Ghost Rider: The Zarathos Conspiracy
by Phil Perich for the Capes and Lunatics Blog
After my blog post two weeks ago about Khonshu and Moon Knight (Capes and Lunatics Blog #25), I’ve been thinking more and more about otherworldly entities in the Marvel Comics Universe. A comment made in a Marvel comic this past week got me pondering about another entity, Zarathos, who was bonded with Johnny Blaze to become the first modern Ghost Rider. Not only do I think there’s another “conspiracy” here, but I think it ties into my last one.
In some of the final issues of the original Ghost Rider series, Zarathos was “revealed” to be a demon that strode the Earth wrecking havoc until he was imprisoned by the lord of the underworld, Mephisto. Once in Mephisto’s power, Zarathos was used to possess mortal men over the centuries, doing Mephisto’s bidding. Eventually Zarathos was bonded to motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze. Attempting to make a deal with the devil to save his stepfather’s life, Blaze become bonded with Zarathos.
The first element of my theory begins here. I believe Satan or Mephisto (it all depends who is writing the story at the time) bonded Zarathos to mortals including Johnny Blaze over the centuries to keep Zarathos weak and in the demon’s control. When originally bonded to Blaze, Zarathos seemed to have no mind or personality of his own, Blaze would transform in body only while retaining his own personality. But over time interacting with the world through a host eventually brought Zarathos back fully, eventually fighting Blaze for control, especially when faced with foes from his past, including Mephisto and the immortal Centurious. Eventually Zarathos and Blaze were separated using the soul crystal that absorbed Zarathos and Centurious where the two would battle for eternity, or so the plan was…
The 1990s saw the debut of a new Ghost Rider with a new look, new powers, and mystery origin. As with his predecessor, this Ghost Rider’s origin was revealed towards the end of his series. The new Ghost Rider was revealed to be a reincarnated mortal named Noble Kale. His human host Danny Ketch was eventually revealed to be the brother of Johnny Blaze who returned originally to hunt Ghost Rider, thinking the new entity was Zarathos. Blaze also came back with powers of his own, all of which focused on hellfire.
Here I believe is the second part of the Zarathos puzzle. I believe that acting as host for such a powerful entity as Zarathos had a lasting effect on Johnny Blaze, either unintentionally or Zarathos preparing Blaze to serve as the perfect host if the need should arise again. And Zarathos eventually returned as well, suffering memory loss, especially from his time bonded with Blaze. And the two were temporarily re-bonded due to the machinations of Mephisto’s son Blackheart.
Hammer Lane/Road To Damnation
After the end of second Ghost Rider series in 1997, all forms of the Ghost Rider are conspicuously absent from the Marvel Universe until 2001’s Hammer Lane miniseries by Devin Grayson. Once again Johnny Blaze is the Ghost Rider bonded with Zarathos. I believe Zarathos, weakened from his recent battles sought out the most secure hiding place he could find that would return his powers the quickest, inside the body and psyche of Johnny Blaze, which he had previously prepared during his last imprisonment inside Johnny Blaze.
After the Road to Damnation miniseries, Blaze and Zarathos returned in another ongoing series. Oddly the Zarathos Ghost Rider this time wielded powers previous possessed by the Noble Kale Ghost Rider including the penance stare and mystic chains. Zarathos also only took control sporadicly, with Johnny Blaze in control of Ghost Rider for the most part, similar to when the two were originally bonded. I believe Zarathos was “rebuilding” his entire being and copying traits from previous enemies. Add to this that several otherworldly beings including some from Heaven started dropping hints that Ghost Rider might not have been as “demonic” in nature as many believed and my theory was coming closer to fact.
Don’t Send A Rider To Do A Woman’s Job
After several encounters with agents of Heaven and Hell where it was once again strongly hinted at that Zarathos had ties to both kingdoms, Johnny Blaze was tricked by a mysterious figure named Adam into giving up Zarathos and the Ghost Rider curse so they could be transferred to a woman named Alejandra Jones. During her brief time as Ghost Rider, Alejandra was shown to have certain new powers that differed from Blaze’s Ghost Rider. I believe different hosts allow Zarathos to manifest different abilities at certain times. Eventually Blaze was able to retake Zarathos before too much damage could be done.
Spirits Of Vengeance
And the final piece of my puzzle was the event that inspired this week’s blog. In last week’s Spirits of Vengeance issue #5, Hellstrom makes the comment that Zarathos is not completely demonic.
So bearing in mind everything I’ve already laid out above, my theory is this: that Zarathos is neither a true agent of Hell or Heaven, but a being, perhaps formerly a cosmic being from a previous universe. Perhaps surviving the death of one universe and “entering” the next damaged him so much that Zarathos can only survive by taking a human host from time to time. And tying it into my previous blog, maybe Khonshu is a similar being, they could even originate from the same now dead universe. Unlike Galactus who was the mortal man Galen in the universe prior to this one, I suspect that Zarathos and Khonshu were cosmic level beings in their original universe, which would explain why so many cosmic beings show such interest in them.
So what do you think? Does my theory have any merit? And if I’m right, what other beings could be peers of Zarathos or Khonshu? Let me know what YOU think!
@NIghtwingpdp or @CapesLunatics on Twitter
Capes and Lunatics voicemail: 614-382-2737
You can hear me and my cohosts discussing all things Marvel, DC Comics, TV, movies, and all pop culture and entertainment on the Capes and Lunatics Podcast and YouTube channel several times a week.