GHOST RIDER #76-81 (1983): Series Ends; Johnny and Zarathos are split

First of all: Amazing cover to #76 by Bob Budiansky.

Wannabe devil Azmodeos wants Mephisto to turn over whatever control he has over Zarathos, the demon who possesses Ghost Rider.  I say “whatever control he has” because lately it seems like Johnny Blaze has been controlling the transformations. 

Mephisto splits them up and has them go on a bike race through Hell. During the race, they are overcome by lost souls and have to team up.

Naked Zarathos.

Also, this is where we learn Ghost Rider has a demon name: Zarathos.  I’m not sure we already knew that.  We get an extended origin of the demon, who has his roots in Native American mythology. 

Blaze becomes aware of the origin because Nightmare goes up inside his skull to haunt Zarathos and have him relate the story in the subconscious.

Simultaneously, Blaze goes through his own personal history, speaking with the ghosts of his parents.

Some of Marvel’s mystics appear as visions.

This ties (thinly) into another plot, where Blaze’s body (while Nightmare is banging around in his brain) is taken by the guy who made the carnival freaks from the Roger Stern run.  The dude, called Freakmaster, wants to turn Johnny into a freak but at the last minute Ghost Rider wakes up and burns the place to the ground.

As part of his return to the carnival, his old girlfriend Roxanne returns.

Yes, it’s convoluted, but it’s the kind of “big” story that appropriately arrives when a series is ending.  On the letters page to #80, we get the news…

Thankfully, cover artist Bob Budiansky takes over for Don Perlin on these last two issues.  He’s a terrific artist, and he’s especially good at Ghost Rider.

A mystical being named Centurious, the Man Without a Soul, who GR fought in issue #74, has created a church to entrap Zarathos, the demon who is also Ghost Rider.  The two have a big battle, Zarathos and Centurious end up trapped in a crystal, and he is permanently separated from Johnny Blaze.

That’s the last page.  Ghost Rider doesn’t return until the 1990s, when he will haunt the body of Danny Ketch. 

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