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Gimmick or Good? – Ghost Rider #15

GhostRider15_coverIn this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the glow-in-the-dark cover for Ghost Rider #15…

Ghost Rider #15 (published July 1991) – script by Howard Mackie and art by Mark Texeira

I’ve had many of you ask via the comments section when I was going to get to this comic, but I thought I’d wait for it to coincide with the All-New Marvel Now reboot of Ghost Rider, which was released earlier this week. If ever there was a Marvel 90s gimmick cover Mount Rushmore (I think this is something we should make happen right now), Ghost Rider #15 would probably be up there alongside Spider-Man #1, X-Men #1 and Silver Surfer #50. As the House of Idea’s very first glow-in-the-dark cover (though Vertigo’s Sandman Special #1 beat them to the punch industry-wide), Ghost Rider #15 is one of the most famous comics from the 1990s.

But what about inside the comic?

Pardon the pun, but early 90s Ghost Rider was white hot in terms of popularity and sales. Howard Mackie and Mark Texeira had launched a third volume of the series in 1990 replacing Johnny Blaze with a new Ghost Rider named Daniel Ketch. Audiences immediately took to Ketch, and Marvel was soon using Ghost Rider in other series to boost the sales of some of its sputtering titles. Ketch’s version of the character was also used to launch other spinoff titles under the “Midnight Sons” label.

Ghost Rider #15 effectively uses the added attention the gimmick cover unquestionably attracted to reintroduce and flesh out a number of the book’s key players and themes. The comic is far from perfect, but the creative team manages to create an enjoyable read and Texeira’s art particularly is a standout.

GhostRider15_01

The central conflict of this comic focuses on Ketch trying to find his footing as a hero. A few issues earlier, Danny’s sister, Barbara, was killed by the demonic villain Blackout, giving Ketch a thirst for vengeance. But Danny is trying to balance his need for justice with his desire to act heroically. Meanwhile, others, including Blaze, who is hunting Danny because he believes he is possessed by the demon Zarathos, doubt Ketch’s intentions.
Giving Ketch so many different obstacles to overcome in this issue helps reaffirm his heroic qualities. There’s obviously a fair bit of “anti-hero” in Ghost Rider’s make-up (and most of us are well aware of how the Marvel Universe was chock full of anti-heroes in the early 1990s). But watching Danny beat on Blackout only to have him stop himself from killing the villain at the last second (with Blaze’s urging) is a nice character moment for Ketch. And having the “old” Ghost Rider skeptically following the new character, only to reconsider and reach an understanding with Ketch at the end, is a worthwhile use of the “changing of the guard” trope.

GhostRider15_03

My primary issues with this comic relates to Mackie’s script, which periodically comes across as very formulaic and clichéd. Having Ghost Rider say things like “Your punishment is long overdue,” or “His face now reflects his scarred soul,” is just so wooden and lifeless. And this is a problem I have with Mackie’s writing outside of the world of Ghost Rider as well. It’s unfortunate because Mackie has actually scripted a handful of stories that I really like as a fan, but his writing just lacks any pop or excitement.
Texeira’s art on the other hand is very unique and exciting. A classically trained painter, some of Texeira’s full page spreads are a real pleasure to look at, and the cleanness of his pencils helps make the book’s action easy to follow. Considering Ghost Rider’s rise to prominence coincided with the industry’s surge of artistic bombast, it’s nice to find such elegance in a book that sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

GhostRider15_02

Factoring in Texeira’s art mixed with a worthwhile story about a hero coming into his own, and some of the missteps in Mackie’s dialogue can be easily overlooked. There’s not a ton of depth to this story, but as a self-contained issue, it works well enough to be an entertaining read.

Verdict: Good

27 Comments

I agree. And mine still glows in the dark!

Now if you were talking about the Vengeance glow cover from a few years later, I would say gimmick.

Howard Mackie gets a bad rap for being involved in the 90s Spiderman stuff but his Ghost Rider and X-Factor were both pretty good. It’d be cool to see you cover those Ghost Rider/Wolverine/Punisher books they did in the 90s.

That cover was so friggin’ cool. I actually bought a copy and ripped the cover off to hang on my wall.
I didn’t take care of my comics when i was a kid as well as I do now.

No, Howard Mackie’s X-Factor was abominable.

I’d also note that this particular gimmick really fits well with the book it’s part of. Sometimes these cover gimmicks have zero connection to the book, it’s just “hey, let’s slap a foil/hologram/chromium cover on Title X!” Glow-in-the-dark actually makes a lot of sense for Ghost Rider and the cover itself is done well to make it look good.

I like Texiera’s pencils and he was a good match for the book. For the record, however, Tex started out inking the book; Javier Saltares was actually the penciller when they relaunched it. (and did fine work as well)

I LOVE Texeira’s work from the 90s. Especially his Hama/Wolverine stuff. I wish he did more modern work.

What was cool about this book is not only was the story and art good, but as others mention the gimmick was sincerely cool and fit with the book. It was also good in that it was back when the gimmick covers were still a little subdued, as opposed to some of the later gaudy hologram and metallic monstrosities that came about that were busy as hell.

Sadly Mackie’s writing on this book declined as he clearly began trying to write the book similar to a 90s X-book with endless conspiracies, subplots that went nowhere and were unconvincingly resolved with implosible “answers” that just led to even more questions. If he could have finished as well as he started it would have been wonderful.

Technically, Javier Saltares was the penciller on the early issues of this volume of Ghost Rider and Texeira was inker, later taking over penicilling duties.

Oops, Josh beat me to it…

@Turk @Josh My bad… though Tex did end up pencilling the majority of issues right?

[…] a brief hiatus, I’m back with my Gimmick or Good? column at Comics Should Be Good, this time looking at one of the most famous books of the 90s: Ghost Rider #15 by Howard Mackie and M…. This comic is Marvel’s very first glow-in-the-dark cover and is a part of the very popular […]

By 1991 I was reading mostly DC, almost its entire super hero line, with Amazing Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, and Guardians of the Galaxy being the only Marvel books I bought. I almost never bought other Marvel books, but that glow in the dark cover caught my eye.

I really enjoyed the issue, and was very impressed with the art. Now I am a little surprised that I did not start collecting the series then.

Texiera’s art was wonderful. I like how dirty his inking could make things, especially contrasted with the tick line he used for a lot of figurework. His Wolverine, Black Panther, and various mini-series & one -shots looked fantastic and distinct even when the writing was poor. Sabretooth, Moon Knight, Union, Pantha- none of these comics will ever make anyone’s “best of” list, but they’re a pleasure to look at.

“thick line,” that is, although a Texiera-drawn Tick story would be bonkers.

I was reading this series when it came out but had absolutely no idea this cover was supposed to glow in the dark. The gimmick cover explosion was still a year or two away so I wasn’t expecting anything out of the norm from my comics and never had any reason to stare at covers in the dark.

The white colouring on the flame struck me as odd, but I just assumed it was an aesthetic choice. It wasn’t until the letter page comments a few issues later that I found out about the gimmick. If there was any mention of the special glow-in-the-dark skull gimmick within this issue itself, teenage me completely missed it.

Loved this issue, Still have it to this day! So much better than All New Ghost rider

Marvel SHOULD unleash the omnibus edition of the Dan Ketch-Ghost Rider run! That 90s series was (and still is) a masterpiece in the midst of the so-called “dark age.”

I was already reading and enjoying the series by the time this came out so the “gimmick” cover was just a cool bonus as far as I am concerned.

I loved that cover. There wasn’t a comic shop where I was living at the time but there were still spinner racks. My friend and I both collected and our usual place had these comics but with a creased corner and spine. We ended spending the day checking out every place for this comic we could think of. I think we both ended up buying four copies each of this. I don’t know why.

As for the story itself, I enjoyed it and thought I understood Blaze’s presence. I was actually a little put out when as the series kept going Blaze didn’t leave.

One of my fav “gimmicks” ever. What’s even better is the gimmick didn’t increase the price (as we would see later). I love GR at this point as well so it worked great. I don;t think it’s fair to knock GR’s wooden dialogue, it was a huge part of his character at the time (and a bit of clue GR wasn’t related to Blaze’s possession). One of my fav 90′s series in fact.

I have this one hanging on my wall. Got it signed by Mark last summer at a con. One of my favorite Marvel titles from the 90′s.

I remember paying $30 ! for Ghost Rider #1 in 1990 (what the hell was wrong with me? 30 bucks!).

A few months after that I pretty much stopped reading/collecting comics until the New 52 was a few months old.

What say you all? Is GR of the 90′s worth me tracking down?

P.S. Wasn’t it Mackie who wrote Darkhawk?

Loved this issue, Still have it to this day! So much better than All New Ghost rider

If you’re talking the new Ghost Rider that came out last week, I’ll have to respectfully disagree. It’s only one issue in but man it is refreshingly fun so far.

^ ^ ^

The majority of this series can be found for below cover price, both in your LCS bargain bins and online. I’d say it’s worth tracking down. Toward the end, the whole thing kinda fell apart for me. YMMV.

I thought this was a great issue with a super-cool gimmick. I definitely have fond memories of this one.

By the way, is the letering on this issue by Janice Chiang? It looks like her work. She was one of the best comic book leterers of the 1990s.

@Mark Ginocchio: Saltares pencilled most of the first year (10 out of the first 12), and then Tex did most of the next year (11 issues), but Tex inked the first 2 years of the book (24 issues).

Tex’s inks are pretty memorable, and his 2 years on the book really set a tone. But Saltares was the original penciller and did some very nice work.

Saltares is a better draftsmen than Texiera, so I felt the artwork took a hit when he left. As a team though, they were one of the best. By the time Tex left, and the Midnight Son stuff started, I dropped the book.

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