Grim Ghost #1 cover

The Grim Ghost #1, January 1975

“Enter the Grim Ghost” (it’s explanatory rather than an instruction, I’m sure!)

Script: Michael Fleischer

Art: Ernie Colon

A mysterious figure riding atop a flying stallion, black as night, puts paid to the otherwise well laid plans of a gang of armed robbers. As one they disappear from sight as they are sent to Hell. The lone female member remains, but soon she too explodes with a “Pooof!” right after attempting to unload the contents of a revolver and an automatic into the interloper. As she vanishes, we learn that this masked fellow is the Grim Ghost and that he was once called Matthew Dunsinane.

In flashback, we see that Dunsinane was a highwayman in colonial America, 1743. He stops the carriage of a Lord and Lady Braddock, shooting dead the driver. Lady Bradock seems quite taken with Dunsinane, even when he shoots another passenger, and she demands a kiss from this “Grim Ghost” even as her helpless husband looks on. “I only regret,” he says, “that my mask must stand between me and your full, lush, ruby lips!” The lady, brazen hussy that she clearly is, offers to return later that night without her old man!

The army arrives and sets off in hot pursuit of the Grim Ghost, but only come across Matthew Dunsinane, who claims to have seen nothing. The next morning, Lady Braddock offers to lay a trap for the Ghost as only she can. Several nights later, the Braddocks hold a party at their mansion. Dunsinane is one of these guests. As the evening draws on Lady Braddocks takes herself off to her room and strips off. The Grim Ghost appears and offers her a brooch in return for… something else. “I’d hoped,” he says, “we could perhaps arrange a form of… trade!”

Hmmm. Yep, you read that right. And this was a comic in 1975!

Just then the door flies open and the guards race in, the trap sprung. Dunsinane is tried and hanged.

He wakes up in Hell, and Satan himself comes for a chat. The cloven-hoofed one is impressed by Dunsinane’s talent for evil and offers him a deal: he can go back to the Earthly realm if he’ll do Satan’s bidding. “It’s quite simple, Matthew,” explains the Devil. “I want you to keep me supplied with souls for my domain!” However, Dunsinane can only target evil people (thanks to a “regrettable” deal Satan made some time before), and he must stay dead. Dunsinane jumps at the chance, determined that his first victim will be none other than Lady Braddock.

However, Satan has one last trick up his sleeve: he sends the Grim Ghost back to Earth alright — but in the 20th century!

Disappointed by this turn of events, the Grim Ghost nonetheless collects his jet-black demon steed and flies off in search of souls…

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Whoa! Could this actually be a good Atlas comic? Why, yes, it could. And it is.

An extremely entertaining book this. Fleischer is clearly having a ball with the concept, and the dialogue sparkles throughout. This was one of the original ideas brought to the table in the very early days when Atlas was being set up. If only editor Jeff Rovin had been allowed to continue in this vein of unusual heroes, decidedly different to anything being offered by Marvel and DC, then Atlas might have been a hit.

The attempted seduction of an all-too-willing Lady Sarah Braddock is a real eye-opener. Perhaps the historical context allowed the Comics Code Authority to turn a blind eye. Even now, it’s quite tough to believe a young, vivacious woman getting the hots for some guy who’s just shot dead two men right in front of her!

The art is by Ernie Colon, and a sterling job he does. It’s not a mainstream style, and seems a little rough around the edges, but it suits this book perfectly. He later went on to work extensively at DC Comics on things like Arak and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. He was also an editor there for a time.

So, this is a great comic. From Atlas.

Who’d’a thought it?

As an addendum, it should be noted that it’s recently been announced that the Grim Ghost is soon to return to comics in a new series from a revived Atlas from Ardden Entertainment.

http://www.limited-ed.com/ardden/index.htm

Image ©2010 Atlas/Seaboard Periodicals/the respective copyright holder