Five Great Ghost Rider Stories You Have to Read
We likes us a little Ghost Rider action here at Giant Fire Breathing Robot, and with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance on the horizon, I’m sure I’m not the only one with equal parts excitement and dread filling their brains and gut.
So why should you care about GR2 after the first flick was so critically panned? The potential, that’s why.
Ghost Rider has such a long and varied history that the well of stories Hollywood could draw upon creates potential for greatness.
So, love or hate the movies, I thought I’d throw together a list of my five favorite Ghost Rider stories with a rough Internet price guide (taken from Mile High Comics), in case you want to track them down after reading this.
Read on and hopefully you’ll understand why I love Ghost Rider so much and appreciate what a great character he can be.
#5 – Ghost Rider: Resurrected TPB (Reprints Ghost Rider Vol. 2 issues #1-#7)
Approx. Price: US$16 to US$40
Writer: Howard Mackie.
Artist(s): Javier Saltares, Mark Texiera.
The Ghost Rider: Resurrected TPB collects the first seven issues of the second Ghost Rider, Daniel (also called Dan or Danny) Ketch. This is the Ghost Rider I grew up on. The ultra-stylized violence of the flaming-headed vigilante captured my 13-year-old imagination and there was no turning back.
Ghost Rider: Resurrected covers the first four stories, introducing us to brand new villains Deathwatch and Blackout as well as bringing old favorites Kingpin (Wilson Fisk) and Mister Hyde into the mix. It also sees the first team-up between Ghost Rider and everyone’s favorite gun-wielding vigilante, the Punisher (Frank Castle). Ghost Rider: Resurrected also boasts the humble beginnings of the long-standing grudge match between Ghost Rider and the Scarecrow.
With Ghost Rider: Resurrected, Howard Mackie not only firmly grounded this brand new incarnation of Ghost Rider into the established crime-ridden streets of the Marvel Universe, but also introduced a couple of very interesting, deep, and terrifying characters and, as mentioned above, set up a long running feud between Ghost Rider and Scarecrow (who quickly grew to be one of my favorite Ghost Rider enemies).
Mysterious storytelling, beautiful art by both Javier Saltares and Mark Texiera, ninjas, mobsters, bikers, and terrorists. What more could you want?
#4 – Ghost Rider/Captain America: Fear
Approx. Price: US$1 to US$3
Writer: Howard Mackie.
Artist: Lee Weeks.
With the Ghost Rider/Captain America: Fear graphic novel, Howard Mackie teamed Ghost Rider up with Captain America to take down Scarecrow again. After his last encounter with Ghost Rider, Scarecrow was taken away and operated on by a mysterious benefactor, making him more powerful than ever.
In the world of comics, there’s a saying: “A hero is only as good as their rogues gallery.” In my eyes, Ghost Rider/Captain America: Fear elevated Scarecrow from some B-grade villain to become the Joker to Ghost Rider’s Batman.
Captain America’s little speech about a man being defined by his actions is a nice interaction between the two heroes, and Cap sitting on the back of the hell-cycle like he’s Ghost Rider’s girlfriend is almost adorable.
But all joking aside, Ghost Rider/Captain America: Fear is a well-crafted story that is definitely worth the cover price.
#3 – GHOST RIDER 2099 #1-5
Approx. Price: US$1.50 to US$4.80 per issue.
Writer: Len Kaminski.
Artist: Chris Bachalo.
The beauty of Kaminski and Bachalo’s Ghost Rider 2099 is that they completely reinvented the whole Spirit of Vengeance concept and firmly planted it in the fully developed, cyberpunk streets of Transverse City in the year 2099.
Ghost Rider 2099 follows Kenshiro “Zero” Cochrane, who is on the run after apparently hacking into some very sensitive info out of the D/Monix corporation. Zero is shot and, with his dying breath, he manages to download his mind into cyberspace, along with the top secret information he’s stolen. Zero finds himself in a hidden corner of cyberspace called the Ghostworks, where he is resurrected as the robotic war-machine, Ghost Rider, who is hell bent on finding out who’s behind his murder and ready to make them pay!
Kaminski created a character that misunderstood and bullied kids around the world could relate to, and Kenshiro Cochrane’s FTW attitude (where I come from FTW does NOT mean ”For the Win”) resonates with the youth of any generation.
With colorful supporting characters like Anesthesia Jones (owner of the popular drinking hole, the Bar Code) and Doctor Neon (a young, wannabe hacker), and great cyborg villains like Jeter and Warewolf, as well as evil, greedy corporations (which are probably more relevant today) and ultra-violence, Ghost Rider 2099 ticks all the boxes that make cyberpunk great.
After Ghost Rider 2099 #5 the comic went a little pear-shaped with more wackiness than I prefer in my cyberpunk. But the straw that broke this camel’s back was when Doom 2099 took over the world and Ghost Rider became his supercop, contradicting the entire antiauthoritarian tone of the book.
But the first five issues of Ghost Rider 2099 are a must-have and I often return to them when I’m feeling a little anarchistic.
# 2 – Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3
Approx. Price: US$1.25 to US$1.75
Writer: Howard Mackie.
Artist: Adam Kubert.
The premise of Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance is as follows: Johnny Blaze is free of the Ghost Rider curse. While living his quiet life with wife Roxy and his two kids, he discovers that there’s a new Ghost Rider on the scene. Blaze sets out to destroy the Spirit of Vengeance once and for all. After coming to blows with (the Dan Ketch) Ghost Rider, they begrudgingly agree that teaming up against bigger threats would be a better idea. Sounds kind of lame, but it was really awesome.
Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3 is titled Fathers and is the first appearance of the demonic villain Skinner. I can honestly say I’ve read this comic over a hundred times.
This comic is a bit of a cheat for this list as Ghost Rider is only in the first few and last couple pages. But Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3 focuses on the former Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, so I think it still counts.
In the midst of a demonic, apocalyptic crossover called the Rise of the Midnight Sons, Ghost Rider and Blaze are traveling the country, trying to gather a band of heroes to meet the threat. While all this madness is happening, Blaze stops at a diner for food and quickly learns that Skinner has been commissioned to hunt down and kill him.
Without giving anything away, Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #3 tackles the subject of fatherhood and which of these characters, Blaze or Skinner, is a real father.
Adam Kubert’s art in the first 13 issues of Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance is the best I’ve ever seen, and even 20 years later (has it really been 20 years?) I still think it’s some of the best art I’ve seen in the funny books.
#1 – Ghost Rider Annual #2
Approx. Price: US$3.80 to US$4.20
Writer: Warren Ellis.
Artist: Javier Saltares.
Before Warren Ellis was a household name (in comic circles anyway) he wrote a little story headlining Ghost Rider Annual #2.
As I’ve mentioned a few times in this list, I’ve loved the grudge-match between Ghost Rider and Scarecrow. Not liked. Loved. And I used to love how Ghost Rider would question himself and his methods for dealing with an enemy who just keeps escaping and murdering more innocent people. Like Batman, Ghost Rider does not kill. He makes people pay and will mess them up royally, but he will never take a life. Even if that life, like the Joker, continues to murder and rape and whatnot.
Without giving the ending away, Ghost Rider finds a way to solve the problem of what to do with Scarecrow to end his murdering spree once and for all. It’s a terrible solution. A horrible, disturbing solution. But an effective solution that could have only come from the mind of Warren Ellis.
Ellis also gave us a closer glimpse at the mind of Scarecrow and his motivations and psychology, and made him so much more a real character than had been up to this point. Sure, he was always one of my favorite nut jobs, but Ellis made him real.
Honerable Mention – Fantastic Four #347-349
Approx. Price: US$1 to US$2.10 per issue
Writer: Walter Simonson.
Artist: Arthur Adams.
Basically, at the time of publishing, Fantastic Four #347-349 the comic wasn’t doing so hot on sales. So what Marvel Comics did was take their four best-selling properties at the time and craft a story around them. Unapologetically advertised as “The World’s Most Commercial Comics Magazine,” Marvel hoped this would give Fantastic Four a sales shot in the arm.
And it seemed to work. Even today, fan boys still love that line up, and over the years this New Fantastic Four have turned up a few times to the fans’ delight.
It’s a fun three-issue romp that isn’t so much about Ghost Rider but still worth tracking down.
So I hope you like the list I’ve come up with and encourage you to hit the intra-ma-nets and track these comics down. As you can see, the majority of these comics are very cheap and accessible, so I hope you get your grubby little mitts on them. I hope you love them as much as I do and look forward to hearing your thoughts.