I'm a sucker for Ghost Rider. You get a flaming skull, stick it in some leathers and stick in a comic book there's a pretty good chance I'll plunk some dollars down for it. I don't care if it's Johnny Blaze, Danny Ketch or that freaky robotic dude from 2099. I don't care if he comes as a Spirit Of Vengeance, a Midnight Sun or one of the freaking Champions!
You know why? It's because no matter how much supernatural ghouls and goblins you toss in, no matter how much badass attitude you pack him full of, no matter how modern you try to make a costume that's basically a leather jacket and pants - at his core Ghost Rider is just good old fashioned, goofy comic book fun.
Look at the concept people! He's Evel Kinevel, given super-powers by the devil, roaring around the Marvel Universe on a Harley made out of the fires of hell punching out demons and super-villains!
That's why it's such a treat to read issues like Ghost Rider v6 #12 by Daniel Way and Javier Saltares. This issue is a tie-in to Marvel's big lumbering crossover of that moment World War Hulk, but by tapping into the innate fun of the character Way and Saltares splash a little ray of sunshine on this otherwise fairly surly storyline.
Sure you could've had Johnny making his way to the centre of New York to confront the Hulk, fretting about the battle ahead like the guys in other books like Avengers and Iron Man. But why do that when instead you can have him jump the police barricades using the suspension cables of the Brooklyn Bridge as a ramp!
Also, does anyone have the first clue about what powers Ghost Rider actually has? I mean one minute he's burning people's souls with his fiery bone hands, next minute he's turning hardened criminals into gibbering cry-babies with his patented Penance Stare. Sometimes he conjures up motorbikes made entirely of hellfire, other times he just pimps out whatever hawg he happens to be riding like a Satan-powered Xzibit. He's had hellfire chains, hellfire shotguns, hellfire throwing knives, hellfire knuckle dusters - phew, you name it.
Some creators would get bogged down in mapping out just exactly what powers Satan might give to his number one motor-cycling assassin. Others, like the Way and co, just have fun with it.
I mean whose to say, maybe it's entirely plausible that Ghost Rider's hellfire chain can be used to slice off the cockpit of a jumbo jet as it's about to take off - you don't know!
Not that beefing up Ghostie's power set like this precludes him taking things right back down to street level when he has to! I mean sure Satan may have turned him into the baddest ass in the whole of the 'dudes with flaming skull' fraternity (which boast a lot more members than you might first think), but inside he's just Johnny Blaze. Johnny Blaze is both a biker and a carnie. Are they any social groups more hardcore and street level as those guys - I think not!
So of course Johnny is not above boosting a jet fuel tanker and jamming a cinder block on its accelerator just so that he can sit back and watch the bad guy go splat and kablooie:
In Carnie-Speak I Believe This Is a Known As Brooklyn Cruise Control
Seriously, slogging through that World War Hulk thing was nothing but pure angst, angst, angsity, angst (with exception of chuckilious Hercules and surprisingly awesome Heroes For Hire). Coming across this tie-in was a big treat. It was good to see Johnny again when he wasn't weeping, or gritting his teeth or y'know trying to murder his half brother who it turns out is an angel - no, wait he's really a demon - nom wait he's really an angel again.
Take notice Marvel, Ghost Rider works best when he's pure goofy fun with only little bitty sprinkles of seriousness on top.
If we wanted a grim and gritty anti-hero with a chip on his shoulder and a really big chain we'd all be reading Spawn now wouldn't we.
Yeah Spawn, c'mon you remember Spawn don't you? Big scary dead guy, pals with the homeless used to work for Martin Sheen back when he had evil facial hair.
No? Nothing? Oh well, you're probably better off anyway.