Williams Blazes Forth With Ghost Rider 0.1

Unsaddled: Longtime avatar of the Spirit Of Vengeance, Johnny Blaze finally makes one last Faustian bargain--this time to rid himself of the Ghost Rider.

After the tour-de-force that was last year's Shadowland: Ghost Rider, is the Ghost Rider character finally safe in the hands of writer Rob Williams? Maybe. Or Maybe the value of the Bush-era Ghost Riders will finally be uncovered.

Ghost Rider #0.1

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Rob Williams, Matthew Clark
Price: $2.99
Publication Date: 2011-08

What was Ghost Rider ever About? Capital A. What was the book's high concept? Batman was always easy. It was about a Dark Knight who in fighting conventional crime with extra-conventional means, opened the door of out-of-the-ordinary criminals. Uncanny X-Men was Dumas' Three Musketeers. The ongoing tale of duty beyond accolades, of saving the very people who hated you. And Fantastic Four was about a new pioneer spirit, leading us not into the West, but onwards into tomorrow.

If there was trouble with the high concept of Ghost Rider maybe it's because there's trouble with the high concept of Ghost Rider as a character. Flaming skulls and flying chains, bikes and leather, Ghost Rider just looks cool. But where's the through-narrative? There's something close to a lingering permanence with the premise of other stories. There will always be intolerance, so there will always be an Uncanny X-Men. Tomorrow will always be tantalizingly out of reach, so there will always be a Fantastic Four.

But Ghost Rider?

Ghost Rider always seemed far more situational. His story arose from his conflicts which seemed like limited engagements. Daniel Way, first regular writer of the character's 2006 series (the most recent ongoing monthly for the character), certainly wrote in that style. The major conceit saw Satan wishing to escape Hell and manifest on the mortal plane. And naturally, the Ghost Rider was there to stop him.

By the time Jason Aaron took the reigns from Way, Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze (the original Ghost Rider from the '70s and '80s) had to prevent the rogue angel Zadkiel from taking the Holy City of Heaven, all the while contending with his brother and '90s Ghost Rider, Danny Ketch.

But these read very much like skirmishes, however protracted they may have been. These were interregna in the ongoing story of the Ghost Rider. In fact to find any kind of longevity to the character, to find anything resembling a writing that asserts Ghost Rider as an institution in the popular imagination, you'd probably have to go back to the '90s to writer Howard Mackie's beautiful and painstaking work done on the Danny Ketch character. That's what Marvel's Senior Veep for Publishing, Tom Brevoort refers to as the 'supernatural urban western mystique' of that era's book.

But was this localized-skirmish style of story told by Way and Aaron necessarily a bad thing? Actually, no. Both Way and Aaron's style of storytelling was deeply reflective of the zeitgeist at that time. With Ghost Rider locked in the fray with clear and achievable outcomes (and more so, achieving those outcomes), a deep need in the American psyche was answered. If Ghost Rider could do it, then maybe we could pull out of Afghanistan. Maybe Iraq wouldn't become an inter-generational war.

But the politics of 2006/2007 seem convincingly at an end. It's time for a new kind of story. 2010's Shadowland: Ghost Rider One Shot really threw down the gauntlet. Writer Rob Williams was able to hold back on narrative complexity and offer artist Clayton Crain the spotlight. How does one tell an authentic tale about a character with origins steeped in vibrant artwork? Why not give the artist full scope to guide the story?

Williams' ceding of center-stage to Crain in last year's One Shot proved incisive. The book was an unqualified success. But with this year's Ghost Rider 0.1, meant as a kind of warm-up lap, a Ghost Rider-in-a-nutshell for the forthcoming series, pushes Williams back into the foreground.

The narrative thrust with 0.1's 'Give Up The Ghost' relies almost solely on Williams. In this standalone introduction to the forthcoming series, Williams reintroduces an even more wizened, even more embittered Johnny Blaze. Gone is the craggy, irascible but ultimately rooted Johnny Blaze of Jason Aaron's era, and in his place is the easily-duped but no-less-irritable new characterization.

Once again Johnny Blaze finds himself a pawn in the game of mysteries entities. This time, a timeless cowboy named Adam who offers Blaze's Ghost Rider a strange medicine in the form of a bitter root and an opportunity to exorcise the Ghost Rider.

Will this be the dawn of a new kind of Ghost Rider? One that will hark back to the ongoing-ness that Tom Brevoort once oversaw during the '90s? Perhaps the larger question is will this new characterization of Johnny Blaze succeed?

Will this newer, more whiny Johnny Blaze tap the same psychological real-estate as the brilliantly scripted Johnny Drama from HBO's Entourage? Or will there be an outcry for the more in-control Johnny Blaze of the Aaron era?

Or will, as the cookie-page seems to indicate, Johnny Blaze be entirely marginalized from the title, giving way to the female Ghost Rider?


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.