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Ghost Rider

Marvel Legends
by yo go re

Vengeance!

When innocent blood is spilled, bad-boy biker John Blaze finds himself transformed into a skeletal fire demon thundering through the night on a mystical motorcycle of pure hellfire. As Ghost Rider, he avenges just souls tarnished by the touch of evil! Besides possessing superhuman strength, speed, and durability, Ghost Rider can force criminals to experience a level of emotional pain equivalent to that which they have caused in others as a result of their illegal or immoral actions.

Okay, despite what the info from the back of the package says, I want to make one thing clear at the outset - this figure isn't Johnny Blaze. I used to read Ghost Rider, so forgive us a brief diversion before we get into the real meat of the review.

The original Ghost Rider was one of Marvel's western heroes. He was a cowboy who dressed all in white to scare evildoers. In the mid-70s, riding in the wake of popularity left by daredevils like Evel Knievel, Marvel took the "Ghost Rider" name and (in what may be the first instance of a pop culture icon based on a tattoo) built a new character - a motorcycle stuntman who foolishly sold his soul, Johnny Blaze became a fiery spirit of vengeance at night. Ghost Rider faded away, only to be revived in the early '90s as young Danny Ketch, whose ties to the "original" Johnny Blaze GR were mysterious at best.

The comics were quite good, mixing stylish art with terrific stories the way the "Marvel Knights" line would nearly a decade later. Ghosty has been part of several unsuccessful "horror line" launch/revamps in the ensuing years, but the early issues are still worth reading.

Ghost Rider had his own line of action figures in the mid-to-late '90s, and they weren't too bad for the time. The figures had balljointed hips that allowed them to ride the flaming motorcycles (sold separately, or with the rider included). The only real low point were the flaming skulls, created by attaching a thin curved piece of plastic beneath the figure's neck, giving them less a "halo" and more an "upturned collar" of flame.

Marvel Legends has rectified that, though. Taking the work they did on ML2's Human Torch a step further, Ghost Rider's head is almost entirely engulfed in sculpted flame. Even his neck is comprised of that eldritch blaze. In each eye socket is a tiny faded dot of red, looking like an ember glowing in the distance and likely symbolising his pennance stare. You really have to look to see them, and it's a nice touch.

Ghost Rider is articulated at the toes, ankles, boot tops, knees, thighs, hips, waist, torso, fingers, wrists, gloves, elbows, biceps, shoulders, neck and jaw. Yes, since his head is just bare bone, ToyBiz included the natural hinge of his jawbone. That's cool.

There are two ways to tell that this Ghost Rider is Danny Ketch rather than Johnny Blaze. First of all, the uniform is different; Blaze had a blue jumpsuit, while Danny wore more appropriate biker leathers. The jacket is textured to resemble real leather, and all the detailing that showed up in the comics has been reproduced. The many spikes that adorn his costume are made from soft rubber, so no one will get hurt.

He also sports the extendable chain that was a trademark of Ghost Rider II. While the previous figures cast the chain from plastic (and made it part of his belt), Marvel Legends has gone to the trouble of giving us real metal. There's a plastic plug on each end that link together so you can wrap the chain around his torso. That's really a cool way to do things!

The other big giveaway as to Ghosty's secret identity was the bike. While Blaze's remained pretty standard (only getting flaming wheels later in the series), Danny's was a stylized nightmare machine from the get-go.

Like the rest of the Marvel Legends, Ghost Rider comes with a detailed base. His is a wonderful recreation of his bike, from skull-shaped faceplate to bright flaming wheels. Really, really bright. No picture will do justice to the neon glow that emanates from those two tires. The flames are all nicely detailed, and flat on the bottom for stability. Each wheel has a mounting bracket (because GR could drive vertically) and a tiny rolling wheel. The tech parts of the bike are surprisingly detailed, though I am a bit disappointed that they didn't get the GR emblem on the gas tank where it belongs.

The figure comes with a reproduction of Ghost Rider Vol. 2 #2, which just cements that this is Danny Ketch. Part of the excellent run I spoke of before, this issue shows off GR's abilities and introduces one of his best recurring villains, Blackout. Plus, there's not a hint of Johnny Blaze anywhere within.

The Marvel Legends line just keeps getting better. They're certainly meeting their goal of giving us the "ultimate" action-figure version of the characters they tackle. In fact, it's too bad that McFarlane Toys has the "ultra-action figures" slogan wrapped up, because this line really deserves it. Ultra articulated, ultra sculpted, and complete with an ultra cool base, this is the best Ghost Rider figure ever.

-- 01/20/03


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