Ghost Rider #47: "The Demon Within!"

Ghost Rider #47
 "The Demon Within!"
 August, 1980

 Script: Michael Fleisher
 Art: Don Perlin
 Lettering: Joe Rosen
 Coloring: Bob Sharen
 Editor: Denny O'Neil
 Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

 Johnny Blaze can stare at the scorecard all day and it won't change the numbers! Flagg Fargo won fair and square! Until he can get his act together and arrange for a rematch, Flagg Fargo will reign as the undisputed stunt-cycle champ of the United States!

 Johnny is not going to pretend he is not bitter because he is! Even before the contest, being the Ghost Rider had already almost cost him almost everything... making it impossible to live a normal life! All he had left was being the best motorcycle stunt-rider in the world! And now he has lost it all! He has learned his lesson! He has had enough hell in his life and as the Ghost Rider, all he wants to do is to burn and to destroy! As of now, he will be Johnny Blaze, a member of the human race! No matter what happens, he will never become the Ghost Rider again! Johnny Blaze opens the throttle of his motorcycle and rides off into the night --

 Three days later, Johnny has not turned into the Ghost Rider, and he feels like a chain smoker suffering from nicotine withdrawal! He decides to stop at a bar and grill, and get something cold to steady his nerves! As Johnny orders a glass of draft beer, he is recognized by three other bar patrons! They have heard about him no longer being the cycle champ, and how he lost his title to Flagg Fargo over at Claremonte the previous week.

 They decide to help him drown his sorrows by pouring his beer on his head. Johnny thanks them for the gesture by delivering a punch to the jaw, one to the stomach, and leaving the assailant lying on the bar. As the bartender gets them to leave, they promise to see Johnny again.

 Johnny is still thirsty from the dousing and is given a drink on the house! In the hours that follow, Johnny Blaze seeks oblivion and to tame the demon that dwells within him... Finally, he has had enough to keep the demon down... for now!

 The demon won't be coming out tonight and hurting people! Outside of Ernie's Place, Johnny realizes he has drank too much, and his stomach feels awful... The three bar patrons see that he won't be able to give them much trouble! They have been keeping his motorcycle warm for him! The former stunt-cycle champion is unable to see straight!

 "UNGGHH!" WHAKK! He can feel the chain striking him, the knee to the groin, and the lead pipe striking the back of his head! KA-WHAMM! Just as Raz is about to stomp his face in, their fun is interrupted by a police officer, and they leave the scene!

 The stomping has sobered Johnny up! Jerry the cop lets Amy take him home, and ties the motorcycle in the trunk of her car! She recognized Johnny because her brother is a cycle fan! He realizes that Flagg Fargo is probably her brother's idol now! Amy is confident that Johnny will win his championship back from Flagg Fargo!

 Amy's home is like a castle to Johnny! He is shown to the guest bed and does the rest! She will be in the next room if he needs anything and he promises to sleep like a lamb! Johnny Blaze does not sleep like a lamb. He tosses and turns in his sleep... his unconscious mind sends him into a nightmare where the Ghost Rider is exacting vengeance upon his assailants! They have reaped his wrath and will not escape the Ghost Rider's vengeance!

 They shall pay for their arrogance! They shall pay with their very lives! The unbridled vengeance of the Ghost Rider is at hand, and they will -- DIE! DIE! DIE! Die! Die! Die! "DIE--!!" Amy awakens Johnny and asks what's wrong. He knows that the demon wants to come out and he won't let him! He-he needs a drink! S-she must have a drink around here somewhere!

 Whatever his problem is... she knows this is not the way to handle it! N-no, he knows what he is doing and i-it's the only way to keep the demon from coming out! She will give him a drink! Just one and then he's going back to sleep! The rest of the evening is uneventful and the following afternoon, Amy suggests to Johnny that they have a picnic in the fresh air and sunshine! Later, he is glad they did it and he is feeling a whole lot better already! She is glad for him and still wishes he would confide in her about what's-- yeah, they think he should confide in the little lady!

 Raz, Sparky, and Zooie missed Blaze all day and when they spotted him riding off into the countryside with Amy -- they were happy to find him again! Raz finds Johnny's costume from his contest with Flagg Fargo and tells Zooie to put it on!

 As for Raz, he helps himself to Blazo's brand-new motorcycle! Since Sparky feels left out, Raz uses his chain to insist that Blazo hand over his fancy leather jacket so that way everyone will have a Johnny Blaze souvenir. Amy insists that he does so and Raz sees that it fits like a glove on Sparky!

 As the three punks ride off, they are unaware how lucky they were! Only three days ago, Johnny would have -- Amy insists that he did the right thing and that violence never solves anything! They are still toge-- Raz and the others have returned! They all liked his stuff so much --

 They each decided they might as well return and take Amy to go along with it! Raz figures she will look pretty riding on the back of his new motorcycle! As Raz insists on Amy giving him a big wet, slobbery kiss, Johnny Blaze can hear her whimpering pleas, and is in no condition to help her just yet -- for a great flaming fury is coursing through the fibre of his being -- causing him to transform against his will, despite his intention to the contrary -- changing into the Spirit of Vengeance. Let those who would contemplate committing an evil act dare to gaze now into the flaming visage of... the Ghost Rider... The three punks flee in panic to their motorcycles, while their former victim gestures with a black-gloved hand to summon its own motorcycle of crimson hellfire...

 Who could possibly imagine the terror that envelops these three men -- the sheer horror that freezes the blood -- as the skeletal biker roars after them on his own cycle of flame, whose engines churn with the cries of the damned... The Ghost Rider's skeletal orbs flicker with flame as he encircles his panicking prey in a ring of fire, then shatters their souls with icy-cold blasts of hell-fire, leaving three quivering masses who were once three hapless men...

 When at last his fury is spent, the Ghost Rider re-absorbs his hellfire motorcycle back into himself -- and begins to change... change back into the mortal known as... Johnny Blaze--!! Amy runs up to him and asks Johnny to hold her! W-when he said he... had to keep the demon from coming out, this is what he had meant? H-he meant that... awful thing! Yes, that was what he had meant! Amy wants Johnny to stay with her because she knows they can beat it if they stay together! She-she knows they can! No, Johnny knows that Amy is wrong and that the demon cannot be beaten! The Ghost Rider is inside him, and he is inside of Johnny Blaze to stay!

 Johnny Blaze had his stunt-cycle competition with Flagg Fargo in Ghost Rider #45 - #46.

 Tony Stark had his own "Demon In A Bottle!"

 Sparky resembles actor George Chandler from The Adventures of Superman episode, "The Face And The Voice!"

 Writer Michael Fleischer is familiar with spirits of vengeance, having written the Spectre in the page of Adventure Comics.

 In addition to Ghost Rider, artist Don Perlin has also illustrated stories for Werewolf By Night, Defenders, and Marvel Team-Up for Marvel.

 I especially enjoyed Mr. Perlin's renderings of Lissa Russell and Topaz in Werewolf By Night, Hellcat and Valkyrie in Defenders, and Amy in this issue of Ghost Rider.

 Being a fan of Ray Harryhausen's skeletons with swords in "Jason and the Argonauts," you could imagine my sheer joy at the age of eleven in 1980 at the sight of the Ghost Rider summoning forth his hellfire cycle and the promises of vengeance to come as rendered by Don Perlin on page 26.

 Johnny Blaze has a burden that is his alone and he must continue to ride until both he and the demon are no longer one.

 Steve Chung
 "The Demon Reviewed!"