Ghost Rider #76-79
Issue(s): Ghost Rider #76, Ghost Rider #77, Ghost Rider #78, Ghost Rider #79
Asmodeus has twice appeared before, but his name was spelled slightly differently ("Azmodeus") in those appearances.
Mephisto decides to make a game of it. He brings Ghost Rider into Hell, splits Johnny Blaze from Zarathos...
...and has them race. If they both make it through the gauntlet, they'll remain split forever and will have freedom.
If they don't win, Zarathos becomes the property of Asmodeus. The two complete the gauntlet, but Johnny tries to keep Zarathos in Hell, which causes them to become merged again (although they wind up falling through the portal back to Earth anyway).
Since he lost, Asmodeus is sent to oblivion.
Having shown us Zarathos as an entity independent from Ghost Rider, the next issue (#77) provides his origin. He was a demon-god to Native Americans that would actually destroy souls instead of sending them to Hell.
This angered Mephisto, so he gets a man to trade him his soul in return for the ability to defeat Zarathos.
Subsequently, Mephisto sent Zarathos to earth to possess a mortal and dispense Mephisto's justice.
The vehicle for the origin story is via Nightmare, who visits Zarathos in Johnny Blaze's subconscious mind.
Meanwhile, Johnny is captured by a minion of the Freakmaster, Renaldo, who wants to turn him into a "mechanized centaur... a being half-man, and-- half-motorcycle" (we don't get as nice a picture of the conceptual design as i would like).
While Blaze is sedated, Nightmare is able to set Zarathos free in Blaze's body (the process involves an issue-long tiresome dream sequence, the only highlight of which is a scene with Marvel's mystic types playing a game of jacks).
Zarathos goes wild, possibly killing the freaks...
...and delighting in torturing Renaldo, but Johnny is able to regain control.
Blaze returns to his traveling carnival only to find that the Freakmaster has taken ownership of it...
...with the intention of turning the carnival into a freakshow.
It turns out that the carnival owner, Ralph Quentin, ran a freakshow in his younger days, and was abusive to the freaks, two of which were the Freakmaster's parents.
The Freakmaster tries to kill Blaze for snooping around, but Blaze releases the Ghost Rider to fight off the Freakmaster's freaks.
Blaze is again able to reign the Ghost Rider in before he kills too many people.
Then Roxy Simpson shows up...
I should note that while this is the arc where Zarathos is revealed as a separate entity, i have him tagged as a Character Appearing in earlier stories. The MCP actually gives him a BTS appearance in every Ghost Rider appearance, and what i've done is list him when he starts acting independently of Johnny Blaze.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Rocky Simpson's arrival continues directly in Ghost Rider #80; i just have them in separate entries for boring technical reasons.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Original Ghost Rider Rides Again! #5, Original Ghost Rider Rides Again! #6
Inbound References (2): showAzmodeus, Corky the Clown, Cynthia Randolph, Dreamstalker, Freakmaster, Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Mephisto, Nightmare, Ralph Quentin, Red Fowler, Roxanne Simpson, Vincenzo, Zarathos
The run from the introduction of Centurious to to end of the series works rather well, I find. DeMatteis does the opposite of a '90s writer: instead of introducing a nebulous mastermind with a teased link to the her, he gives us a seemingly done-in-one villain who over a few issues is set up a effectively to become an archenemy in time for the last issue.
Freakmaster, on the other hand... Where the heck does a guy like that get the tech to manufacture cyborgs and telepathic mutates?
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 30, 2012 6:56 AM
I actually read these issues today and I'd like to add that GR 79 is really scary. In his write-up, Fnord mentioned that the Freakmaster wanted to turn the carnival into a freakshow - but the real creepy thing is that he planned on turning the existing carnival employees into freaks! For example, Cynthia Randolph was to be made into a creature consisting of just a head and a hand for locomotion...
Seriously, with this story, DeMatteis really hit the horror bullseye. Ack.
Posted by: Piotr W | September 28, 2015 9:32 PM
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