Ghost Rider #23-24
Issue(s): Ghost Rider #23, Ghost Rider #24
This story introduces the Water Wizard, a minor villain under the employ of the Enforcer who later becomes the "i don't know if that's better" Aqueduct. Probably the most interesting thing in these issues is Shooter's treatment of the Water Wizard, who is a bit unsure of himself.
His first appearance has him performing a routine robbery.
And his origin is that he was bitten by a radioactive typhoon.
He's soon contacted by the Enforcer and hired to kill Ghost Rider.
The Water Wizard attacks Johnny Blaze at his stunt man job, and Blaze trails him back to the house of the studio owner, Charles Delazny. The Wizard lures him into the back where there's a big swimming pool.
The Ghost Rider's flames are shown to be able to affect the water...
...and yet are unaffected by the water.
It's worth speculating that the Ghost Rider can actually draw on two types of flames. A regular flame that burns and can evaporate water or be put out by a hose or avoided with fireproofing (as we've seen in previous issues), and a hellfire that doesn't burn hot and instead sears a person's soul.
It is confirmed in a later lettercol that the use of the flames while in water is to demonstrate that the Ghost Rider's powers are different than normal fire, but it doesn't spell it out exactly as i've put it above.
As you can see, the Ghost Rider beats the Water Wizard, but he himself gets knocked out by a wave, and unfortunately the Enforcer is also on the scene. We learn that the Water Wizard is the one who retrieved the Enforcer's disintegration ring. And he also makes reference to a son of Charles Delazny's, who is supposed to be at college.
The Enforcer takes the son's bike and brings it, the soul-suffering Water Wizard, and the Ghost Rider to a cliff, where they stage an accident.
The Ghost Rider survives the accident (and i love the fact that we see the skeletal insides of the Ghost Rider, even though he appears to have musculature on the non-ripped portions of his body. This again was confirmed as a deliberate choice in lettercol responses).
The Ghost Rider shows up at the Enforcer's base (unfortunately a lot of arrows of shame in these issues)...
...and proceeds to wreak holy hell on the bad guys.
When it's all over, the Ghost Rider unmasks the Enforcer and finds a college kid. Given the constantly changing art teams it's hard to tell if at this point it was meant to be Coot Collier's kid, seen in issue #22 (but see Michael's comment below; Blaze had already seen the younger Collier at this point).
This is the last we'll see of the Enforcer in the Ghost Rider series for a while (he next appears in Spider-Woman), but in a few issues we'll learn that he is Charles Delazny Jr. thanks to Dr. Druid's mind-reading ability.
While all of this is going on, Roxanne Simpson finds a new boyfriend, Roger Cross, because she's tired of watching Johnny try to decide between her and Karen Page.
This arc starts with Ghost Rider leaving the Champions, and it's worth looking at how they are conflicted regarding whether or not Blaze has any actual powers and debating if he's an actual demon. It's all so weird. He's been hanging out with them for a while; you'd think they'd have seen him do supernatural things that confirm his powers. But this does seem to be the start of a thread to introduce some clarity around that question.
Some of the art is really sketchy. But i like Don Heck's close-ups on the Ghost Rider; they look really demonic and menacing. Jim Shooter's dialogue is just... it's like a child wrote it. But i really like how he's bringing some clarity to the series in terms of the Ghost Rider's powers and nature.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: In issue #23, Ghost Rider leaves the Champions "just hours" after his last adventure with them. See comments below; i'm ruling that the Champions' battle is one that was not depicted in any comic.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showAngel, Black Widow, Charles L. Delazny, Coot Collier, Enforcer, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Hercules, Iceman, Ivan Petrovitch, Roxanne Simpson, Stunt-Master, Water Wizard
Note that Blaze met Carson Collier in issue 22, and he doesn't recognize the Enforcer. I thought this was Shooter's way of letting us know that the Enforcer isn't Collier.
Posted by: Michael | June 3, 2013 7:53 PM
"Galton" may be a caricature of Cadence/Marvel president Jim Galton.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 7, 2013 4:09 PM
That seems to be Ivan with the Champions there, though he left to find his son while Ghost Rider was still with the team.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | August 23, 2013 3:07 AM
It is clearly Ivan. This leave of absence isn't final.
The Ghost Rider's departure from the Champions was shown in flashback (narrated by Angel in an issue of Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man) and it happened just after the fight against the false Sentinels. Darkstar and the others remained for just a few seconds more.
That is clearly not the situation being depicted here, which must come considerably earlier.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 23, 2013 8:48 AM
Ivan leaves at the start of #14.
He might of course have returned later, but both #14 and the Black Widow feature in Marvel Fanfare (that came much later) imply that he is arrested by the Soviet government almost immediately and has to be freed by Natasha.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 23, 2013 9:14 AM
The problem i've been mulling since Erik pointed this out is that any earlier there's no known battle where the Ghost Rider could have been working with the Champions.
We have Champions #11-13, and in issue #12 there's a note saying that the change in Ghost Rider's powers, which happens in Ghost Rider #22, haven't happened yet.
And then we have Champions #14-15, which is when Ivan leaves, and then this Iron Man annual, which is said to take place before Champions #16.
The MCP has Champions #13, then Ghost Rider #22, then Ghost Rider #23-24, then Champions #14. Which means after Ghost Rider #22, Ghost Rider returns to the Champions for some never shown battle. I wanted to avoid that which is why i placed this after the Iron Man annual, but i missed that Ivan's appearance makes that unlikely.
We could assume Ivan briefly returned (he forgot his toothbrush) but as Luis says, that's ugly.
So most likely i'll push this back prior to Champions #14-15. I was wondering if the From the Vault: Gambit & The Champions one-shot might provide our missing Champions battle, but i see the MCP places it between Champions #7-8.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 23, 2013 10:30 AM
Ok, i've pushed this back prior to Champions #14 but left room for an Untold Tale. Thanks to Erik and Luis for your comments.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 23, 2013 5:00 PM
"So most likely i'll push this back prior to Champions #14-15. I was wondering if the From the Vault: Gambit & The Champions one-shot might provide our missing Champions battle, but i see the MCP places it between Champions #7-8."
When you get the Gambit & Champions issue you'll see that it goes like this:
PWJ2 17 (page 2)-FB
PWJ2 17 (page 3)-FB
CHAMP 7 (pages 11-17)
Clark is badly burned from the explosion and is in the hospital wrapped in bandages, barely able to move until PPSSM #17-18.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | September 3, 2013 3:21 AM
Thanks Jay. Confirms it's not the Untold Tales we are looking for.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 3, 2013 8:23 AM
So, it has actually been referenced in-story that Ghost Rider seems to have muscles, even though he's a skeleton? That's one thing that has always puzzled me about his design. Interesting to see it being actually treated as a contradiction that other characters notice...
Posted by: Piotr W | July 27, 2015 6:28 PM
The writers of the Unofficial Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe place #24 right after the Iron Man Annual (#4, IIRC) featuring the Champions.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 24, 2016 10:40 AM
Luis, not sure if you're intending to re-open the discussion on placement of these issues, but just to rehash what we've already said in the comments:
Iron Man annual #4 takes place after Champions #14-15. One reason we know that is because a footnote points us to Champions #16 to see the fate of Darkstar after her injury in the Iron Man annual (the "fate" being, basically, everything's fine). Another reason is that Iceman is wearing his new costume in the annual (you can see the V on his chest), which he starts wearing in Champions #14-15.
Ivan leaves in Champions #14-15. But he appears in the goodbye scene here. So this shouldn't take place after Champions #14-15, which means this shouldn't take place after the Iron Man annual. We did say above that Ivan could have come back for his toothbrush, but it seemed less awkward to assume that the battle Ghost Rider refers to (which has no footnote or context clues) is one that we're not aware of.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 25, 2016 8:44 AM
Duh. I had forgotten about the reasons why the Annual won't fit. Sorry.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | March 25, 2016 10:36 AM
Hi, fnord. I'm learning to not argue about Quality or Historical Signifance ratings, but I have to call you out on this one. A Historical Significance of 4 for "first Water Wizard"? For comparison "first Star-Lord" only rates a 3.
Posted by: Andrew | January 3, 2017 4:59 PM
Water Wizard actually has a fair number of appearances and even briefly becomes a Thunderbolt. But i've knocked him down to a 3. Star-Lord isn't a good comparison point because his early appearances are of questionable canonocity, are are judged more on a meta level ("first appearance of the concept of Star-Lord").
Posted by: fnord12 | January 13, 2017 9:17 AM
While the concept of a super-villain struggling with confidence issues is one worth exploring, the Water Wizard does come off a bit corny. Perhaps it's those waders he wore?
Posted by: Brian Coffey | January 21, 2018 11:45 PM
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