Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Discuss: Hellish Heroes


david_b said...

Ah, Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog, the forerunners of Marvel's hellish and monster heroes. They argued for decades over whose idea it was for Ghost Rider's flaming head, but it sure gave the character an intriging visual appeal.

I never had much interest in Silver/Bronze hellish or demonic heroes, starting with DC's Deadman (unless my timeline is wrong..).

Cool concept, a great jab at the Comics Code back in the day, but personally never collected. I knew kids who did, but wasn't of their ilk. Ghost Rider was alright (loved his teamup with Spidey in MTU 15), but Daimon Hellstrom was a bridge too far for a catholic boy like me.

Friedrich definitely was in his element in the early 70s when all these concepts of mixing horror and superhero titles came to fruition. Seeing other smaller companies gain readership with that idea (much like martial arts mags at the time), Marvel definitely latched on to it, casting forth yet another trajectory of the creative explosion they enjoyed in the early 70s.

Chuck Wells said...

Once the restrictions of the comics code authority were relaxed in the 70s, Marvel and DC introduced some really cool and fun characters like Johnny Blaze and Daimon Hellstrom. I really liked the "horror" stuff from the big two back then, and appreciated how they effectively incorporated those characters and elements into their fun fictional universes.

Sadly, those days are truly gone and these day I always dread ANY of these heroes showing up, since they usually have to overly darken their stories or completely change and update their origins to serve the vanity of current creative types.

And it may just be that the original writers and artists had a superior grasp on these creations, at least for older fogies like myself.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think Marvel really knew what to do with either of these guys. I remember in the latter Defenders, there’s a whole sequence in Hell, which I quite liked because Satan, being the Prince of Lies, won’t acknowledge if he is THE Devil or just a devil. It kind of embraced the conundrum nicely. But mostly, I think they just couldn’t make their minds up and were too scared of the moral majority to really get into it.

Am I right in thinking that they ret conned both of them afterwards such that Johnny actually sold his soul to Mephisto and Daimon is not actually the son of Satan anymore? You’d be really p***ed off if you worked in the Son of Satan’s Marketing Department, wouldn’t you? “Actually, it turns out I’m just the Son of Stan. Can we work with that?”

Side note: I really liked Nic Cage’s flaming head effect.


dbutler16 said...

Nic Cage was a pretty big Ghost Rider fan. He should be commenting here. Personally, I'm with David B in that I was never really into these heroes, though if I could go back in time, and have a bigger allowance, maybe I'd give them a chance.

J.A. Morris said...

Not a big fan of either. Ghost Rider looks great, but I could never get interested in his solo series. He worked in Champions though.

Same goes for Hellstrom, I thought he was a good addition to the Defenders, but not interesting enough as a solo character.

Edo Bosnar said...

Dang, I just bought Essential Marvel Horror vol. 1 (mainly because it was a cheap source of a lot of Gerber material that I'd not read much of at the time), which has most of the Son of Satan and Satanna stuff collected - but have yet to read it. So I can't make any really intelligent comments - other than to say that I was also initially kind of leery of the 'hellish' heroes because, like david_b, I was a little Catholic boy going to a Catholic school. However, I got over it, and grew to appreciate both Son of Satan and his sister.
As for Ghost Rider, I never really got into him as a solo character, but agree that he was good in team and team-up situations. I kind of liked the fact that, like the early Wolverine, he had the potential to go crazy and always had his team-mates on edge...

giantsizegeek said...

I was definitely into both Ghost Rider and Son of Satan and bought their first appearances on the newsstands. There is some context here. In the movies, Satanic themed films were popular, especially The Exorcist, about a demon possessing a little girl. Ghost Rider blew me away because of Ploog's art, the Elvis inspired costume, the Evel Knivel job that Johnny Blaze had during the day. Son of Satan was wild--the ultimate rebellious son against an evil father--and I dug how he got launched out of Ghost Rider.

Ghost Rider fell apart quickly after the first year, but later on Roger Stern did a good run. I enjoyed the recent Jason Aaron run as he brought back some classic characters and updated them in a good way.

Son of Satan was good in the original series as Steve Gerber took it over in Marvel Spotlight. After that, no one has known what to do with him, and I hated how he was in the Defenders and the whole being married to Hellcat deal. Jason Aaron treated him well in Ghost Rider but they gave him a new visual look which sucked.

pete doree said...

Loved 'em both! And Satana as well! The '70's was all about Satanism ( and disco & kung-fu obviously )
Sure, maybe none of those characters ever quite lived up to their potential, but they were certainly treated better than they are now.
Anonymous' post reminded me of a long forgotten 'black metal' band from the '80's called Venom, whose whole image was based around a Dennis Wheatley / Hammer Horror version of Satanism. I seem to remember their 1st album 'In League With Satan' had to be recalled as the first pressings bore the proud legend 'In League With Stan' on the cover...

Anonymous said...

Well, I think there is one thing you can safely say about everyone on the BAB: we're all in league with Stan!

(it had to happen!)


starfoxxx said...

I've often wondered if the reason Son of Satan and Hellcat never got the "action figure" treatment was because of the "satanic" nature of their names......but the popularity of HELLBOY nixed my theory. I'm still waiting for Daimon and Patsy as Marvel Legends (or any Marvel Legends at all---hey weren't they supposed to make a VALKYRIE Marvel Legend figure?)

And while I consider the GHOST RIDER movie a real turd, I mostly attribute it to the total lack of chemistry between the gorgeous Eva Mendes and the mis-casted Nic Cage.

Nic Cage was fantastic in Kick-A$$, though, his best role in 15-20 years.

And I also only really enjoyed Ghost Rider and SonofSatan in a super-team setting.

PS.....Devil-Slayer was cool, too.


Inkstained Wretch said...

I was never into either character. Ghost Rider just seemed much too gimmicky: Evel Knievel + the Exorcist fights super-badies? No thanks. The few comics I did read that featured him, mostly Marvel-Two-in-Ones, didn't make me think I was missing much.

I had never even heard of the Son of Satan until I picked up one of the Defenders Essentials volumes. Other than as a foil to Dr. Strange, I couldn't see me picking up a comic featuring him either.

Not every concept is meant to work.

Fred W. Hill said...

As a kid I liked the image of the Ghost Rider, although the basic gimmick has been around for ages, at least as far back as the Blazing Skull from the Golden Age and although I certainly wasn't aware of that character in the early '70s, Roy Thomas clearly was, having used him for a brief cameo in the final chapter of the Kree-Skrull War. G.R. was an updated Blazing Skull, mixed with Evel Kneivel, and the supernatural craze initiated by the success of The Exorcist. I actually think the stories got more interesting when they stopped playing G.R. as a supernaturally powered superhero and played up the horror aspects, making him a separate entity from Johnny Blaze. I only got about two issues of the Son of Satan's stories, mainly a matter of economics -- I didn't have enough moolah to collect everything so S.o.S. usually got left on the rack. I did enjoy Gerber's use of him in the Defenders but didn't much care for the DeMattais era and the transformation of what had been the happy-go-lucky Hellcat into Damien's bride. Patsy was such a nice, down-to-earth character, as written by Steve Englehart, who was essentially, ahem, unjustly damned to hell.

MattComix said...

I have no use for Hellstrom. I kinda dug the Danny Ketch Ghost Rider but when started going more into horror movie territory I dropped it. I liked Danny's transformation better as a flash of light and flame rather than his face melting off.

I can get into Ghost Rider as a dark superhero but heck now we barely writers who want to treat straight up superheroes as superheroes let alone Ghost Rider.

But I confess, I am not a horror movie fan. Like, at all. I can enjoy horror as an element or part of an atmosphere but I'm really not into it as a genre.

It's fine that other people are. I have no problem with that. I just get annoyed when horror tropes start going into other genres. Like having horror movie levels of gore in a action or superhero story. If I wanted to see that, I would go to horror.

Gray said...

I suppose I was too hypnotized by the superhero titled I enjoyed as a kid...I just didn't get the appeal of either character. Not to disparage them, I just really couldn't connect with either one the way I could with Spider Man, the Human Torch, or even Thor. Somehow my young mind was incapable of understanding how the adventures of the Son of Satan could attract people. I was a Catholic as well, so that may have played a role in my turning away from Daimon Hellstrom. As far as Ghost Rider was concerned, by the time I encountered him he was poorly drawn and poorly used and I had no desire to fathom his motivations. I'm intrigued enough to take a look at some of the stories in the Essentials line though. Thanks for belatedly piquing my interest, Doug and Karen!!

Doug said...

You're welcome, Gray!

I suppose I should chime in with my thoughts. I have limited if any knowledge or experience with the Son of Satan -- like many, the Defenders is about the extent of it, and it would be his first go-round that I refer to.

I liked the Champions a lot, but Ghost Rider's schtick got old after awhile. I never read his solo book. I did buy the crossover with Daredevil (was it DD #138 and GR #20? John Byrne and the Death-Stalker??), but that was about it.

To be honest I have more of an interest in these minor, somewhat short-lived characters now than I ever did back when I was a child. I think that is because I can now afford to read some of this material -- others have cited the fact that hey, you couldn't buy everything!


Karen said...

Like some of you, I really like the Ghost Rider visually. But I only read his book occasionally in the 70s and never could get into him.

To be honest he and Son of Satan and any other demonic character kind of unnerved me. I don't even have a Catholic background to blame! I felt the same about The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror and anything dealing with demonic possession. I don't feel that way any more. I might try to revisit Ghost Rider now.


vancouver mark said...

I was twelve or thirteen when these came out, and bought them both instinctively like every other Marvel title. But I tired of them both quickly. Ghost Rider got somewhat more interesting late in its run but was never a favorite, and I quickly lost any interest in Hellstrom, even as a supporting character.
My favorite Ghost Rider appearance came later, in Avengers# 215 or so. He was essentially a super-villain there and was quite chilling.

Rip Jagger said...

Ghost Rider I liked right from the get-go. Maybe it was the lush Ploog artwork.

Son of Satan had to grow on me a bit. Despite my affection for Herb Trimpe's work, here he seems a bit at odds with the material and frankly the title was very in-your-face for this son of the Bible Belt. It's a bit of a shocker to drag in a comic book with "Satan" splashed on it into an Eastern Kentucky home. I suspect my mother never saw it, or at least I hope so.

My favorite of these wasn't by Marvel though. It's Grim Ghost by Atlas-Seaboard. That's a deal with the devil with bite.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

The thing about Son of Satan was that the character name was more provocative than the character. Back then, I do remember reading a few of his solo stories as well as most of his appearances in Defenders, and he was actually a pretty standard super-hero type, albeit with a troubled/troubling heritage. I agree, however, that the title of the comic was very provocative, and am surprised there was never any Bible-belt preacher who launched a campaign to have it pulled from the spinner racks (guess the series just wasn't popular enough/didn't last long enough).
I think some far more disturbing material could be found in Fleischer's 'Wrath of the Spectre' stories, with the brutally harsh justice meted out to the various evil-doers...

Inkstained wretch said...

Edo - "I am surprised there was never any Bible-belt preacher who launched a campaign to have it pulled from the spinner racks (guess the series just wasn't popular enough/didn't last long enough)."

I've wondered if that was Marvel's aim all along with Son of Satan, although deliberately trying to rile up the bible belt for cheap publicity seems like more of an 80's thing to me.

david_b said...

Agreed with Edo on the provocativeness of the name/idea, than whatever came to fruition. Much like the painful WCA storyline with Pandemonium.. It was more 'ad nauseum' than anything.

Chiming in with MattComix and Gray, much like the fantasy discussion a few days earlier, horror or demonic stuff just wasn't my thing. I read comics for the straight super-heroics.

The most space-operaish I ever got was the Thanos/Drax storylines by Jim Starlin, and frankly it started by seeing the Avengers on the cover of Mar-Vell's ish 28.

"..and whaaaatta cool doorway to enter.."

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