Ghost Rider #35 (1979)

Jim Starlin was obsessed with death. Obsessed. Completely fascinated with death. In Jim Starlin comics, was a literal, living being, one that lived in the physical world as much as any lead character.
 
To wit: Ghost Rider #35, written and laid out by Judo Jim, in which Jonnny Blaze, the flaming skull hero known as the Ghost Rider, rides his motorcycle in a literal race against death. Yes, a literal race. Death shows up to threaten Johnny, and wears awesome black leathers "to die for" and some reflective sunglasses. Johnny wins, of course, but not before an innocent dies and another almost dies.
 
Actually, if you set aside your prejudices and enjoy this comic for what it is, this is a very entertaining comic book. The art is professional and very slick – there’s probably inks by about a half dozen inkers in this comic – and the story is pretty darn interesting. I liked the treachery and nastiness of death, and the way that death tries to cheat Johnny in order to get what he wants.
 
Clearly this isn’t the cute and seductive death of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. This death is an asshole, a truly evil creature that only cares about itself (himself?). I love the way Death looks when he first appears, all threatening and nasty as he stares down Blaze.
 
I remember this issue especially much since it was a rare moment of quality in the midst of a very long line of mediocre or worse GR stories. Ghost Rider was a comic that was notorious for ever-chaning creative teams and never finding a consistent stiryline. Things were constantly changing in this series, which made the series a tedious read. If the flaming skull of the hero wasn’t so damn cool looking, the series would have died long before ’79. It got good towards the end of its run, around the early ’80s. but by then the series’ reputation had done it in.
 
But this issue is well worth checking out.
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