Monday, December 24, 2018

"The End" Week: Ghost Rider!

I scanned a panel or two from the reprint years back, but today we've got the last issues of the Johnny Blaze and Dan Ketch Ghost Riders! From 1983, Ghost Rider #81, "The End of the Ghost Rider" Written by J. M. DeMatteis, pencils by Bob Budiansky, inks by Danny Bulanadi and Kevin Dzuban; and 1998 and 2007, Ghost Rider #94, "Wedding of the Ghost Rider" Written by Ivan Velez Jr., pencils by Javier Saltares, inks by Mark Texeira; and "Acabado" Written by Ivan Velez Jr., pencils by Javier Saltares, inks by Mark Texeira, Javier Saltares, and Klaus Janson.

Ghost Rider #81 features a US Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation: Paid circulation, actual number of copies of single issue published nearest to filing date, 112,534. Which apparently was crap sales in 1983? The checklist on the Bullpen Bulletins page notes Master of Kung Fu, Spider-Woman, and Marvel Two-in-One were all ending cover-date June 1983; so there may have been a bit of restructuring going on. And like those first two books, this seemed to be wrapping up with the notion that this was it and the character would never, ever be seen again: Zarathos was separated from Johnny Blaze, and seemingly imprisoned with the soulless Centurious forever.

In the 1990 Ghost Rider series, Zarathos would eventually return as a villain in the Siege of Darkness crossover, but it would be a long time into the run before that Ghost Rider's origins and backstory were revealed. The Ghost Rider was Noble Kale, an ancestor of Danny Ketch, who himself was under a long running family curse, as was his brother Johnny Blaze. In Ghost Rider #93, Noble had made a deal, in hell, with Blackheart: Noble was freed, in exchange for leading four new Spirits of Vengeance. To seal the deal, Noble was to be married to not one bride but two: the demon Black Rose, and new S-o-V Pao Fu. Meanwhile, the ghost of his mother guides Danny back to the Cypress Hills Cemetery, to try and get him to hell to help Ghost Rider. Her grave was a gateway, and she knew Danny had to get the Ghost Rider's memories out of his head.

Noble goes through with his wedding, but while flattered, "it's only a technicality," to get Pao and Rose out from under Blackheart's control: Noble knows Rose's identity, even if she doesn't, that she was Roxanne Blaze. The three of them wrestle around in a less-fun-than-after-a-wedding-should-be way, all of which Blackheart, still in a tux, finds hilarious. The Spirits and Vengeance get in on the fight, and Danny is able to get to Noble and return his memories, even ones he doesn't want back. Seemingly stronger than ever, Ghost Rider destroys Blackheart, becoming the new king of hell. Danny's mom has ended her family's curse, and beat the devil...but may have sacrificed Danny to do it.

There was a nine-year gap between Ghost Rider #93 and #94: as the text feature in #94 from Tom Brevoort explains, the plan was to end Danny's story, at least for the moment, and continue with Noble as the lead at least until #100. But during Marvel's bankruptcy, they couldn't publish a book that might lose money, so #94 was shelved even though it was mostly complete. Breevort points out Blaze had since returned as the Ghost Rider, so who knows where the continuity was, but here's what they were going to do: new king Noble is greeted by some rulers of neighboring hells, Pluto, Belasco, and Hela. They consider him a puppet, but at least an interesting puppet. Still, Dormammu and Satannish could be planning to move into his turf. Meanwhile, on earth, Johnny Blaze shows up at his brother Danny's, to hit him up for some cash for his search for his kids. Danny is inexplicably alive, and hadn't been the Ghost Rider for some time.

In hell, after Danny's mom ascends to the next life, Noble gives his subjects freedom, under one condition: "Do no more evil." He also banishes the angel Uriel, who wasn't thrilled with Noble's proclamation; then returns Roxanne to Johnny, before going on as Spirit of Vengeance, this time of his own free will.

This is an interesting piece of apocrypha, probably never to be followed up on again. Still, nice that it did get wrapped up eventually.

1 comment:

Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

I can't believe how struck I am at the image of a King Ghost Rider. Seems so odd, yet definitely an interesting story device I'd like to see used more.