Thursday, January 26, 2017
RAR #20: WIS'AKA THE MANITOU AND SPOTTED DOE
Here's two more Real American characters from the pages of GHOST RIDER. They're a slight improvement over these two, but still, not much to write home about.
The main concept of this two-part story, which finishes up in #50, is to have modern-day Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze encounter his 1880s counterpart. This character was Marvel Comics' first Ghost Rider, published in seven issues of his own comic book and a few anthology-appearances after the book failed. Ironically, this character was Marvel's attempt to hijack an earlier western crusader with an almost identical crimefighting pattern-- masquerading as a ghost to battle villains-- published for several years by Magazine Enterprises. When that defunct company's trademark on the character lapsed, Marvel moved in-- though at the time, their version of the Ghost Rider was a spectacular failure.
However, their co-opting of the name made it possible for the company to apply the name to the cycle-riding monster-hero, and he became much more famous than either western character. Marvel reprinted the original Ghost Rider's adventures with a new name, "The Night Rider,"and the counterpart in this 1980 story uses that name as well. (The hapless sagebrush spook would get redubbed once more as "the Phantom Rider.")
Anyway-- Johnny Blaze rescues a man from a rockslide, but because of this action he finds out that the man is involved in a conspiracy to blow up a dam near a Comanche reservation. Blaze's apparent association with this villain causes an elderly Comanche shamaness, Spotted Doe, to call down upon him a ghostly warrior known as "Wisa'ka the Manitou."
It's not exactly clear what Wis'aka is. "Manitou" is an Algonquin word for a deity-like being, meaning that it probably isn't close to whatever words Comanches used, though they may have analogous concepts. However, Wis'aka functions more like a genie whom the shamaness Spotted Doe calls up at her will, for Wis'aka never speaks or gives any sense that he has volition. He does have really powerful "orenda," though, because twice he wounds the Ghost Rider with his supernatural weapons, just as the demon-hero is thinking what a pushover the spirit will be. For those readers who may've found the Rider a little too invulnerable at times, this scenes are the high points of the story.
Because of Spotted Doe's magic, Ghost Rider travels back to the 1880s, meets Night Rider, and finds out that Spotted Doe is the daughter of Comanche chief Flaming Star, who was the mentor to the main character of the first GHOST RIDER comic. After the two Riders team up against some owlhoots, Spotted Doe sends the demon-hero back to his own time. He saves the Comanches from further victimization by white villains and rides off to his next adventure.