Ghost Rider was one of the first heroes that I was into. I remember Ghost Rider being relevant to me as far back as grade school, he was one of the “mystical” heroes that I wasn’t really into but I loved how he looked and the idea of a flaming skull biker, plus it gave me a reason to say “hell” without getting in trouble. At the time the X-Men were my favorite group with Wolverine being my favorite individual (a love that eventually got my nose broken, but I digress). When the neighborhood kids and I would get together in my back yard and play super hero on our screen house platform (basically a raised platform that we would erect a screen house on during the summer but was bare most of the year) we would pick teams and Ghost Rider was always on my team. Now the way we played was this: you brought your cards, you picked a team of 4 or 5 cards and then you would pretend to be those characters and tag in another character when one was about to die, we predated Pokemon AND Marvel vs Capcom. Then we would enact massive pretend melees on the platform and if there were any questions about powers or what the characters could do you went to the cards and argued it like gentlemen. Of course by gentleman I mean angry pre pubescent boys. So I would be Ghost Rider and I’d use a length of rope or my dogs chain either gently flicking it or missing by a mile while the others would react as if they were really being hit with a chain of hellfire and then I would do the same for them when they threw a Frisbee as Captain America’s shield or a wide swing with a rubber mallet as Thor’s hammer. We would do this for hours.
My Ghost Rider was Danny Ketch, the second Ghost Rider. By this time Johnny Blaze had moved on leaving it to this young punk. This Ghost Rider strayed away from the, quite frankly, very 70’s Johnny Blaze and became very much the victim of the “Grim and Gritty” 90’s. Gone was the jump suit and bizarre situations and in was the spiky leather, the chains and nasty villains. This Ghost Rider beat people with spiked fists and had his family murdered by the sort-of vampire Blackout. He fought Lilith and her legions of damned children and the king of dreams Nightmare. They were quite the stories of mystic bad-assery.
Whenever I think of that Ghost Rider I see him with Wolverine, Mr. Fixit and The Punisher. It wasn’t a comic for the ‘normal’ kids. It was a comic for the alternate set, for people who liked blood with their violence, darkness in their storytelling and their leather clad bikemen on fire. It was a major departure from the bright, happy main continuity of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, this comic was the heavy metal kid hanging out at the back of the bus listening to Iron Maiden and drawing morbid pictures on his math homework. It appealed to those of us who wanted something different and Ghost Rider gave us a different hero.
Recently it’s been much harder, in my opinion, to get back into the Rider. Danny Ketch is gone and Johnny Blaze is back. Various writers have tried to do something with the character but so far the only one I’ve been able to stand is a mini series written by Devin Grayson called “The Hammer Lane” (which I highly recommend, by the way). The sad thing is that Ghost Rider, as he existed in the 90’s, and as they keep trying to go back to, is totally irrelevant now days. And that’s really the biggest problem I find trying to get back into the Ghost Rider stories that I remember loving back when I was a kid, they all seem dated and like most of the “Grim and Gritty” era characters he just seems vaguely anachronistic. They might be better off going back to old days of Ghost Rider, maybe making it a period piece...
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...or go in a totally different direction all together.