Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Retro Review: Ghost Rider #9
I've always known about the classic 70s Ghost Rider series. I really had no interest, (not to mention how expensive the issues are) to start collecting them, I was busy with the 90's series. That changed when I read a very interesting article about this infamous retcon as they call it. The most important thing about this issue, Johnny Blaze getting saved by a "Friend" from Satan was completely thrown out the window. In fact, there was another big retcon saying that wasn't really the Prince of Evil, it was Mephisto. (If a longtime fan could tell me the details about that retcon, it would be greatly appreciated, I've only recently begun to delve into the Ghost Rider lore.) Ignoring all of that, I want to talk about this issue, because it wasn't until after it was published that the editor decided to completely change the writer's story so that the "Friend" was just one of Satan's tricks, which was against the writer's wishes. The paragraphs following will my review/thoughts on the issue and the retcon itself.
I didn't buy any of the previous issues beforehand, and this issue was continuing over from the previous one. It starts with a battle from Issue 8, Ghost Rider against the demon Inferno. Meanwhile, the demon lord Satan is attempting to make Roxanne, (Blaze's girlfriend) give up her "protection" over Johnny, so the Demon Lord could have his soul. She's reluctant, but Satan convinces her with the image of her father burning in Hell. After she mutters the words, "I renounce my protection of the Ghost Rider," the Demon Lord laughs saying that her father is not in Hell, for his soul cannot be reached. What follows is Ghost Rider losing his powers, thus making him an easy target for Inferno and the possessed citizens of San Francisco. However, thanks to his ingenuity, Blaze is able to beat Inferno. But then Satan himself appears, about to claim his soul. Blaze says he'll keep fighting, but it's no use, his soul is the Demon Lord's. However, someone yells "You are wrong, Satan!" A man steps forward, helping up the defeated Johnny Blaze. He says "No man lives his life without contending with you several times, Satan. For now, remember that he is free--that you have no claim over his soul." Satan flees the scenes, saying that he's eternal as sin itself and will remember this day. The man is about to leave, when Ghost Rider asks who he is. The man simply replies, "I am a friend."
Well, that's the overall story. I've read a lot of Marvel stories from the 60's/70's, some good, some really awful and cheesy. This story, as you could tell from my synopsis, doesn't fall into either category.....it falls under "excellence." Indeed, this story packs a punch and a certain deepness not seen all that much in comics at the the time. I admire the writer of the issue, for going into deep boundaries as such.
This was before Mephisto, this was the actual Devil. He is portrayed as certainly evil, with some amazing quotes. "I'm the Devil, everything I say is a lie, including that." I really like how the Demon Lord was portrayed. (Though a rather generic look.) I like how Hell plays a role and how the Devil resides in it making plans, it makes the stories very interesting. However, the real deal about this issue, and its selling point, was the "Friend." He comes out of nowhere in the comic, having some amazing quotes, such as the one I listed in the synopsis. The dialogue between Him and Satan is just priceless, the ladder is just completely scared off by the first, it's just amazing stuff. The "Friend" if you didn't figure it out, is supposed to be Jesus, which makes this whole thing interesting. I love how they mixed in theology and comics, it works supremely well with Ghost Rider. So sad that an editor felt the need to do a little retcon.
I don't know the details, but apparently the public was too sensitive to read about anything Bible-based in comics, even though it's a positive thing in this case. So what happened, is that ten issues later, in issue 19, it was said that the whole "Friend" thing was nothing but an illusion by Satan. I bought that issue, mainly cause I was curious on how they would pull it off with the retcon. They did it so it made a bit of sense, but looking back at Issue 9, it doesn't go. The Devil's dialogue in the epilogue of Issue 9 completely contradicts it, therefore I'm saying that this retcon is invalid. I'd say that the Arch-Demon in Issue 19 was just saying it was an illusion just to mess with Ghost Rider, he is the Prince of Lies after all. It doesn't really matter, since apparently everything is Mephisto, so in that the 70's Ghost Rider series is pretty confusing. But the intent of the writer was this issue, he didn't intend for everything to get a retcon, that was the editor's decision. Some people think it was a right move, I support the writer in that "it was the worst editorial decision by an editor in the history of comics." It won't be undone at this point, but I still enjoyed this issue regardless.
What I'm saying here is that Ghost Rider #9 is one of the greatest comics I've ever read. It combines theology with a superhero-based tale supremely well. I proudly own it in very fine condition, it was worth every penny. I don't care about the retcons that came after, this story stands above them. It's a high quality issue with some amazing writing. If it's one back-issue you need to read, it's Ghost Rider #9.
An easy 10/10.