Thursday, March 15, 2018

R.I.P. Michael Fleisher

This morning I woke up to some really sad news that comic writer Michael Fleisher has passed away at the age of 75.  It was reported by Mark Evanier on his News From ME blog that Fleisher died back on the 2nd of February, he did not know the cause of death.  Fleisher had been out of the comics field for several decades, his last published work being in the late 1980s, but he had a lasting influence in the medium.  He started work at DC Comics as a writer, redefining the Spectre and Jonah Hex for the Bronze Age and introducing several notable Batman characters, such as the Electrocutioner.

For me, however, Fleisher will always be remembered as one of the defining writers on Ghost Rider during the original Johnny Blaze era.  He stepped into the series with issue # 36 alongside artist Don Perlin, and the two enjoyed a lengthy creative run on the series.  While Perlin bowed out with issue # 58, Fleisher continued to write the series until Ghost Rider # 66, giving him a run of 31 issues in total.  The Fleisher/Perlin team was successful in increasing the sales on the book, upgrading it from bi-monthly to monthly status after just four issues.

Fleisher was also instrumental in the development of the Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider relationship, establishing that they were indeed two separate entities sharing one body.  Fleisher's moody, horror comic approach to the series breathed new life into the book, taking it as far away from superhero motifs as he could get.  Coupled with Perlin's atmospheric artwork, the book truly came into its own under their guidance.  Known for mostly one-shot stories, with the occasional 2-parter thrown in, the highlights of Fleisher's run included "The End of a Champion", where Blaze lost his title of World Stunt-Cycle Champion, and the 50th issue that teamed Blaze with the original Western Ghost Rider for the first time.

I'm going to end this post with some pages from one of my all-time favorite Ghost Rider stories, Fleisher and Perlin's first on the title.  Years ago, when I conducted a poll of "Greatest Ghost Rider Comics of All Time", Ghost Rider (1973) # 36's "A Demon in Denver" came in at # 4.  Click on the images to enlarge the pages.  Reprints of Michael Fleisher's run can be found in Essential Ghost Rider vol. 3 and vol. 4.