Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ghost Rider

Five fantasy Comic-book characters.

1. White-garbed cowboy vigilante with a white cloak and featureless white Mask, inspired by Vaugn Monroe's recording Ghost Riders in the Sky (1949). GR is the secret identity of US Marshal Rex Fury (aka The Calico Kid), who uses phosphorescent paint on both himself and his horse, Spectre, to enhance his ghostly image. He first appeared in A1 Comics #27 (1950). Drawn by Dick Ayers (1924-2014), this GR featured in 14 issues of A1 1950-1954, with further appearances in Red Mask (1954-1955), Best of the West (1951), Bobby Benson's B-Bar-B Riders (1952) and Tim Holt Comics (1950-1954). In the early stories GR was pitted against bandits and badmen, but later tales introduced supernatural and Horror elements. Many covers featuring GR were drawn by Frank Frazetta. [RT/SH]

2. In 1967 Ayers revived the character, with scripter Gary Friedrich, for Marvel Comics as a costumed Western crimefighter (Ghost Rider #1-#7 1967-1968), but this time GR was the secret identity of schoolteacher Carter Slade. These stories were reprinted in 1974, but by then Marvel had introduced 3, so 2 was renamed Night Rider in the reprints. [RT/SH]

3. Motorcycle-riding avenger with a fiery skull head, created by Gary Friedrich and artist Mike Ploog, possibly inspired by an earlier comic book character, The Blazing Skull. This GR first made his appearance in Marvel Spotlight #5 (1972) as the bizarre ghostly alter ego of stuntman Johnny Blaze, forced to make a Pact with the Devil in order to save the life of his friend Crash Simpson. By the Contract Blaze loses his Soul and gains his flaming skull head. Friedrich made full use of GR's bizarre appearance in some interesting Supernatural Fictions, including conflicts with Damien Hellstrom, son of Satan; succeeding writers made GR more of a routine Superhero. A regular comic book devoted entirely to GR (Ghost Rider #1-#81 1973-1983) developed the concept, and the details of Blaze's deal with Satan (later changed to Mephisto) were altered such that GR was now defined as Zarathos, a Demon inhabiting Blaze's body. In the final issue Zarathos was banished to make a happy ending. [RT/SH]

4. Alter ego of Danny Kvetch, retaining the flaming skull. This version first appeared in Ghost Rider #1 (1990), with art by Javier Saltares; the title is still current (1995). A slicker, more modern look and a high-tech bike were matched by a grittier, more modern style of story. Marketing ploys have played a part in the success of this incarnation – e.g., a glow-in-the-dark cover on #15, a popup section in #25, reprints of the earlier series with gold ink on the covers, and a host of crossover stories featuring other Marvel characters. [RT/SH]

5. A 21st-century GR appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy #13-#14 (1992), tagged as The Spirit of Vengeance. [RT/SH]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.