Wednesday, January 25, 2017


The early 1970s may have given a featured berth to a new Native American superhero, Red Wolf,
but there were still a lot of bad Injuns in them thar comic-book hills-- and two of them appear in the GHOST RIDER comic.

SNAKE-DANCE appears in the last "Ghost Rider" story to be drawn by the character's co-creator Mike Ploog, and Ploog's art, seen in the above cover, is the only thing good about the character. As written by Mike Friedrich, Snake-Dance is an Apache medicine-man who wants to return his people to their old customs, including that of human sacrifice. Friedrich's story-arc dealing with Snake-Dance is essentially just another tired old quasi-imperialist fantasy of dark-skinned people sacrificing white victims. This might not be entirely out of line if there existed any solid proof that archaic Apaches ever had practiced human sacrifice. Both Snake-Dance's character and motives are pretty lame, and the conclusion of the arc, when Ghost Rider destroys the tribe's traditional sacrificial altar, is a little problematic. Given that the monster-hero possesses his power thanks to a deal with Satan, he's not exactly in a position to be throwing stones here.

WITCH-WOMAN, daughter of the unmemorable medicine-man, is a character with a little more potential, but Friedrich bungles that potential in a confused storyline. When she first appears under the name "Linda Littletrees," she's portrayed as the image of the "good Indian" who wants to live by the ways of modernity. However, she reveals to the Ghost Rider that she too has hellfire-powers like his own, and that she too is an emissary of Satan, bent on subjugating the rebellious skull-headed cyclist so he'll surrender into the service of Hell. Ghost Rider doesn't defeat her so much as escape her, and she appears to kill herself at Satan's command, though later she's resurrected and used as a pawn against the hero. This time, however, Ghost Rider manages to free Witch-Woman from her bonds to Satan and return her to the status of an ordinary woman. Friedrich writes one last story with her attempting to romance Ghost Rider's mortal identity, and then she disappeared from Marvel continuity, except for a much later appearance in a 1994 comic.

The most irritating thing about Friedrich's use of the character is that he breaks his own rules. In the debut issues of Ghost Rider's comic, the character only gains his powers because he makes a willing deal with Satan, but is able to avoid surrendering to the Devil by his own willpower (and an occasional assist from his girlfriend, though her role in the series diminished rapidly). However, Linda is victimized by a Satanic sect when she goes away to college. Her sacrifice by a phallic blade resembles the iconography of various "Satan-films" of the early 1970s, but Friedrich doesn't establish that she makes any pact with Satan prior to being killed, so why does she serve him? Indeed, the following panel implies that her murder was almost a form of sexual intercourse.

I don't have a problem with weird sexual fantasies in comic books, but this one undermines the rules of the writer's own universe, and shows that the author was just batting stuff out without much effort. Given the wasted potential of the character, it's just as well almost no one has tried to revive her.

No comments:

Post a Comment