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Real name Johnny Blaze
Ghost Rider is a fictional superhero that appears in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Johnny Blaze is the second Marvel character to use the name Ghost Rider, following the Western comics hero later known as the Phantom Rider, and preceding Daniel Ketch.
Johnny Blaze was portrayed both in the 2007 film Ghost Rider, and its 2012 sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, by actor Nicolas Cage.
Johnny Blaze, a stunt daredevil, was the son of Barton Blaze and Naomi Kale, born in Waukegan, Illinois. He spent his early years in the Quentin Carnival where his parents starred in a stunt show with Craig "Crash" Simpson. Johnny's mother walked out on Barton and Johnny and took the family's remaining two children, Barbara and Danny, with her.
Losing his mother caused Johnny to repress many of his memories of her and his siblings. When his father died in a stunt, Johnny was adopted by Crash and Mona Simpson. The Simpsons helped Johnny by fabricating his past with the hope that it would be less painful than the truth. Now believing that his real mother was Clara Blaze, who had died, Johnny became an enthusiastic member of the Simpson clan, growing closer to their daughter, Roxanne. The two soon became inseparable and, as they grew older their fondness for one another moved beyond familiar.
Blaze would eventually join the Simpsons in their own traveling stunt show, the Crash Simpson Stunt Cycle Extravaganza. Crash had become a real father figure in Blaze's eyes, and on learning of Crash's life-threatening cancer, Blaze turned to the occult. His studies led him to a spell which supposedly could summon Satan himself. Johnny was unaware that he had in fact summoned Mephisto. Desperate to save Crash, Blaze sold his soul to Mephisto in return for Crash's cancer to be cured.
Crash Simpson's cancer was cured and Johnny believed he would live; however, Crash soon died after a stunt trying to jump over 22 cars. Mephisto, when confronted by Blaze over Crash's death, declared that he had kept his end of the bargain. Johnny's exact words in the bargain had been for Crash to be spared the cancer which was killing him, not for him to live, though this had been Johnny's intent. True to his word, Mephisto had ensured that Crash had not died of cancer, but instead had lost his life during the failed jump, which Mephisto quickly pointed out when he came to claim his prize. Blaze, still at the mercy of Mephisto, believed he would lose his soul until he was saved by Roxanne. Roxanne proclaimed her love for Blaze, and drove Mephisto away with the purity of her emotion.
Blaze was unaware that Mephisto had bonded him with the demon Zarathos as an act of revenge for not being able to obtain Johnny's soul for himself. Johnny was transformed into a Ghost Rider, a leather-clad skeleton, his head cloaked in a sheath of flame, the night after Crash's death. While Johnny still had his soul, he was forced to punish the wicked and evil upon Mephisto's demands whenever needed. Whenever he was in the presence of evil he would transform into the Ghost Rider, to exact the devil's revenge, returning the evil to Hell. Blaze was not completely lost in the transformation however, and would also help the innocent when they were in danger.
As the Ghost Rider, he encountered Daimon Hellstrom. Johnny later came to work as a movie stuntman for Delazny studios. As the Ghost Rider, he teamed with the Champions, Morbius, Man-Thing, and Werewolf by Night. He lost a motorcycle stunt riding championship to Flagg Fargo, and later came to work as a stunt rider for the Quentin Carnival. Eventually, Zarathos would gain control of Johnny Blaze, and the Ghost Rider would become the spirit of Zarathos unleashed. Johnny himself was becoming stronger as well, and the conflicting personalities led to a battle over Blaze's physical body.
Centurious appeared, stealing Blaze's soul into his soul crystal. Zarathos, weakened from the ordeal used the last of his strength to shatter the crystal, freeing Blaze's soul and many others contained inside of the crystal as well. Before the crystal was reformed, Centurious was absorbed into the crystal. Zarathos followed him into the crystal, freeing Blaze from the curse, restoring his soul, and ending his time as the Ghost Rider.
For a while, Johnny became a drifter and then an adventurer. He eventually became the owner of the carnival. In time, he learned of the existence of Daniel Ketch as the Ghost Rider. Believing the new Ghost Rider to be Zarathos, Johnny traveled to New York City to kill him. Johnny abducted Ketch and battled the Ghost Rider. Johnny became convinced that Ketch was not Zarathos, and aided him against Blackout. Alongside the Ghost Rider and Spider-Man, Blaze then fought the Hobgoblin. He also helped Ghost Rider and the X-Men battle the Brood Queen.
He later teamed up with the new Ghost Rider to form the "Spirits of Vengeance". During this time Blaze would again ride a bike with wheels on fire and would sling a hellfire spitting pump-gun. Their mentor Caretaker would later reveal that they were in fact brothers. In the team's first appearance, they battled Lilith and her Lilin.
Blaze went back to leading his carnival. Despite it being staffed with many powerful entities, it was nearly destroyed in a demonic attack led by the creature Vengeance. The dead, friend and foe alike, were taken by government forces to be dissected. Blaze, with the help of friends, living and dead, breaks into the facility and destroys all the bodies.
A later confrontation with the forces of evil would lead to Roxanne's death. Blaze would later become a demon hunter and hunt down the demons responsible for her death and kill them all. Roxanne was later discovered to have been resurrected as or simply transformed into the being named The Black Rose. She was later returned to Johnny, despite memory loss, in the final issue of the Dan Ketch series of Ghost Rider. Roxanne's current status is unknown, as she hasn't appeared in any Ghost Rider comics since, outside of flashbacks, though most recently it has been revealed that she and her children have passed onto Heaven, where they reunite with Blaze, telling him that he is never alone and they have always been watching over him, encouraging him to rise, defeat Zadkiel, and restore the Kingdom of Heaven to God.
Starting over, Blaze eventually found a new job as an accountant and a new girlfriend, Chloe, in the 2001 Marvel Knights series "The Hammer Lane". Though it at first seemed he was free from the curse, Johnny would eventually transform back into Ghost Rider, since Zarathos had reconstituted himself in Johnny Blaze, despite being turned into a stone statue after his battle with the Midnight Sons. Johnny encountered an old man who seemed to know about the recent return of the Ghost Rider, and claimed that the current woes of the former stunt cyclist were due to the fact that he needed to learn to forgive himself for his past mistakes and move on with his life.
This Ghost Rider entity spoke only a singular line, and was much more savage than Noble Kale. At first, there was no indication as to who or what this creature was. However, this entity would appear to be Zarathos, as it is stated in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Volume 4 (TPB).
Johnny Blaze soon found himself constantly pursued by demons of Hell, intent on forcing him to make good on the demonic pact he had made. It was all that the Ghost Rider could do to outrun the evil, but it wasn't enough. Eventually, Johnny was captured and taken to Hell.
The "Road to Damnation" series, by Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain, finds Johnny Blaze trapped in an endless cycle of torture and escape in the pit. It is here that the angel Malachi appears to the Ghost Rider, offering to free him from Hell with his soul intact, in exchange for hunting down the demon Kazann who has been unleashed upon the earth.
Malachi tells Blaze that the only way he will be freed from Hell permanently is to beat the Archangel Ruth to Kazann, in order to stave off the destruction that she will cause should she fight him. Along the way, Blaze meets a demon, Hoss, who is also in pursuit of Kazann, and offers to help the Ghost Rider since they share the same goal.
Hoss and Blaze fight with Ruth and she steals his bike; they pursue her in Hoss' Cadillac. When they arrive to where Ruth is Kazann is already free, thanks to the efforts of a corrupt paraplegic business owner named Earl Gustav. Hoss and Ruth fight while Blaze battles Kazann, who lets Johnny know he's been duped by Malachi. As this happens Gustav's secretary, Jemima Catmint, makes her boss recite an incantation that sends Kazaan back to Hell. Johnny thinks he's free, but gets shot in the head by a dying priest (whom he had blasted with hellfire earlier) with a holy bullet and is sent back to Hell. He confronts Malachi who reveals that he tricked Johnny. Johnny threatens to kill him, but is prevented from doing so by Ruth, who kills him herself. Hoss appears, and reveals that Kazann and Malachi were actually brothers, who passed information to each other about Heaven and Hell. Once Kazann escaped from Hell, Malachi needed to find someone (Ghost Rider) to get him back before Ruth, in order to prevent Kazann from spilling the beans about Malachi exchanging secrets of Heaven with him while he was being tortured by angels.
In July, 2006, a new ongoing monthly series began with a story titled "Vicious Cycle", which was written by Daniel Way, with art by Mark Texeira and Javier Saltares (the same artistic team from the 1990s series). The storyline takes place after the Ennis miniseries, and features Johnny Blaze finally escaping hell.
Blaze's escape is a plot engineered by Lucifer himself, as when Johnny escapes from Hell the devil comes with him. During a battle at a gas station, Blaze defeats the corpse of a recently deceased father that has been animated by the Devil. Detecting the magical disturbance caused by Ghost Rider's escape, Doctor Strange investigates the situation, but, believing Doctor Strange to be Lucifer in disguise, Blaze attacks him, and for the first time he uses the Penance Stare, debilitating Doctor Strange. It is then that the celestial being Numecet appears and reveals the intent of Lucifer to Blaze.
Having healed Doctor Strange, Numecet tells Johnny Blaze that he is stronger than he can comprehend and is a vital part of Lucifer's plans, as he intends for the Ghost Rider to kill each of the bodies he has possessed. It is revealed that when Lucifer traveled to the mortal realm his essence shattered and spread to 666 recently deceased people, each one of them resurrected and imbued with a portion of the devil's strength. In order to reform his body each one of the human hosts has to die, but they cannot die from suicide as that is a sin and would send the devil back to hell. As each one falls the remaining will become even stronger, and Ghost Rider must kill them because, although others can kill the bodies at first, eventually the remaining bodies will become so powerful that no other being could kill them. Numecet attempts to dissuade Blaze but to no avail, Blaze vowing that he will force the devil into a single corporeal form and then drag him back to Hell once and for all.
During the Civil War storyline, Johnny ends up in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois where a serial killer is decapitating local children and soon learns his identity: the supervillain known as Jack O'Lantern. Killed by the Punisher, Stevie Levins' body is occupied by one of the several aspects of Lucifer. The local sheriff thinks Blaze is to blame but soon realizes the truth. Ghost Rider and the sheriff confront Levins/Lucifer at the door of a preacher's house, and after a short fight Ghost Rider tears out Levins/Lucifer's heart and smashes his head.
During the World War Hulk storyline, Johnny Blaze angers the Ghost Rider when he tries to save several people and allows the Lucifer fragment they were currently fighting to escape. Later after watching a broadcast on TV, Blaze decides to go to New York and fight the Hulk, against the Ghost Rider's will. The issue ends with Ghost Rider coming to a halt on his motorcycle in front of the Hulk. After attempting to urge the Hulk to stop, Ghost Rider engages the Hulk. Their battle is monitored by Doctor Strange and Mister Fantastic. Doctor Strange believes that the entity that supplies Ghost Rider's mystic power is possibly capable of defeating the Hulk, stating that his powers are limitless, and only inhibited by the human side of the Ghost Rider, even going as far as to call his powers "godlike". However, as it is Johnny Blaze, not the fully powered demon Zarathos who is engaging the Hulk, the Hulk easily defeats Ghost Rider. After Johnny is knocked out, Zarathos himself emerges and rides off because, as Doctor Strange says in the end of the issue, Ghost Rider protects only the innocent, which none of the Illuminati are.
Johnny eventually manages to defeat Lucifer by 'killing' and then reviving one host in a brain-damaged state, allowing him to track down what Lucifer believes is his final host and defeat it, exploiting the fact that Lucifer is only at half-strength. As soon as Johnny kills this host, his allies are able to kill the brain-damaged Lucifer fragment - who now possesses the full soul of the Devil but is in no condition to use that power - and send him back to Hell.
Seven riders show their flaming heads for the first time in this story arc by writer Jason Aaron and artist Tan Eng Huat. Daniel Ketch returns with a new mission: to collect the powers of all the Ghost Riders for the angel Zadkiel to prevent the corruption of the powers with their human hosts. Zadkiel has other motives he keeps to himself, of which he needs the powers of the riders for: to tear down the walls of New Jerusalem and wage war on Heaven. The story begins in Tibet with Chinese soldiers harassing a village, questioning them about weapons that killed two of his garrison patrols. During the harassment a peasant enters on a donkey. After a few exchange of words and an order to kill given by the General, the peasant changes and kills the General's men while his back is turned. When the General turns back he sees the Ghost Rider and gets a penance stare for his trouble. After the attack the rider goes back to his sanctuary where he is visited by Danny Ketch. A short while later Sister Sara and Johnny Blaze arrive at the sanctuary to find out how to get back at Zadkiel. After entering, they find the peasant and donkey burnt to husks.
That night the two are visited by Ketch and begins a battle with a show of power. When Blaze does the penance stare to his brother, he sees exactly what has transpired. Ketch has murdered the hosts of numerous riders for their powers. During a show of pity for the fallen, Ketch is able to return the stare on Blaze, and sends Blaze into temporary insanity. Before Ketch is able to take the power of Zarathos, he is stopped by the new caretaker Sister Sara. She rescues Blaze and they go to a safehouse. At the safehouse, during Blaze's self-pity and Sara's trying to pick him back up, they are visited by two more Ghost Riders, the Arabic Molek and the Chinese Bai Gu Jing, whom they follow to Japan.
When Blaze's team arrives in Japan, they learn Ketch has already taken the power of the rider Yoshio Kannabe. After the conquest, Ketch has another talk with Zadkiel via communications link. During the conversation, Zadkiel massacres the squad of the Asura who guard the gates of heaven. Zadkiel tells Ketch to wait to attack the riders til the last ones are together. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, former cop Kowalski follows a contact to get a hellfire shotgun for his revenge on Blaze.
After acquiring the item he is then driven to the middle of a desert to sit and wait for his chance. After leaving Japan, Blaze's team journeys to the City of the Skulls in the Congo where the last stand would be made. There they meet the Lords of the Congo, the Ghost Riders Baron Skullfire and Marinette Bwachech, and their Phantom Riders. During the day Sara tells Molek about her new experience becoming a Caretaker, and her wonders about religion, with which she is given secret information that Molek knows about both. As the Ghost Riders and their forces ready for battle, Blaze has his eyes opened back up by two children who go to participate in the fight. He quickly snaps out of his depression and joins the others for the final battle.
During the course of the battle Baron Skullfire dies and the spirit is transferred to one of the Phantom Riders, after which Ketch creates hellfire duplicates of himself to take the on the warriors. A wager is then made by Blaze and Ketch on a race between the brothers around the world for the fates of the powers. During the race, Blaze is critically injured by Kowalski's shotgun and Ketch takes the rider from him as his duplicates overpower the others. Moments later, Ketch relinquishes the power of the Spirits of Vengeance to Heaven, with Zadkiel now able to storm it. The sound of the gates falling is enough to be felt by Spider-Man's senses, and loud enough to be heard even in Hell and Asgard. When an injured Blaze returns to the City of the Skulls, Ketch falls from the sky, revealing that the battle for Heaven has already been decided. As more energies fall from the heavens, one strikes Kowalski and changes him into a new rider that looks a lot like Vengeance.
After the battle with Zadkiel and his Black Host, Johnny Blaze parts ways with Ketch and Sara. He eventually wanders to a Japanese village, living in the nearby temple. The villagers are suddenly invaded by demons and their flesh is transformed into heinous forms by a creature called the Skinbender. Blaze's attempt to fight back result in her trying to morph his flesh, but finds his skin burns to the touch due to his power, prompting her to demand he transform into Ghost Rider. When he does, she breaks down crying, claiming he is the most beautiful thing she had ever seen and begged for him to speak. He simply responded with "Burn," leading a storm of fire to rain onto the village, incinerating the demons and restoring the villagers to their normal states. At the same time, Sara arrives in the village to reunite with Blaze to continue their quest against Zadkiel. She finds him in the process of grinding up the Skinbender, before tossing her into the sea. Sara then consoles Blaze, asking him to think of his family and asks where they are. He replies, saying that they are in heaven. They then depart from the village to continue their journey.
The Antichrist, Kid Blackheart, after being hunted down by Zadkiel's agents on Earth, is saved by occult terrorist Jaine Cutter, despite Daimon Hellstorm's efforts to slay him. Eventually, the three encounter Johnny, Danny and Sara, and are forced to join forces in a desperate attempt to defeat Zadkiel in Paradise. Eventually, after reaching Heaven with Danny, he and Danny both attack Zadkiel, but are quickly overwhelmed; however, the spirits of Blaze's deceased wife and children encourage him to rise and continue to fight Zadkiel, rallying the combined forces of the Spirits of Vengeance (whom Ketch had been tricked into returning to Heaven by Zadkiel) against the renegade Archangel. After Zadkiel realizes that he was not, and never would be, the one true God, as Blaze tells him, "Only God can make a Ghost Rider, Zadkiel. You should know that. And only God can destroy one. You may have been able to shift that power around, to even leech it from its hosts. But you were never really able to control it. And you certainly couldn't kill it. You're not God, Zadkiel. You're just another power-mad wannabe who desperately needs his ass kicked. And that's exactly what the Ghost Riders are for", he is defeated and banished to Hell, with God, revealed to have never perished at all, reclaiming Heaven and thanking Blaze for all he did for Paradise and its billions of souls.
During the Shadowland storyline, Kingpin and Lady Bullseye perform a ritual which brings back Ghost Rider in a plot to attack the Hand. After Ghost Rider returns to Kingpin, he is forced to travel to Japan to confront the ancient ninja clan the Hand, and, unable to directly combat them due to the Hand magic binding him, provokes them into killing him. Blaze's soul emerges in a white void, and God, after telling him he is needed still, sends him back to the mortal realm, and, in gratitude for his role in defeating Zadkiel, aiding him by reinforcing him with a battalion force of Black Host warrior angels who are able to quickly slaughter the Hand ninjas with ease. Freed from the curse, Blaze rides off into the distance on his motorcycle.
During the Fear Itself storyline, Johnny Blaze becomes more agitated about his curse and is then approached by a mysterious figure known as Adam who claims he can help Blaze be rid of the Ghost Rider once and for all. Blaze was ambivalent to the man's gesture thinking there was a catch to his offer but Adam simply put that the curse will be passed to someone he never met. Blaze accepts the offer and was told to drive the Rider out of his soul. Blaze was finally rid of the Rider for good from then on while Adam went about his way to find a new host for the Ghost Rider. In Dayton, Ohio when Sin (in the form of Skadi) attacks the city, she fights a new female Ghost Rider. After the female Ghost Rider is defeated, Mephisto appears before Johnny Blaze stating that he has damned the human race and will help Johnny out.
Explaining that 'Adam' was the original Adam, Mephisto reveals that the new Ghost Rider is a girl named Alejandra that Adam has raised in isolation for years, intending to use her to purge the world of sin, unconcerned about the fact that this will deprive humanity of free will. Despite his distaste at working with Mephisto for anything – the devil's motives clarified as being to preserve his own existence – Blaze is able to convince Alejandra to abandon Adam's plan after she renders an entire town catatonic. However, although Johnny was initially willing to let her serve as the new Ghost Rider, when her attempt to regain the town's lost sin nearly sends the world to Hell – her efforts only being narrowly defeated by the new Venom, Red Hulk and X-23 – Blaze is finally convinced by Doctor Strange to take back the Ghost Rider mantle, following Alejandra into Hell as she attempts to kill Mephisto and regaining the full power of the Ghost Rider, although Alejandra retains a fragment of its power for herself.
Much later, Ghost Rider joins Red Hulk's Thunderbolts to help take out Mercy, when she was unleashed. During a mission in which General Ross is searching for his missing men in an ancient temple in the South American Jungles, The Leader incites a spell that momentarily removes the flame from Johnny Blaze. In the brief moment where he has lost the Spirit of Vengeance, Blaze is brutally torn apart and killed by a swamp demon.
General Ross is the only one to survive the mission and comes face to face with Mansuco, one of the men he was looking for that acquired divine powers. Mancuso gives Ross the option to either die on the spot or erase the mission from history. Ross chooses to erase the mission from the timestream returning Johnny Blaze to life.
Following several other missions, the Punisher quit the Thunderbolts, only to find that his safehouse had been booby-trapped and destroyed. Setting out for revenge on the Thunderbolts for the attack, Punisher attempted to slay the Ghost Rider with Mephisto's sword which he got from Zadkiel. Ghost Rider thwarted this attempt, but ultimately Punisher was able to release Johnny from the Spirit of Vengeance by decapitating his flaming skull with his own chain. The curse once again leaves Johnny, only to return to him by the series' end.
Played by the actors