Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dick Ayers' THE ORIGINAL GHOST RIDER "Origin" 2.0

WARNING: Stereotypes of Native Americans and Asians common to the 1950s. May be NSFW.
With the passing of Dick Ayers, let's look back at his most famous co-creation...
From Ghost Rider #1 (1950). Writen by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Dick Ayers.
He began life in the late 1940s as Rex Fury, aka The Calico Kid, a masked hero whose secret identity was a lawman who felt justice was constrained by legal limitations. (There were a lot of those heroes in comics and pulps of the 40s including our own DareDevil and Blue Beetle!)
But, with masked heroes in every genre doing a slow fade-out after World War II, and both the western and horror genres on the rise, the character was re-imagined in 1949 as comics' first horror / western character!

The Ghost Rider himself was not a supernatural being.
He wore a phosphorescent suit and cape, making him glow in the dark, appearing as a spectral presence to the (mostly) superstitious cowboys and Indians he faced.
Since the inside of the cape was black, he'd reverse it, and appear in the dark as just a floating head, usually scaring a confession or needed information out of owlhoots.

Despite the initial aid from deceased Western heroes (and a heroine) in this origin tale, the series' early days were populated with villains who were standard owlhoots or, like The Ghost Rider, people pretending to be supernatural beings.
That changed around 1952, when he started facing real mystic menaces including Indian spirits, vampires, and even the Frankenstein Monster (though not the one from Prize Comics.)
Unfortunately, it was about this point in time that Dr. Wertham began his crusade against comics in general and horror comics in particular...
By 1954, the Ghost Rider had lost his series. The next year he disappeared entirely.

But, in 1967, Marvel Comics revived his name and costume on a new character, also drawn by Dick Ayers (who had become an artistic mainstay at the publisher.).
Art by Dick Ayers
Unfortunately, he never quite caught on and the name was usurped by several motorcycle-riding contemporary heroes who fared better in the fickle comics market.

Note: the Western Ghost Rider appeared (as "Phantom Rider"), played by Sam Elliot, in the first Ghost Rider movie!
I don't know if Ayers received a credit for the character's co-creation or not...

Note: If you want to see the Ghost Rider's origin/first appearance (which didn't have any actual supernatural elements), go HERE!
You really didn't think Marvel or DC invented retcons, did you?

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