Meanwhile in Canada…Spider-Man Teaches Bike Safety!
Spider-Man, bicycle safety enthusiasts, Ghost Rider, drunk drivers and the Toronto Blue Jays! Welcome to the third edition of Meanwhile in Canada, where I share some uniquely Canadian entertainment to Fandom readers south of the border. Last time, I talked about a series of Spider-Man “say no to drugs” comics that were published in Canada in the early 90s. So to catch up with everyone else, read the last two parts here and here.
Knocked Right out of the Park
Spider-Man has busted up Electro’s drug smuggling operation in Winnipeg, and preventing the Chameleon from stealing a science fair notes in Fredricton. The Web-Slinger now finds himself in Toronto because the Daily Bugle decided that the best use of Peter Parker’s time is to take photos of a Blue Jays game. Granted it’s a game between the Jays and the New York Yankees, so at least there is some appeal to the Bugle’s readers. However, is this the best use of a guy who’s claim to fame is taking pictures of super-hero battles?
The story then shifts focus to Phil Danton, who is a member of the Right Riders. The Right Riders are a group of bicycle safety enthusiasts. I am sure that makes them super popular in school. The group is putting on a demonstration during the baseball game and Phil is really excited for it.
The boy decides to take a shortcut through a dark alleyway on the way to the stadium. This proves to be his one mistake as he gets mowed down by a drunk driver named Ray. Ray isn’t exactly what you’d call an upstanding citizen. Ray is a drunken crook and is afraid of getting in trouble. Instead of dying in the gutter like some kind of mangy bicycle safety dog, Phil is rescued by pure coincidence. Phil’s cousin is none other than Danny Ketch, the guy who was Ghost Rider at the time of this story. Seem fantastic? Well, what if I also told you that not only was Danny in Toronto at that very moment but also just happened to notice his cousin slip into the alley?
Danny finds his cousin and swears to get vengeance as the Ghost Rider. I should point out that because this is a bicycle safety comic, the artist draws Danny Ketch driving with a motorcycle helmet. Anyone who has ever read Ghost Rider knows that he never wears a helmet.
That Time They Put a Hell Demon in a Safety Comic
Meanwhile, Peter Parker is taking pictures of the Right Riders at the Skydome. He overhears their concern that Phil is a no-show. This prompts Parker to look into it.
At Toronto’s Sick Kid’s Hospital, Phil learns that wearing a bicycle helmet saved his life. Phil’s dad wishes vengeance on the man who hit his son and Danny tells him not to worry. On his way out he bumps into Peter Parker. The scene cuts to the parking garage where we find Ray. Consumed with guilt, he decides to check on the kid and make sure he’s okay and leave a few bucks for his hospital bills if needed.
He’s spotted by Danny who recognizes Ray as the driver who hit his cousin. The giveaway is the Phil-shaped dent on the bumper. Danny then transforms into the Ghost Rider and gives chase.
Ghost Rider then tries to force Ray off the side of an overpass to his death. Ray is saved by Spider-Man, who he dupes into thinking Ghost Rider ran the kid over.
This leads to the inevitable super-hero “this was all a big misunderstanding” brawl. While Ghost Rider pounds the snot out of Spider-Man, Ray hires two chunk heads to help him murder Phil. Not because Phil can identify him, but because he thinks Phil is the Ghost Rider.
Child Murder and Bicycle Safety Go Hand in Hand
Spider-Man loses his fight with Ghost Rider and decides to watch for him at the hospital. Along the way, Spidey spots the Right Riders and asks them to keep an eye on the homicidal Hell demon. Great move Spider-Man. This leads to another brawl between the two. Eventually, the fight stops when Ghost Rider asks Spider-Man why he didn’t ask Phil to confirm who ran him over. Spider-Man realises that he kind of goofed.
Meanwhile, Ray and his two thugs have broken into Phil’s room to kill the kid. Somehow, Ray managed to get a needle and wants to inject Phil with it.
Moments before Ray can make Phil ride the dragon, Spider-Man stops him. Ray makes a break for it but this proves to be Ray’s folly because the Ghost Rider is waiting for him in the elevator.
The Ghost Rider then use his demonic powers to melt Ray’s brain, because this comic is insane. Later Phil gets a baseball autographed by the Toronto Blue Jays. As if that will erase the trauma of almost being murdered twice in one day.
Enter: The Right Riders!
Between all the hell beasts and child murder plots, there isn’t a lot of room in this comic for actual bicycle safety. So the writers decided to devote a few pages to the Right Riders themselves.
It features Phil teaching his friend about proper bicycle safety. If your idea of excitement is stylising reflective tape or learning hand signals you are in for a treat.
At the end of these safety pages, Staff Sargent John Andrews of the Toronto Police tells kids to fill out a safety quiz. The first 500 kids who answered correctly had a chance of winning a Can-Sport Bicycle Safety helmet.
What Did We Learn?
I think the first lesson we can take away is this: Ghost Rider is the worst character to feature in your bicycle safety comic. That’s like using the Punisher for gun safety, or Wolverine for… um… varmint breeding? Who thought this was a good idea? I think this story did a better job at terrifying children than anything else. Also, what was the point of the baseball subplot? None of the Blue Jays appear in this story, other than their hilariously named mascot. This entire thing reads like a fever dream and other than two or three pages specifically about bicycle safety it fails at everything it set out to do.
Are the Right Riders even real? They were! Petro-Canada funded the Right Riders program in the 80’s and 90’s. It sent educational videos to elementary schools to teach kids. Their advertising was somehow made a horrific bicycle accident appear super boring. If anyone out there has a copy of one of their safety videos, please drop me a line on Twitter.
Next Time in Canada…
Thanks for reading this edition of Meanwhile in Canada, we are going to continue our look back at these Canadian Spider-Man comics. The next one features a stampede, cowboy super-heroes, some Fantastic Four villains, a kid in a high tech wheelchair, and more bicycle safety.