Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Holy Grails--HELL-RIDER!!!!!

So last week, I find this in the Quarter Bin:

Big deal, another Marvel western...at least it looks like a Marvel western...but what the hell is this:

I am embarrassed to admit, I had never even heard of Skywald Comics. WTF?!? I guess it's research time.

Co-founded in 1970 by long time Marvel production manager Sol Brodsky, Skywald Publications tried to make a go of it in the magazine and comics market. It didn't take, partly because of bad timing--on the comics side, Marvel had just freed themselves from their terrible distribution deal that limited the number of books they could publish, and the newsstands were being flooded with new titles. Also, Marvel and DC were having something of a price war, and Skywald could never break through. Also, their choice of material--5 western titles, a romance comic (with the greatest romace comic cover ever) and a Tarzan knock-off--shows maybe they didn't understand the marketplace at the time. Despite having a lot interesting young talent who would later become much more well-known, none of the comics lasted more than 3 issues.

Skywald did a bit better in the black and white magazine market--but not a lot better. Competing with Warren and Marvel in the burgeoning horror magazine scene, a couple of their titles actually lasted a couple of dozen issues. But they soon faded away, and were completely forgotten.

And then there was this:

Now, it's cool enough that we have a motorcyle-riding super-hero with a flame-shooting bike (and super-strength from an "experimental" drug!) fighting an obvious Hydra knock-off.

But what's most interesting? Hell-Rider was written (and co-created) by Gary Friedrich, debuting exactly one year before Ghost Rider debuted in Marvel Spotlight #5. Wild, eh? Maybe Friedrich could revive him as a poke in the eye to Marvel...

With art mostly by Ross Andru (!!), Hell-Rider lasted just one more issue:

Riding a tight-rope to face-kick a goon while defending a lovely lass. Now that's entertainment!

The Wikipedia entry for Hell-Rider describes it thusly: "[H]is adventures featured scantily clad rock starlets, nightclub waitresses, and groovy, pot-smoking 70s chicks all quickly losing what little clothing they wore."

So you know I must find these issues.

I will have them. Oh yes, they will be mine...

9 comments:

Siskoid said...

Hahaha, well good luck!

I remember Hell-Rider from the Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes which reprinted that first cover in glorious color. Was it magazine sized by any chance, perhaps to avoid the Comics Code?

And isn't it supporting evidence to Friedrich's claims of creatorship?

snell said...

Yes, it was magazine-sized. Marvel (and Warren) had a ton of magazine titles in the early 70s, in part to avoid the Code (the could tell zombie stories!), but surely just as much to try and latch onto the "adult" market that might not be willing to buy from the ghetto of the "comic book" section.

Friedrich and Marvel settled, but i don't know any of the facts...

Britt Reid said...

Read the (all-too brief) adventures of Hell-Rider beginning here...
http://heroheroinehistory.blogspot.com/2012/08/reading-room-hell-rider-introducingthe.html

The Mutt said...

I owned Hell-Rider #1. Sadly, I sold it years ago.

actionmoviefanatix.com said...

Hell-Rider just screams for a gritty but ridiculous action / exploitation flick. But not made now. If they made it now it would suck like all these other grindhouse movies. It would have to have been made in the 70s to be good.

Unknown said...

Andrew over at Armagideon Time did a "Nobody's Favorite" on Hell-Rider back in July:

http://www.armagideon-time.com/?p=8509

snell said...

What, am I the only one who didn't know about Hell-Rider?!?!

Oculus Orbus said...

For some reason I had it in my head that Hell-Rider was an Atlas/Seaboard magazine.

I own the first issue and have read both, but don't remember the stories outside of the nice artwork. Wasn't Skywald the one that had Bill Everett on staff to do "special effects"?

Britt Reid said...

"Wasn't Skywald the one that had Bill Everett on staff to do "special effects"?"

Everett did the grey-wash work on the b/w magazines as well as "updating" clothing and hairstyles on their romance comics reprints and art corrections on the entire line.
He also did a couple of pin-ups and at least one new story for the b/w line.