Retro Review: Ghost Rider #15 / Spider-Man #1

Retro Review

[Intro: My fiancée’s brother recently unearthed his old comic book collection and gave them to me – there were some treasures (nostalgically…not monetarily) and a few that deserved a read. So, with that…let’s kick off our Retro Reviews!]

Alek: Let’s take it back to the 90’s…a time when comics were booming. Collectors ruled the world. A gimmick covers and special editions helped to ruin the industry for years to come.

I could have picked a number of issues from this period (I’m looking at you X-Men #1…all 5 variants…not counting the gold editions) that symbolized just how greedy the industry became. Ghost Rider #15 stands out for the its utter ridiculousness and blatant money grab of a cover. Whereas, Spider-Man #1 is interesting since it set Marvel down the path to losing its best creators (and creating a formidable rival in Image).

Let’s start with Ghost Rider #15, shall we? It’s the infamous glow in the dark cover…you know, when glow in the dark was still a cool thing. The cover is iconic though – years from now, I’ll still remember the image whenever anyone mentions Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, what’s inside is pretty much crap. This new Ghost Rider series starred Danny Ketch – the second two-wheeled enthusiast to serve as a host for Ghost Rider. It opens with Ghost Rider severely injured – which on a skeleton…can only be depicted with some torn clothes. Eventually he runs into Johnny Blaze who attacks him…for some reason. He’s also after a vampire…for some reason. I understand that I’m reading issue #15 completely out of context, but still…it was a pretty confusing piece of shit. Sadly, the art lacks any redeeming value as well. Overall, it just looks really really sloppy…colors run together a bit…the shading just makes everything seem dirty. I’m honestly surprised that this book made it to the shelves. (Okay…I’m not surprised…both Marvel and DC were more focused on their gimmicks than actually telling good stories at this time.) And unfortunately…I remember picking up 20-30 copies of this one as an “investment”. Oy…the 90’s were a bad time for us all.

Moving on to Spider-Man #1. While I remember this comic also having multiple variants, it isn’t the cover that’s the defining aspect to this book…it’s the fact that this was the comic book where it all went off the rails for Marvel. This was the first “creator-driven” books by one of the founding Image creators. Todd McFarlane had been toiling away on Amazing Spider-Man and wanted to flex his story-telling muscles. His editor/Marvel offered him a new, solo Spider-Man book in order to keep him in the fold.
…and that really was the beginning of the end for Marvel. The story itself is pretty bad…the dialogue was kept to a minimum and it’s basically a collection of splash pages. It also has the same issues with shading/inking – was that just a thing in the 90’s? And yet this was probably one of the best selling books during the 90’s…fans really only have themselves to blame for the implosion of the industry.

So there we have it – two books that symbolize the excesses and problems of the 90’s: gratuitous gimmicky covers…and the self-indulgence of “creator-owned” properties. It was a good time to be a comic book fan. ;P


Let’s start with Ghost Rider #15, shall we? It’s the infamous glow in the dark cover…you know, when glow in the dark was still a cool thing.


John: I remember the Ghost Rider cover. It stuck out in my mind because the skull was so big. I also remember walking right by it without giving it another thought. It’s a shame that the art sucked. It’s funny because this was when Jim Lee was making waves with Uncanny X-men. I liked Jim Lee’s art since it was more influenced by the manga and anime than the 80’s art that I was not really into.

My memory of buying a book based on its cover was the Death of Superman. I think I spent all my money and bought about 10 copies thinking I would be rich. My dad threw them out a couple months later. I was pissed because of this violation of personal property and the thought that I had lost out on millions of dollars. The black bag versions I had would have netted me a couple hundred bucks if I’m lucky. Not exactly the treasure trove I imagined.

I think I lost my love for comics around the mid 90’s. Although I liked J. Lee’s art, things started getting ridiculous with all the new books. I couldn’t keep up nor could my allowance. I then turned to anime after having my mind blown by Akira (still awesome in my opinion).

I’m back as an ardent fan, but the 90’s almost drove me away forever with all the rampant short-sightedness of the industry. Heck, the industry almost imploded because of its direction during the time. I don’t know if Marvel and DC are that much better than before due to their insistence of continuing summer events, but once a geek always a geek. Sigh… Fine, here’s my money. Give me the Comic-Con exclusive blank variant cover, please.

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