A few days ago I made my way through the first few issues of The Original Ghost Rider Rides Again!, which is quite a long title for a comic book. The seven-issue series is nothing more than a reprinting of earlier stories, for what overall purpose I'm not entirely sure. I was a little amused when I read the very first page of the second story in issue #2, which is below:
And even more so when I continued onto the second page:
The 1970s and 80s were a period of increased self-awareness for comics, when an attempt was at least made to give characters motives and reasons for their actions. In the '60s, it was enough for the X-Men to fight the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants because, well, they had the word "Evil" in their title, of all things. As books moved toward a modicum of complexity, though, villains were often given backstories to act as some impetus for their struggle. Issues were still usually self-contained, though, and limited to 22 pages, so along with squeezing an overwhelming number of panels onto a page, characters good and bad usually had to settle for the simplest of reasoning to explain why they chose to do what they were doing.
Case in point: this issue's Ghost Rider villain. He's chosen to become despondent and bitter (and thus evil...he later kills a dog just by looking at it) because...hold on to your seats...HE'S TURNING 30. Our antagonist Adam is an English teacher who had lofty dreams of being a musician until those hopes came crashing down with the realization that his life would end as soon as 29 flew out the window:
The loathing is only exacerbated on page two, as the narrator of the book (presumably the writer) gives us a matter-of-fact life lesson:
"It happens to the best of us, 'round about our thirtieth birthdays. We look back over our shoulders...and see our dreams running away like rain water down a gutter. We want so much to make one last desperate grab for them -- but the chasm is too wide, the leap too far..."
Holy crap. I...I turned 30 earlier in the year. I've taught English. And I...have dreams. WHAT A FOOL I'VE BEEN! According to this book, I should probably just go ahead and kill myself.
Seriously, it's not like this comic was made a thousand years ago, when living until age 40 meant you'd get carried to an ice floe and sent off to sea to be eaten by a polar bear as to not be a burden to the community. Heck, even this story, first published in 1982, is only 29 years old. Is this what people really thought about turning 30 in 1982? I mean, I guess Elvis killed himself when he was 42 and he thought he was ancient, and that was only five years earlier, but...really? Wow.
I guess I'd better go and buy a guitar. And then smash it against a wall.