Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hotheaded Additions and Variations

I got a phone call at work one day from Morgan, my three year old nephew:

Him:  “Unca Jeff! Unca Jeff!”

Me: “What?”

Him:  “I loooooooooooooooooove Ghost Rider!!”

Me:  “Cool! How come?”


Me: “Congratulations, you figured out all the important nuances of the character.”

Him: “OK BYE!”

That’s really the key to whatever version of Marvel’s Spirit of Vengeance is featured. The starting point is:
His head is on fire!

(It was also the key to figuring out Morgan’s fourth birthday present via some internet hunting of Ninety's toys.  )
Unca Jeff’s main job is fanning the flames of any possible comic book addiction.)

When done correctly, that realization of Headonfireness allows the creators behind it the luxury of the starting point being completely crazy, and encourages climbing to much zanier heights.

When I saw the Blu-ray of 2011’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, I checked the cover.

“Is his head on fire?”
“Yes, yes it is.  Sold!”

I liked the first Ghost Rider film with Cage, and aside from him this one had nothing to do with the first.

I still enjoyed it and found it buckets of fun.  While they went in a totally different direction, the new creative team brought loopiness by the bushel!

Ciarán Hinds was Mephisto instead of Peter Fonda, Blackout was there (played by Johnny Whitworth) instead of Blackheart to give a super powered foe.  And Violante Placido played Nadya, for the minimal love interest story, not connected to Johnny’s origin, like Roxanne was, but to Danny Ketch. Young Fergus Riordan’s character had almost nothing to do with the comic version of the Nineties Ghost Rider, but the name drop was appreciated.

The appeal of the movie wasn’t the complex story, heartfelt acting or depth of character.  (I doubt there’s anyone reading these who still expects movie reviews with any kind of artistic merit anymore.)  It was the writers and directing team of Neveldine/Taylor being absolutely unafraid to unleash the crazy in awesome amounts.

Not telling Nicholas Cage to hold back on whatever pile of over emoting he went for in each scene?

Idris Elba as a combat trained, motorcycle riding, shotgun wielding monk?

Ghost Rider using his powers to create flame vehicles out of not only his bike, but a pick-up truck and some weird, enormous, unspecific piece of construction equipment? 

Showing an image when Danny asks what it’s like when Johnny has to go to the bathroom as the Rider and describes it as a flame thrower, complete with Cage’s self-made sound effects, and the Ghost Rider nodding at the camera as if to say, “OH YEAH!”?  
Check and Mate!

I brimming with a geekly father’s pride that this was my daughter’s absolute favorite scene in both Ghost Rider movies.

I’d seen poor reviews about some of the limited issue Ghost Rider series that came between the long runners that I already owned, and hadn’t sought them out.  Then I applied my new litmus test:

Is Ghost Rider’s head on fire?
Yes!  Sold!

If I didn’t do that I would have missed some of the greatest piles of nuttiness ever to see print. 

Rob Williams’s short lived series had Alejandra Jones being giving Johnny’s possession to act as a new Ghost Rider.  Like all of the “other” Ghost Rider stories, Johnny eventually shows up to get involved, or fix things, or make things worse, or some combination. That alone usually makes it worthwhile.

This one, however, crossed over with some other titles to reunite the new versions of the Simonsons’s “World’s Most Commercial” Fantastic Four in the “Circle of Four” story. 

There was a temporary transference of the spirit of vengeance power to the Red Hulk fused with the Venom symbiote
while X-23 (Female Wolverine clone. Don’t ask. Probably just wait for the next movie) joined in the fray.

I went so far as finding a copy of Devin Grayson’s Hammer Lane, though I was unable to find a good review ANYWHERE.  There was nothing that really stands out as memorable and the art was terrible. But again, Ghost Rider’s head was on fire, guaranteeing a few moments where I went “WOO!” while reading.

Now Ghost Rider has joined SHIELD.  My interest in that show waffled a bit mid-season last year, but they had already finished strong by unpacking multiple valises of crazy.  If the opening of this season is any indication, they were only getting started!  Ghosts, good guy mad scientists, advanced robot hands, more super powers, and the guy with the burnin' noggin!  YAY!

For those complaining that Robbie Reyes is driving a car not a motorcycle, you need to understand that is completely in line with Ghost Rider mythology.

I need to pause for a moment to bask in the wonderful lunacy connected to the idea that Marvel worked out a mythology for a group of beings connected by the fact that they have cool flaming vehicles, and their heads are on fire. 

It was hinted at the Danny Ketch series (mostly written by Howard Mackie) but the mythos really opened up in the 2006 series.  That one started on the far side of nuts with Daniel Way writing. Then Jason Aaron took over and it took a quantum leap to a point much further from sanity.  The fun and expansion of just how many fire skulled deliverers of vengeance there have been never stopped.
Yeah, I used this picture in the last Ghost Rider post.  It's far too awesome not to revisit, though.

I myself am a convert to the fandom of Mr. Reyes.  I skipped his series on its initial release due to the car thing, but met him after it ended in the Secret Wars Battleworld aligned Ghost Racers.   I picked that one up because it had Johnny, Danny and Carter in it. (Alejandra was there too, but I didn’t know her yet either.)

Felipe Smith, who created the car diving guy, wrote that mini-series.  Besides learning to like Robbie, I also figured that since he wrote about Ghost Riders that were:
A Gorilla on a Train
A Cyborg Tyrannosaur on a Fighter Jet
Carter Slade reimagined as a centaur with built in Gatling guns.

Robbie’s All New Ghost Rider series would have exactly the level of crazy I was looking for…and I was correct.

Looking forward to his new series starting this month too!

I was telling my neice and nephew about the new guy. 
She said "what's the point if he doesn't have a motorcycle?"
Giving me the opportunity to teach them the mythology. (Sorry sis.)

Morgan, however, asked the only question that matters:

"Is his head on fire?"

Never doubt the wisdom of a four year old with regards to cool superhero stuff.

Farewell from the rotating Marvel Shelf's Halloween thru Doctor Strange Premier Month

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