Hey everybody, welcome back to another exciting edition of Marvel Snapshot! This week’s spotlight will be on none other than the flame-headed, motorcycle riding Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze! Yes, this horror character has been tearing up the highways for a long time now, and he’s long overdue for a deep look at his origin! He was created by Gary Friedrich and Mike Ploog (Marvel Spotlight #5, 1972)!
Johnny Blaze is the son of Barton Blaze and Naomi Kale. His mother left him and Barton at a young age, and this tore Johnny up pretty bad. He and his father worked for Crash Simpson in a motorcycle stunt show. One day, Johnny’s father died performing a stunt. This sent him even further into a mental and emotional spiral. Crash Simpson took him in, and his daughter, Roxanne, was elated. She had a crush on Johnny, and this would turn into something even stronger years later.
One day, Johnny, Roxanne, and his pseudo-mother (Crash’s wife) got into an accident while rehearsing stunts. Johnny’s “mother” died, but just before she did, she made Johnny promise that he wouldn’t do stunts anymore. This eventually made Crash angry, and he even called Johnny “yellow” for not riding anymore. At the breakfast table one morning, Crash reveals that he has cancer, and might not live out the month. So, Johnny does what any red-blooded youth would do…he invokes the power of Satan, to barter with him, and save Crash’s life. Satan appears, and grants Johnny his request, but also tells him that one day he’ll return for payment.
A short few days later, Crash announces that he’ll be trying his wildest stunt yet. He’ll jump his bike over twenty-two cars! Johnny and Roxanne try to talk him out of it, but he isn’t going to listen. Johnny thinks to himself that Crash will be fine because of the deal with the devil he made previously. Well, Crash jumps, but doesn’t quite make it, and dies on the spot.
Johnny loses it, and rides off on his bike. He eventually stops and is confronted by his worst nightmare. Satan appears, and tells Johnny that it’s payback time. Johnny screams at him, and demands to know why he double-crossed him. Satan explains that it was no double-cross, because Crash didn’t die from cancer, but an accident instead. At this point, Satan then imbues Johnny with the power of the Ghost Rider (bonds his soul with a demon named Zarathos), and tells him that he will do his bidding. Roxanne has caught up to him by now, and uses her pure spirit to banish the dark lord.
Later that night, Johnny feels his heart pounding, his head throbbing and burning, as if it were on fire. He then transforms into the Ghost Rider for the first time, and begins his ride into the night, forever seeking vengeance against those who are evil!
This character has had a lot of changes over his long existence. It was long believed that it was Mephisto, and not Satan, that Johnny made the “deal” with, but to my knowledge, that has changed back and forth depending on the writers of the character. It must be noted as well, that creator Gary Friedrich is currently in a legal battle with Marvel over the ownership of Ghost Rider. Where that will end up, nobody knows.
As usual, check out my recommended reading list along with some of Johnny’s best covers from over the years! See you next time!
Essential Ghost Rider vol. 1 & 2 – Tpb
Marvel Premiere #28
Ghost Rider: The Road to Damnation – Tpb
Ghost Rider: The Hammer Lane – Tpb
Ghost Rider: Vicious Cycle – Tpb