Long ago, the demon Zarathos began building a tremendous power base for himself. His penchant for human souls led him into conflicts with foes such as the Blood cult and the vile Mephisto, who saw Zarathos as a rival. Mephisto ultimately tricked and enslaved Zarathos, rendering the demon amnesiac and trapping him in various mortal forms over many years. This torture eventually dovetailed with another pastime of Mephisto's - the search for the Medallion of Power, a mystical artifact crafted by the Blood that housed the essence of the original Spirits of Vengeance. The medallion had been broken into shards and embedded into the spiritual bloodline of two families. One of these bloodlines, the Kales, attracted Mephisto's attention in the 18th century when Noble Kale's shard of the Medallion transformed him into a Spirit of Vengeance, the Ghost Rider. Mephisto failed to corrupt Noble at this time, but he kept track of the Kale clan from then on, watching as Noble manifested in the firstborn of every generation.
John Blaze was born into a world of motorcycle grease and cheering crowds. The son of Barton Blaze and Naomi Kale, Johnny spent his early years in the Quentin Carnival, where his parents starred in a stunt show with Craig "Crash" Simpson. His idyllic home life ended abruptly, however, when Naomi abandoned John, taking his younger siblings - Barbara and Daniel - with her. Naomi's decision to leave had been difficult, but she felt it was necessary because of the family curse. She feared that her own firstborn would suffer in the same way that she had, so she left him behind and placed her other children in the care of a woman named Francis Ketch.
The pain of losing his mother caused John to repress many of his memories of Naomi and his siblings. When Barton died in a stunt shortly thereafter, John was adopted by Crash and Mona Simpson, who helped fabricate a past for Johnny, one that they hoped would be less painful than the truth. Believing that his real mother - "Clara Blaze" - had passed away, Johnny became an enthusiastic member of the Simpson clan, growing close to their daughter, Roxanne. The two became inseparable and, as they grew older, their love for one another moved beyond familial.
Naomi Kale returned to spy on John; while glad to see him grow into a happy young man, she still feared he might eventually succumb to the family curse. Naomi bargained with Mephisto to spare John, hoping this might end the curse. Unfortunately, Mephisto betrayed her in the final moments of her life, swearing that even though Johnny would not become the true Ghost Rider, he still could become "a" Ghost Rider.
Unaware of the mystical forces swirling around him, John followed the Simpsons into their own traveling stunt show - the Crash Simpson Stunt Cycle Extravaganza. Crash had become a true father figure to Johnny by this time, teaching him how to ride in the hopes that the younger man might eventually succeed him as the star of the show. This dream came to a fiery end when Johnny was fifteen. While practicing a dangerous stunt, Johnny was nearly killed and Mona Simpson was mortally wounded. When Mona asked John on her deathbed to quit riding, he swore to her that he would.
Over the next five years, Johnny's relationship with Crash deteriorated as John refused to take part in the show. Not understanding John's motivations, Crash grew increasingly frustrated, even accusing his adopted son of cowardice; however, John continued to practice at night, honing his skills until he surpassed his mentor. He had another secret, too: he and Roxanne had become lovers. When Crash revealed he was dying of cancer, he asked Johnny once more to take over the show, but Johnny refused despite Roxanne's disappointment. Distraught, John turned to the occult in search of answers. His studies ultimately led to a spell that supposedly could summon Satan himself. John didn't realize it, but the entity he summoned was actually the same Mephisto who had cheated Naomi Kale years before. Mephisto cured Crash of his cancer in return for Johnny's promise of servitude. Crash died almost immediately afterwards, however, in a failed attempt to set a world's record by jumping over 22 cars. Despairing over the loss of his adopted father, Johnny attempted - and made - the jump himself, seeking to honor Crash's memory. Johnny was still at Mephisto's mercy, though, and would have lost his soul outright if not for the heroic intervention of Roxanne, who proclaimed her love for Johnny and drove the demon away with the purity of her emotion (though Mephisto would return).
One night after Crash's death, Johnny found himself transformed into a skeletal being with a flaming skull. Fearing at first that this demonic form was a manifestation of his own evil side, he soon realized that he had bonded with some wholly separate entity. This merger of Johnny Blaze and a demonic force became known as the Ghost Rider, which amused Mephisto greatly. Transforming nightly into the Ghost Rider, John became involved with a local motorcycle gang, Satan's Servants. Their leader, Curly Samuels, had gained the Ghost Rider's trust, until a shocked John discovered that the soul of Crash Simpson lurked within Curly's form. Mephisto had offered Crash a new life in exchange for betraying his adopted son, and Crash had eagerly accepted. The Ghost Rider's spirit was cast into Hell, where he managed to reawaken Crash's sense of honor and love. The older man sacrificed himself to help Johnny escape, making Ghost Rider promise to protect Roxanne.
John and Roxanne then journeyed into the American Southwest, where Ghost Rider battled the Satanist known as Witch Woman, Linda Littletrees. Remaining for a time near Copperhead Canyon, Ghost Rider also fought Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan. This began a long period of roaming the West, as John sought to avoid Mephisto and protect Roxanne. While in San Francisco, Roxanne was tricked into renouncing her love for John, and Mephisto nearly claimed John's soul in full; however, a long-haired stranger saved the day, driving Mephisto away at the last minute. This bearded mystery man identified himself only as "a friend," and Blaze came to view him as a heavenly figure, offering hope and salvation. This stranger would appear several more times before finally being revealed as another falsehood of Mephisto.
Discouraged over the revelations about the "friend" and fearing his growing lack of control over the Ghost Rider, John left Roxanne and spent years wandering on his own. During this time, he teamed with the Black Widow, Angel, Iceman and Hercules to foil one of Pluto's evil plots, and the five heroes founded the Champions. Though billed as "super heroes for the ordinary man," the Champions were beset by internal tensions and never truly gelled as a team. After a few months, Ghost Rider realized that he was too much of a loner to remain with the group and he bid them farewell when the Champions disbanded.
By this time, the demonic half of the Ghost Rider was exerting more and more control over his actions and personality. John found it increasingly difficult to continue his stunt rider career, surrendering the title of World Champion Stunt Rider after losing a series of grueling challenges to Flagg Fargo. A demoralized John found a sense of peace by joining the Quentin Carnival, a place he did not remember from his childhood, but which nevertheless felt like home. Blaze forged a friendly rivalry with fellow rider Red Fowler and engaged in harmless flirtation with Cynthia Randolph, a journalist for Woman magazine assigned to follow the Carnival. While traveling with the Carnival, John also ran afoul of the mad Centurious, who fed off imprisoned souls using an ancient artifact called the Crystal of Souls; this encounter stirred dark memories in the Ghost Rider. Shortly thereafter, the demonic Nightmare captured John and revealed the name of the demon within Blaze: Zarathos.
Blaze and Zarathos continued to struggle with each other for dominance until Roxanne Simpson returned, seeking aid for a town overrun by Centurious and his agent, the Sin-Eater (Ethan Domblue). Ghost Rider clashed once more with Centurious, learning that he and Zarathos had a feud going back centuries. In the end, Zarathos and Centurious were bound within the Crystal of Souls and John Blaze was free at last. With a gracious donation from his old friend the Angel, John was able to purchase the Carnival and marry Roxanne, with whom he had two children, Craig and Emma.
Years later, John heard about a new Ghost Rider in New York. Fearing Zarathos was free, Blaze captured the Dan Ketch Ghost Rider, but soon realized the entity within Dan was not Zarathos. During their clash, a burst of Ghost Rider's Hellfire was conducted through Blaze's shotgun into John himself, who discovered he could now discharge Hellfire from the weapon. Armed with this shotgun and a mystical motorcycle, John became a mentor of sorts to the new Ghost Rider, trying to guard Dan against evil forces.
Against his wife's wishes, John was immersed in the supernatural again. When he allied himself with the Midnight Sons against Lilith, Mother of Demons, the Carnival became a target for John's enemies. It was attacked by Vengeance, who blamed John for having ruined his father's career. John and the Midnight Sons later thwarted an alliance between Centurious and Lilith, though their schemes led to the return of Zarathos. When Centurious's agent Carver tried to remove a Medallion of Power fragment from Blaze by slashing him, Blaze's wounds burnt with Hellfire, and he was encased in a cybernetic shell to save his life. Shortly thereafter, the Blood known as Caretaker revealed that John and Dan were brothers, strengthening their bond further. Together, they helped destroy Zarathos' physical form, though Dan was temporarily lost.
While one side of John's family grew closer, the other began coming apart. When Emma and Craig were kidnapped by rogue Blood member Regent, John rescued them, but was shocked to learn that Roxanne had bargained the children away years earlier in hopes that Regent could remove the Kale curse. John and Roxanne were just moving past this painful revelation when she was killed by Anton Hellgate, one of Ketch's foes, and their children were kidnapped again. After slaying Centurious, Blaze swore on Roxanne's grave that he would rebuild the Carnival and find their children. After shedding his cybernetic shell, Blaze confronted undead serial killer Icebox Bob, who revealed that the kids were being held by the Mesopotamian god-turned-demon Ba'al. In a dimension-spanning adventure involving the mystic Wendigo spirit and the angelic Uri-El, Blaze was reunited with his children; but within months, the children went missing yet again. While helping Dan Ketch learn the full origins of his Ghost Rider spirit, John discovered that the sorceress Jennifer Kale was their cousin. She helped Blaze seek his missing children, but they were ultimately forced to admit defeat, calling off the search. During this time, Roxanne was revived as a demonic servant of Blackheart's, bearing the name Black Rose. Though she had no memory of her past self initially, Noble Kale restored her memories during his time as Ruler of Hell. Apparently feeling that John had moved on, Roxanne decided to let John continue believing that she was dead.
Starting over, John found a new job as an accountant and a new girlfriend, Chloe; but he was still linked to Zarathos, and the demon began to reconstitute within him. Regularly transforming into Ghost Rider again, John quit his job and hit the road. However, the reborn Ghost Rider's personality was different than before, less talkative and more indifferent to the welfare of innocent bystanders. Desperate to escape this renewed curse, John hired mercenary Gunmetal Gray to kill Ghost Rider, whom Gray pursued with malicious glee. Finally cornered at the Sturgis biker convention, John Blaze and Zarathos seemed to make peace with one another and merged in a new way, defeating Gray.
The Regent attempted to interfere with Blaze's family, manipulating Roxanne into making an agreement to hand over the Blaze children. The Hidden attacked, but Blaze was able to defeat Regent.
Hellgate interrupted a reunion with Ketch, killing Roxanne in the process. Blaze went on a search for them, encountering Ice Box Bob and other horrors.
Blaze once again became bonded to the Ghost Rider (although its appearance suggests Noble Kale rather than Zarathos it is indeed Zarathos as stated in the OHOTMU A-Z Volume 5) , and ended up in Hell. Due to the machinations of Satan, he was set free, and now chases Satan. This recently led to a confrontation with Doctor Strange (Stephen Strange).
During the cival war Johnny ends up in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois where a serial killer is decapitating local children and soon learns his identity: the supervillain known as Jack O'Lantern. Killed by the Punisher, Stevie Levins' body is occupied by one of the several aspects of Lucifer. The local sheriff thinks Blaze is to blame but soon realizes the truth. Ghost Rider and the sheriff confront Levins/Lucifer at the door of a Preacher's house, and after a short fight Ghost Rider tears out Levins/Lucifer's heart and smashes his head
Johnny Blaze angers the Ghost Rider when he tries to save several people and allows the Lucifer fragment they were currently fighting to escape. Later after watching a broadcast on T.V., Blaze decides to go to New York and fight the Hulk, against the Ghost Rider's will. The issue ends with Ghost Rider coming to a halt on his motorcycle in front of the Hulk. After attempting to urge the Hulk to stop, Ghost Rider engages the Hulk. Their battle is monitored by Doctor Strange and Mister Fantastic. Dr. Strange believes that the entity that supplies Ghost Rider's mystic power is possibly capable of defeating the Hulk, stating that his powers are limitless, and only inhibited by the human side of the Ghost Rider, even going as far as to call his powers "godlike". However, as it is Johnny Blaze, not the fully powered demon Zarathos who is engaging the Hulk, the Hulk easily defeats Ghost Rider. After Johnny is knocked out, Zarathos himself emerges and rides off because, as Dr. Strange says in the end of the issue, Ghost Rider protects only the innocent, which none of the Illuminati are.
Later, Daniel Ketch returns with a new mission: to collect the powers of all the Ghost Riders for the angel Zadkiel to prevent the corruption of the powers with their human hosts. Zadkiel has other motives he keeps to himself, of which he needs the powers of the riders for: to tear down the walls of New Jerusalem and wage war on Heaven. The story begins in Tibet with Chinese soldiers harassing a village, questioning them about weapons that killed two of his garrison patrols. During the harassment a peasant enters on a donkey. After a few exchange of words and an order to kill given by the General, the peasant changes and kills the General's men while his back is turned. When the General turns back he sees the Ghost Rider and gets a penance stare for his trouble. After the attack the rider goes back to his sanctuary where he is visited by Danny Ketch. A short while later Sister Sara and Johnny Blaze arrive at the sanctuary to find out how to get back at Zadkiel. After entering, they find the peasant and donkey burnt to husks.
That night the two are visited by Ketch and begins a battle with a show of power. When Blaze does the penance stare to his brother, he sees exactly what has transpired. Ketch has murdered the hosts of numerous riders for their powers. During a show of pity for the fallen, Ketch is able to return the stare on Blaze, and sends Blaze into temporary insanity. Before Ketch is able to take the power of Zarathos, he is stopped by the new caretaker Sister Sara. She rescues Blaze and they go to a safehouse. At the safehouse, during Blaze's self pity and Sara's trying to pick him back up, they are visited by two more Ghost Riders, the Arabic Molek and the Chinese Bai Gu Jing, whom they follow to Japan.
When Blaze's team arrives in Japan, they learn Ketch has already taken the power of the rider Yoshio Kannabe. After the conquest, Ketch has another talk with Zadkiel via communications link. During the conversation, Zadkiel massacres the squad of the Asura who guard the gates of heaven. Zadkiel tells Ketch to wait to attack the riders til the last ones are together. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, former cop Kowalski follows a contact to get a hellfire shotgun for his revenge on Blaze.
After acquiring the item he is then driven to the middle of a desert to sit and wait for his chance. After leaving Japan, Blaze's team journeys to the City of the Skulls in the Congo where the last stand would be made. There they meet the Lords of the Congo, the Ghost Riders Baron Skullfire and Marinette Bwachech, and their Phantom Riders. During the day Sara tells Molek about her new experience becoming a Caretaker, and her wonders about religion, with which she is given secret information that Molek knows about both. As the Ghost Riders and their forces ready for battle, Blaze has his eyes opened back up by two children who go to participate in the fight. He quickly snaps out of his depression and joins the others for the final battle
During the course of the battle Baron Skullfire dies and the spirit is transferred to one of the Phantom Riders, after which Ketch creates hellfire duplicates of himself to take the on the warriors. A wager is then made by Blaze and Ketch on a race between the brothers around the world for the fates of the powers. During the race, Blaze is critically injured by Kowalski's shotgun and Ketch takes the rider from him as his duplicates overpower the others. Moments later, Ketch relinquishes the power of the Spirits of Vengeance to Heaven, with Zadkiel now able to storm it. The sound of the gates falling is enough to be felt by Spider-Man's senses, and loud enough to be heard even in Hell and Asgard. When an injured Blaze returns to the City of the Skulls, Ketch falls from the sky, revealing that the battle for Heaven has already been decided. As more energies fall from the heavens, one strikes Kowalski and changes him into a new rider that looks a lot like Vengeance.
After the battle with Zadkiel and his Black Host, Johnny Blaze parts ways with Ketch and Sara. He eventually wanders to a Japanese village, living in the nearby temple. The villagers are suddenly invaded by demons and their flesh is transformed into heinous forms by a creature called the Skinbender. Blaze's attempt to fight back result in her trying to morph his flesh, but finds his skin burns to the touch due to his power, prompting her to demand he transform into Ghost Rider. When he does, she breaks down crying, claiming he is the most beautiful thing she had ever seen and begged for him to speak. He simply responded with "Burn," leading a storm of fire to rain onto the village, incinerating the demons and restoring the villagers to their normal states. At the same time, Sara arrives in the village to reunite with Blaze to continue their quest against Zadkiel. She finds him in the process of grinding up the Skinbender, before tossing her into the sea. Sara then consoles Blaze, asking him to think of his family and asks where they are. He replies, saying that they are in heaven. They then depart from the village to continue their journey.
The Antichrist, Kid Blackheart, after being hunted down by Zadkiel's agents on Earth, is saved by occult terrorist Jaine Cutter, despite Daimon Hellstorm's efforts to slay him. Eventually, the three encounter Johnny, Danny and Sara, and are forced to join forces in a desperate attempt to defeat Zadkiel in Paradise. Eventually, after reaching Heaven with Danny, he and Danny both attack Zadkiel, but are quickly overwhelmed; however, the spirits of Blaze's deceased wife and children encourage him to rise and continue to fight Zadkiel, rallying the combined forces of the Spirits of Vengeance (whom Ketch had been tricked into returning to Heaven by Zadkiel) against the renegade Archangel. After Zadkiel realizes that he was not, and never would be, the one true God, as Blaze tells him, "Only God can make a Ghost Rider, Zadkiel. You should know that. And only God can destroy one. You may have been able to shift that power around, to even leech it from its hosts. But you were never really able to control it. And you certainly couldn't kill it. You're not God, Zadkiel. You're just another power-mad wannabe who desperately needs his ass kicked. And that's exactly what the Ghost Riders are for", he is defeated and banished to Hell, with God, revealed to have never perished at all, reclaiming Heaven and thanking Blaze for all he did for Paradise and its billions of souls.
During the Shadowland storyline, Kingpin and Lady Bullseye perform a ritual which brings back Ghost Rider in a plot to attack the Hand. After Ghost Rider returns to Kingpin, he is forced to travel to Japan to confront the ancient ninja clan the Hand, and, unable to directly combat them due to the Hand magic binding him, provokes them into killing him. Blaze's soul emerges in an white void, and God, after telling him he is needed still, sends him back to the mortal realm, and, in gratitude for his role in defeating Zadkiel, aiding him by reinforcing him with a battalion force of Black Host warrior angels who are able to quickly slaughter the Hand ninjas with ease. Freed from the curse, Blaze rides off into the distance on his motorcycle.
During the Fear Itself storyline, Johnny Blaze becomes more agitated about his curse and is then approached by a mysterious figure known as Sam who claims he can help Blaze be rid of the Ghost Rider once and for all. Blaze was ambitious to the man's gesture thinking there was a catch to his offer but Sam simply put as that the curse will be passed to someone he never met. Blaze accepts the over and was told to drive the Rider out of his soul. Blaze was finally rid of the Rider for good from then on while Sam went about his way to find a new host for the Ghost Rider. In Dayton, Ohio when Sin (in the form of Skadi) attacks the city and fights a new female Ghost Rider. After the female Ghost Rider was defeated, Mephisto appears before Johnny Blaze stating that he has damned the human race and will help Johnny out.