The following contains spoilers for ghost rider #4, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
The title Ghost Rider was not created by Johnny Blaze, but he was the one who used it the most. Debuting during a horror boom in the Bronze Age of comics, Blaze has been raising hell as a spirit of vengeance for decades now. Of course, he took breaks during this long and difficult race, with the intervention of other runners. This resulted, as is the case with most legacy characters, in the sense that the original was just the prototype.
The latest issue of ghost rider has Blaze questioning his place in the world, and that only underscores his lack of relevance within the Marvel Universe. On top of that, he’s been replaced in the role several times, with one Rider in particular far surpassing him in popularity. For as much hellish power as he has, it seems like Johnny Blaze is the equivalent of a Forgotten City on a horse.
Johnny Blaze sees himself as a remote small town
In ghost rider #4 (by Benjamin Percy, Bryan Valenza, Cory Smith, and Kael Ngu), Johnny Blaze awakens from another night as Ghost Rider, events that left him increasingly shaken the next morning. His latest location is a rather sparse town, a town he says never gets much traffic, even from motorcyclists like himself. These towns offer few frills or amenities and would be largely overlooked if they weren’t pathways or connections to larger towns. It looks like he views the place as a dump, but he’s actually talking about himself, who is also depressed.
Blaze notes that he’s like those places, forgettable and ultimately hard to notice. He himself had been out of the game for a while, and no one seemed to care. However, her self-mockery does more than just kick the man while he’s down. He also points out how, despite being the “first” Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze had a serious lack of positive impact on the Marvel Universe as a whole.
While not hated or anything, Johnny Blaze could have a fate even worse than outright dislike, apathy. Ghost Rider doesn’t have many friends or allies in the Marvel superhero community. That makes sense to some degree, considering he’s actually a vengeful supernatural monster and not a hero. He’s in many ways the face of Marvel’s horror genre, but that’s certainly not the case with Blaze’s irrelevance.
Johnny Blaze is not widely regarded in the Marvel Universe
As he mentions in the issue, he once put the spirit of revenge behind him to lead a relatively normal life. Back then, no one really wondered what happened to him, and when Danny Ketch became the new Ghost Rider, few looked up. In fact, Blaze’s transition to Ketch is one of the few legacy transfers that went somewhat unnoticed, as no one, both in the real world and in the Marvel Universe, seemed to remember or care about Johnny. Blaze. To add insult to injury, Ketch quickly found allies in the Midnight Sons team, something Blaze never even came close to doing.
Rather, Blaze is seen by most for exactly what he is, a troubled man who only causes trouble wherever he goes. Thus, it makes sense that people generally avoid him, with the only ones seeking him out being those who directly oppose him. Even Marvel doesn’t consider Blaze a marketable character, as many of Ghost Rider’s now-iconic themes and concepts were created with Ketch in mind. This includes the Penance Stare and the over-the-top hell bikes. If the most iconic elements of his property weren’t even created for him, perhaps Johnny Blaze is right to question his actual relevance to the world beyond himself.