Ghost Rider #17-19
Issue(s): Ghost Rider #17, Ghost Rider #18, Ghost Rider #19
...he calls Daimon Hellstrom to ask for help.
After fighting some minor demons...
...a guy called the Challenger shows up.
He reminds us that the Ghost Rider comic is supposed to have a motorcycle theme, so he sets up a, well, Challenge, where the Ghost Rider has to race across Hell to save Katy.
During the course of the Challenge, he has the option of going after an angry Roxanne or continuing on to save Katy. He reluctantly chooses Katy.
While the Challenge is going on, Hellstorm watches over Katy's body.
Blaze ultimately fails the challenge, caught in some webs by an illusionary Spider-Man. The Challenger then reveals that Ghost Rider's friend Jesus wasn't actually Jesus. He was an image created by Satan.
Additionally, the Challenger is actually Satan.
And Katy Milner is really Rocky Simpson.
Ghost Rider is able to battle Satan on the premise that he's only as powerful as Johnny believes he is...
...and then he returns to the real world to find Rocky doing ok.
The situation with Satan is explained in the lettercol, describing this as the end of a "de-satanization program".
The way we see it, Ol' Scratch is probably too busy keeping his realm in check to bother with one lowly mortal, even if said mortal eventually managed to save his soul from a deal with the great deceiver. Be that as it may, Johnny Blaze's hellfire powers are back at their peak, and he's about to take off down the road towards the most fantastic adventures yet.
Satan is just too tied up in the teachings of the major organized religions. And the Bullpen just couldn't see tampering with religion, that's just not our way. One's religion is a personal thing, and we think everyone should be entitled to his or her own views of theology. And that's all a big part of why you won't have Satan to kick around in this strip anymore.
One should read between the lines of that passage about Jim Shooter's "scripting assist". Shooter in fact re-wrote portions of this issue to prevent Isabella from ending the story with Jesus coming in and saving Johnny. From Jim Shooter's website (in the comments):
Len and Marv, I can assure you, were NOT supportive of where Tony was going with the series. Wolfman, Editor in Chief at the time, my boss, ORDERED me to have the issue in which Jesus revealed himself definitively REWRITTEN and REDRAWN as necessary to eliminate the religious references. The reason the ending of the story didn't proselytize is because I saw to it that it didn't. Tony's ending had Jesus save GR at the end -- literally and figuratively -- and grant GR the continuation of his powers, thereafter Divine, not demonic.
The art looks to me like Frank Robbins all the way through (i imagine it would have been one or more of the big splash panels of Ghost Rider and Satan fighting that would have been inserted over any Jesus intervention scenes).
While all of this is going on, a seemingly revived Deaths-Head sends the Stunt-Master after Karen Page.
Isabella and Robbins are off the book after this arc.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place between Son of Satan #1-2 for Daimon Hellstrom (Daimon has a couple of other encounters on his way here, too; and i'm allowing for a space of time, possibly measured in days, between pages 15-17 of issue #17 for his travels). This story continues in Daredevil #138. Thanks to my Champions issues being bundled in a trade, i've placed this after Champions #1-10, but Ghost Rider really appears here between his appearances in Champions #4 and #7 (he doesn't appear in #5-6). Because this is a Ghost Rider comic, we are tagging Satan as Mephisto.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showCoot Collier, Death-Stalker, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Hellstorm, Karen Page, Katherine Reynolds, Mephisto, Richard Pini, Roxanne Simpson, Smasher (Ghost Rider Foe), Stunt-Master, Wendy Pini
Speaking from a non-religious standpoint, I don't see the problem in having Jesus as a character in a comic book. This is a universe where Norse gods run rampant among who knows what. Yes I know Christianity is still widely worshipped and there may eventually come a writer who would have taken advantage of the "Jesus in Marvel" and done some really dumb things with it (which obviously they were trying to prevent); but to have him as a buddy of Ghost Rider didn't really harm anything I don't think. It wasn't like he was reciting scriptures or anything.
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 14, 2013 8:10 PM
Shooter has also stated that he was first hired at Marvel to assist EIC Gerry Conway---who came AFTER Wolfman. Putting the burden of the rewrite on Wolfman's orders doesn't fit with that.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 17, 2013 4:09 PM
In this interview, Tony Isabella says Wein and Wolfman were supportive of the Jesus storyline, and he puts the blame for the rewrite solely on Shooter:
Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, who succeeded Roy as editor, were also very supportive of my plans. Unfortunately, when it came time for the conclusion of the story arc to go to press, the ever-arrogant,
Obviously, both Isabella and Shooter are talking about things that happened decades ago, and either one's memories may have been skewed, so who knows what really happened...
Posted by: Tuomas | June 24, 2015 6:14 AM
Yeah this was a few decades ago, I guess Shooter didn't remember what order Wolfman and Conway came in. Either way, Shooter wasn't the boss yet, so I can't see him being able to get a finished book rewritten and redrawn without someone else's say so. There were so many reprint issues in this period that I think Marvel would've been pretty happy with any comic that got finished on time.
Posted by: Jonathan | June 24, 2015 6:08 PM
take it from your main man from the wasteland.. this storyline was NOT that fantastic... people did not pick up Ghost Rider to see Jesus as a character. Of course I have fans all over the world and I support religion and people's personal choices but I do think there is a time and a place and there is no way Isabella couldn't have realized this could potentially be a point for conflicting feelings from the readers... although maybe he thought the expected conflict would create sales? I don't know...
Posted by: Brimstone | January 5, 2016 1:23 PM
The cool thing about Ghost Rider is you have an undead revenant punishing the guilty. You want to see unholy vengeance poured down on the wicked. You don't want someone's Sunday school lectures. This has nothing to do with anyone's religion, but being appropriate to the theme of the character.
Whenever the occult is introduced, it make sense that some religious tropes will be introduced. But introducing Jesus into your story as an actual character is problematic in multiple ways. For Ghost Rider, making him an angelic figure that still looks as he does essentially subverts the basic concept of the character and destroys it. If you want an angelic character fine - DC's Spectre was the the actual Wrath of God, but even he was clearly an Old Testament kind of guy.
I never liked Tony Isabella as a writer. I judge his work's quality as below Bill Mantlo which is my standard for acceptable publishable work. If you can't write better than Bill Mantlo, you have no business being published. Isabella can craft a complete story, but that's about it. He was better than some writers out there - I think he is better than GR's creator Gary Friedrich for example, but not by much. I know that taste is subjective, but I honestly have never met anyone who was truly excited by any of his work.
I'm not sure why Ghost Rider's first incarnation was done so badly. The appearance of the character is iconic, and the essential core of the character is dramatic and interesting. Yet whether it was because of the Comic Code, hesitancy on the part of Editorial, or just inappropriate writers, the character was consistently mishandled. Such is the fate of too many characters when hack writers try to force into generic superhero mode.
Posted by: Chris | January 5, 2016 9:42 PM
Possibly the final form of #19 was supposed to leave the issue of whether the Friend was really Jesus open. The Challenger claims he was an "image", but the climax has GR declaring that Satan's power is based on "lies, deceit and illusion", so it could be he was lying.
I think the Challenger should be listed as a separate character from Mephisto. He's fairly obviously drawn as Satan when he transforms, and the cover calls him Satan, but the dialogue in the extracts represents him as Satan's agent. ("I must convey the Dark Lord's compliments", "Your boss is the prince of deceivers" etc.)
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 5, 2016 11:22 PM
To revise an earlier statement: Shooter later said in Alter Ego #137 that he actually was hired at Marvel in early 1976 to assist Marv Wolfman. Still not sure if Marv disapproved of the "Friend" storyline, though...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | October 2, 2016 12:01 PM
Frank Robbins' art style, roundly criticized by several on this site including myself, was really not suited to such dark subject matter, IMHO. His depiction of Satan wouldn't be out of place in an Ed Wood film, and to me Death's Head's steed is looking at the reader with a silly grin on its face. Believe it or not, I mean no disrespect to the memory of Mr. Robbins, whose 100th. birthday would've been this September 9th. He created and maintained a 33-year run on the aviation adventure newspaper JOHNNY HAZARD. As a writer for DC in the late '60's, he and Neal Adams were responsible for bringing Batman back to the dark, brooding detective so revered today. Given his track record with the Caped Crusader, perhaps it would have been to bring Robbins into the fold as a writer only, because by this late stage of his career, his cartoonier art style had fallen behind the times.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 18, 2017 8:15 PM
Allow me to correct a typo: The aviation adventure newspaper STRIP, "Johnny Hazard". Sorry, I'm a charter member of the "Fat Fingers and Too Many Run-On Thoughts Club".
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 18, 2017 8:21 PM
I think the thing that hurt the most is Ghost Rider...with eyeballs. You're a flaming skull, you don't need eyeballs!
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 19, 2017 8:31 AM
@Ataru320 Good point, also notice the bags under the eyes. Ever see a sleep-deprived flaming skull with eyeballs before?
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 19, 2017 7:39 PM
I can't see Jesus as a Marvel superhero. You could never trick him into a Misunderstanding Fight, for instance. Can you imagine? Thor is like, "Have at thee, Jesus!" And Jesus is like, "Naw dude, I never do fistfights. It's not My thing." And Hercules is like, "Say, what?"
It just wouldn't work. Maybe as an alternative style comic, but not for Marvel or DC.
Posted by: Holt | February 24, 2018 10:35 AM
Well, like most superheroes, his death isn't permanent:-)
Posted by: kveto | March 2, 2018 9:05 PM
Comments are now closed.
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