13 COVERS: A DICK AYERS Birthday Celebration

Yippie-yi-o… Yippie-yi-yay… Ghost riders in the sky


The work of the late artist Dick Ayers (born April 28, 1924) at Marvel has been basically divided into two respected fields. He was one of the best inkers Jack Kirby ever had, plus he did great work on his own, illustrating Sgt. Fury and other war comics. However, there was a third — he was also the perfect artist for their numerous Western comics series, including Rawhide Kid, Kid Colt Outlaw, Wyatt Earp, Two-Gun Kid — and another that was one of my favorites, The Ghost Rider.

Ghost Rider had his origins back in 1949 at Magazine Enterprises (“ME”) — and Dick Ayers was not only drawing the stories back then, too, he was the character’s co-creator. The inspiration for the hero was the hit song “Riders in the Sky,” which ME publisher Vincent Sullivan was a fan of, especially the lyric “Ghost riders in the sky.” Sullivan felt that a “ghost rider” could make a great spooky hero and he assigned it to Ayers to flesh it out, with ME editor Ray Krank writing it. The Ghost Rider’s initial appearance was in Tim Holt #11 (Nov. 1949) and the person behind the mask was federal marshal Rex Fury, aka the Calico Kid, who had made his debut a few months earlier in his own feature in Tim Holt #6 (May 1949).

Two decades later, after the trademark and look of the character had expired, a similar Western hero (alias schoolteacher Carter Slade) showed up in Marvel’s The Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967), with Ayers plotting and drawing. (Prior to this, Marvel had a villainous character called “the Purple Phantom” using similar spooky methods in Two-Gun Kid #68, March 1964. And, yes, Ayers drew that story, too.)

Though The Ghost Rider won the Alley Award for “Best Western Series” for 1967, the title was cancelled with the seventh issue (Nov. 1967). The Ghost Rider was brought back in 1970 in the new Marvel anthology title, Western Gunfighters, with Ayers still drawing the stories. A series of reprints after that appeared in Marvel’s 1974 Night Rider, changing the character’s name because of the introduction of Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle-driving Ghost Rider, in 1972.

Ayers’ art could also be found in Giant-Size Kid Colt #3 (1975) when Night Rider guest-starred with Colt, and again in new back-up stories of the Phantom Rider (the new name of “Night Rider”) in The Original Ghost Rider #3 (Sept. 1992) through #20 (Feb. 1994).

All in all, Ayers’ association with the Ghost Rider lasted almost 50 years. Here are 13 COVERS (and pages) of both the ME and Marvel Ghost Rider by Dick Ayers — and, as a bonus, the best moment from the Ghost Rider movie (the music during their ride is an instrumental version of “Riders in the Sky,” the song that began it all):

Tim Holt #11 (Nov. 1949, ME). The Ghost Rider’s first appearance.

The Ghost Rider #1 (A-1 series #27) (Aug. 1950, ME)

The Ghost Rider #6 (A-1 series #44) (1951, ME)

The Ghost Rider #7 (A-1 series #51) (1952, ME)

Two-Gun Kid #68 (Mar. 1964, Marvel). The Purple Phantom, a predecessor to Marvel’s Ghost Rider.

The Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967, Marvel)

The Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967, Marvel). Dick Ayers, pencils; Vince Colletta, inks.

The Ghost Rider #2 (Apr. 1967, Marvel)

The Ghost Rider #3 (June 1967). Ayers, pencils and inks; John Romita alterations.

The Ghost Rider #4 (Aug. 1967). Ayers, pencils; Colletta, inks.

The Ghost Rider #5 (Sept. 1967). Ayers, pencils; Colletta, inks.

The Ghost Rider #6 (Oct. 1967). Ayers, pencils; Colletta, inks.

The Ghost Rider #7 (Nov. 1967). Ayers, pencils; Colletta, inks.



— 13 COVERS: A Fiery CARL BURGOS Birthday Celebration. Click here.

— DOCTOR STRANGE TURNS 60: How 13 Great Artists See the Master of the Mystic Arts. Click here.

13th Dimension contributor-at-large PETER BOSCH’s first book, American TV Comic Books: 1940s-1980s – From the Small Screen to the Printed Pagehas just been published by TwoMorrows. He has written articles and conducted celebrity interviews for various magazines and newspapers. Peter lives in Hollywood.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Great Covers. Always loved the original Ghost Rider.
    Happy Birthday Mr Ayers.

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  2. Great selection! I have an independent comic from the 1990s with art by Dick Ayer’s called Dr Wonder (I think?). It was a retro-styled comic and a lot of fun.

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