It’s become a tradition around these parts to post a ghost story on All Soul’s Day, so this year I thought it appropriate to introduce a tale starring the Spectral Sheriff of the range known only as Ghost Rider.
“Spectral Sheriff.” Yeah … that was a bit of a reach.
From Ghost Rider #8 (Magazine Enterprises, August 1952), here’s “The Inn On Skull Mountain.” The art is by the Rider’s co-creator, the criminally underrated Dick Ayers.
Golden Age justice!!!
Although the Golden Age Ghost Rider delved deeply into the horror comics genre, his supernatural foes were usually no more than what would one day be termed “Scooby Doo Hoaxes.”
(The Rider himself simulated otherworldly powers through the clever use of illusions and a reliance upon his enemies’ superstitions. Unlike numerous Scooby Doo characters, however, his act was never debunked by a bunch of meddling kids …)
Fake or not, the Ghost Rider’s antagonists were frightening enough due to the skills of Dick Ayers, one of the many unsung heroes of the Golden Age.
Take, for example, “Hate Town U.S.A.” from The Ghost Rider #9 (Magazine Enterprises, Oct. 1952). If Scooby Doo ever dared to amp up its horror elements to this degree, well … let’s just say it would have been a lot more intense than those episodes that guest-starred Sonny and Cher.
The writer of the following story is uncredited, but the pencils and inks are by Dick Ayers.
The original Ghost Rider is one of the more memorable characters of comics’ Golden Age, probably because his creators (Editor Vince Sullivan, writer Ray Krank and artist Dick Ayers) combined two of 1949’s more popular trends – cowboys and the supernatural – with a touch of the still kicking super-hero genre and topped their masterwork off with one of the most distinctive costume designs of any era.
Bolstered by Ayers’ slick art and notable contributions by such talents as Gardner Fox and Frank Frazetta, the Ghost Rider haunted the Western plains from 1949 until 1955 and the ascendancy of the Comics Code Authority.
The character, however, proved durable enough for Marvel Comics to introduce a nearly identical version of the Rider in the late ’60s with Ayers himself in tow. This iteration wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, but Marvel certainly wasn’t going to give up a catchy character name now that the company possessed the trademark.
The Ghost Rider tag, as we all know, was eventually passed on to Johnny Blaze while the Western hero was renamed the “Phantom Rider.” Sadly, this bowdlerized version of the Golden Age character is best remembered today for drugging and raping Hawkeye’s wife, Mockingbird. I’ll never forgive Steve Englehart for that brainstorm.
Anyway, here’s the original Ghost Rider in all of his Pre-Code glory. Entitled “The Beautiful Witch,” the story originally appeared in The Ghost Rider #11 (Magazine Enterprises, 1953). As is the case with every Ghost Rider story during the character’s Magazine Enterprise run, the art is credited to Dick Ayers.