Tales from the Box of Interesting Presents:
Ghost Rider Vol. 1 #29: Deadly Pawn
Tales from the box of interesting is the result of finding an old, old box of comics in my move from Kentucky to Tennessee. Most of these are some of my first comics. The comics in this feature all came from the old shrink wrapped 3 for $1 sets that were often sold after the comics had a run on the news stands. As a result they are a mix-match of oddities.
Back in the old days when comics were sold on news stands they were often removed and resold in shrink wrapped sets. The sets were a catch as catch can mix of whatever was left on the news stand. At the time the nearest news stand to me was over an hour away so most of my comics as a kid came to me in this way. Wendell's General Store was a 1/2 a mile from my house and often I went there after school with a few dollars and grabbed a glass bottle of some kind of soft drink and a pack of comics. You never really knew what you would find in the middle (as they were blocked off in the bag by the other two on the sides) and often that became a huge part of the fun. For whatever reason I hadn't placed these comics into my main collection and when I searched through them recently I was bombarded by memories, thus this column was born.
I hope to update this weekly as I read through some of the comics. The comics in question are simply a bizarre mix of superheroes, army, horror, cartoon and everything under the sun from that by-gone age of comic books. They average in date from 1974-1978 (although one or two extend to further into the 80's). I hope this article will informs and helps people realize my love for the earlier age of comics, when heroes and villains acted in character and the latest "shake up" wasn't the norm but yet comics were still loaded with killer stories (and some stories that were just plain weird).
Let's begin with Ghost Rider #29
This comic was in the center of the pack, as is often the case you never really knew what would be in the middle and often you would get introduced to something you never expected. This was my first introduction to Ghost Rider and what an intro it was:
Of course the cover was torn off of this comic so this is what I got in the first page, BAM! How could you not just love this guy. At first I thought he was the bad guy, but I quickly figured out he wasn't once I started reading. I mean face it, before the 1970's there just wasn't a huge population of superheroes with flaming skulls.
An odd thing is that at this point Ghost Rider was really Johnny Blaze. His transformation was only physical and not one where he shared a body with a demon (I'm not even sure we knew he got the power from an actual demon at this point, if you read the intro at the top, it also gives that indication as well). As you can see from the splash page we are reading Blaze's thoughts, not the demon.
The issue is an interesting one to say the least. Ghost Rider is magically transported to Dr. Strange who proceeds to magically torture Blaze. If this seems out of character for Dr. Strange, well it is, but that is because we very shortly discover that Dr. Strange isn't really Dr. Strange but in fact Dormammu (a demon who also has a flaming head and is an often great enemy to Strange in his own right) tricking Ghost Rider into a confrontation with Dr. Strange.
One of the most visually striking moments to me (that really stuck out even in the old days) was this page:
First off it is just Ghost Rider with a plain black background. But also notice when Blaze makes the bike the panels connect (even though there is no panel borders). This gives the panels a great flowing quality that I have not seen in most modern comics.
Also the great use of blackness or "negative space" here, I doubt if there are any artists today who would be brave enough to attempt this. Sure the blackness is part of the story (as Ghost Rider was supposed to be being hit by a spell from the fake Dr. Strange) but it works so strongly visually.
And of course the "crash" into the darkness gives us a flow to the next page. Just something simple that is quite stunning in my opinion.
The story moves on and eventually Blaze's Girlfriend is about to be "sacrificed" to a bunch of weird demon-like creatures. Ghost Rider swoops in and saves the day of course.
For the time, that little flash of panty was like porn to a seven year old.
The next sequence totally freaked me out as a kid though. I was totally not expecting it.
Yeah from sexy to freak out in one page, darn you Marvel Comics you scarred me for life with that move.
The story progresses and eventually Ghost Rider has had enough and decides to go after Dr. Strange which leads to the best and worst part of this issue:
ARRRGH! Cool page and image, but it's to be continued. With the nature of how these comics were acquired I never got the next part, I mean which one will die!! I'm not sure if this is the first confrontation between Dr. Strange and Ghost Rider, but from their reactions to each other I would assume so.
I figure it was a cool battle and they ended up figuring it out and joining forces, but I haven't seen the second part to this day. Still it was a cool issue that just left an impression with me about Ghost Rider. I do really like those word panels at the end as well, just kind of puts an exclamation point on a great issue.
I wanted to start off with this comic because it really personifies what I feel is a GREAT Superhero Comic book, especially for a character like Ghost Rider. The story is interesting and simple but also has a complexity to it. The characters are clearly defined and their motives are clear. The story, while cliché' by today's standards, is pretty solid for it's time. The action is good and worthwhile and at no point do you feel lost following it. Also this is Ghost Rider, a character who I feel is often demolished by things going way too far into a weird corner of the supernatural. However, in this issue we have a good balance of supernatural combined with straight forward action that forms a great read.
If you back issue hunters are interested, here is the cover to the issue in question. Keep in mind when I got this the cover was already gone (which happened often with these shrink wrapped packs of comics).
I admit, I simply love that design of Marvel at the time, the stripe logo across the top and the picture in the corner just screams Marvel to me to this day. If you were to press me I would say this basic design for the covers is my favorite for any comic company. A huge part of me keeps thinking Marvel should have never abandoned it.
Now off to find issue #30 at the comic shop, I got to know what happens next.
Tune in next week for more TALES FROM THE BOX OF INTERESTING!!
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