For Those Who Came In Late: Last week, we looked at the beginnings of Marvel’s Ghost Rider character, and his extremely and surprisingly Satan-heavy origin story. Now let’s get back to it, shall we?
Considering that Ghost Rider’s origin featured Satan himself in a starring role, it should come as no surprise that Johnny Blaze’s primary arch-nemesis throughout his solo series tended to be either Satan or Satan’s emissaries, minions, or lackeys, including the Witch-Woman, Roulette (“The Man Who Gambles With Death,” don’t you know), and even his own adoptive father Crash Simpson, enlisted into Satan’s service for revenge on Johnny even to the point of being ready to sacrifice his own daughter, in this disturbing moment:
Not that these encounters with the devilspawn were all bad: thanks to a little coaching from the Witch-Woman, the Ghost Rider soon learned to create his own motorcycle out of his hellfire, which certainly had to help save at the pump if nothing else.
Eventually, Johnny faces up to Satan himself, about nine issues into his series’ solo run. Old Scratch has Ghost Rider on the ropes, only to be saved by a mysterious stranger who calmly sets Johnny Blaze free from the devil’s thrall:
Yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That’s pretty clearly Jesus Christ (wearing a snazzy Members Only jacket, it looks like) stepping in to lend Ghost Rider a hand against the devil. Talk about your Marvel Team-Ups. Later on, cooler heads must have prevailed and thought better of actually featuring Jesus as a regular character in a superhero comic, as after only one or two more appearances, “The Friend,” as he was called, was revealed to be just an illusion, another of Satan’s deceptions designed to mess with Ghost Rider’s head.
All this business with Satan is all well and good, but it doesn’t compare to my favorite Ghost Rider villain, who didn’t even premiere in GR’s own book, but instead in an issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP. Naturally, I’m talking about …The Orb!
First appearing in MARVEL TEAM-UP #15, the Orb was Drake Shannon, an old stunt-riding partner of Johnny’s adoptive father Crash Simpson, and when the partnership went sour, they decided to race to see who got to keep the business. Unfortunately for Shannon, he took a nasty spill in the race and wound up skidding a few hundred yards. On his face.
Given his hypnotic eyeball helmet by a mysterious cabal of criminal types, the Orb would return to seek vengeance on Johnny Blaze time and time again. He’s the classic example of a character whose appeal lies entirely in his visual. I mean, come on: a dude on a motorcycle with an ascot and an eyeball for a head? If I worked for Marvel, I’d be writing the Orb into a current book right now.
As GHOST RIDER’s series progressed, it began to shift from a supernatural focus to more of a superhero book, with Ghost Rider’s transformations shifting from a nightly occurrence to happening whenever danger was near, a sort of head-flaming Spidey-sense. Ghost Rider no longer wandered about looking for a cure to his dilemma, and instead found work in Hollywood as a stuntman. And in the ultimate surprise move, soon found himself signing up with a super-team.
Which is where we’ll come back next week…
Scott Tipton is waiting for his Orb action figure. If you have questions about Ghost Rider or comics in general, send them here.