel was grabbing anybody walking through the Bullpen that day and making them do an issue. One has to wonder what the problem was...

Things got considerably more stable after that. #28-#34 were all by Roger McKenzie and Perlin (with Perlin getting an occasional co-plot credit). #35 was a fill-in by Jim Starlin (featuring Johnny Blaze in a motorcycle race with Death, because, well, Starlin).

Then, finally, came the period of stability. Michael Fleischer and Perlin did #36-#60, except for a two-issue guest art appearance by Carmine Infantino. Fleischer continued writing through #66, with various guest artists. Then Roger Stern and JM Dematteis seemed to take turns, with DeMatteis finishing off Skull-Face's run in #81...Perlin and Bob Budiansky were artists for most of that period.

Why so much trouble in the early days, though? And, if was so tough to keep a team on-board, and the sales only justified bi-monthly, why did Marvel stick with the character for so long?

Sadly, there was no Twitter back then, so the stories and bitter recriminations aren't for public consumption. Perhaps no one could find a handle on the character, particularly given his explicit supernatural and religious origins. Perhaps there were massive behind-the-scenes battles with editorial that led to people being moved on and off the title.

Then again, Bill Mantlo had him fighting a shark (and rescued by dolphins!!) in #16, so someone knew what they were doing!!

1 comment:

Martin Gray said...

I read a fair few of those early stories in Marvel UK black and white reprints and the creative teams never made a difference to my enjoyment - the stories were all of a similar quality. If only that quality had been high.

I did enjoy the final couple of years, especially the Budiansky art, with a few great covers to boot.