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Ghost Rider’s Greatest Foe Isn’t Supernatural… It’s the Police

Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider, has been a target for police harassment from the very beginning. Between his flaming skull head, loud motorcycle, association with both biker gangs and Satanism, and vigilante leanings, Johnny Blaze has always been a potent symbol of anti-authoritarianism. Even as this is part of what makes the Ghost Rider such a powerful hero to so many readers, it is also largely what made him a target of the authorities from the beginning. Down to his heavy metal biker outfit and penchant for speeding at night, Johnny Blaze may have the power of Satan on his side, but even the Ghost Rider isn’t immune to a speeding ticket.

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Ghost Rider debuted in Marvel Spotlight #5 (1972, written by Gary Friedrich and drawn art by Mike Ploog), and has been fighting enemies both human and supernatural ever since. Ghost Rider is a complex character, with conflicting personal loyalties and a moral uncertainty that renders him more of an antihero, in the Marvel tradition. That complexity weaves its way even into his dealings with the authorities, particularly with law enforcement. Ultimately, his first encounter with the police all came down to speed.

In Marvel Spotlight #7 (from Friedrich and Ploog), Blaze finds himself lost in thought at the start of the story, thinking to himself about the recent upheavals in his life: a literal Deal with the Devil, having to save his girlfriend Roxanne from being kidnapped by a fellow biker, and learning the limits of his new powers. Blaze is so deep in thought, however, that he unwittingly speeds past a police car. The police car gives chase, forcing Blaze to evade them as quickly as possible, finally taking a great leap over a chasm that the police car is unable to follow.

At this early point in the series, Johnny Blaze’s conflicts had mostly been small in scale – he had yet to face any of his most well-known adversaries – as neither Mephisto nor Blackheart had yet to even be introduced – and so he mostly faced other bikers, particularly Curly Samuels (who would turn out to actually be Johnny’s adoptive father, Crash Simpson, in supernatural disguise) and his biker gang, Satan’s Servants. Although he would soon face a host of more supernatural foes, it makes sense that one of the earliest and most persistent adversaries Johnny would face would be the police. His association with both Satanism and biker gangs made Ghost Rider a de facto target of law enforcement in the ’70s, though the grudge was in no way limited to that time period – Johnny is often hassled in his civilian guise, and his supernatural enemies have even targeted him through the police.

Thankfully for the Ghost Rider, his supernatural powers and abilities as a motorcyclist seem to usually keep him out of permanent trouble with the law. This is even in spite of the fact that, early in his career as Ghost Rider, he would find himself pursued by the police on multiple occasions (see also: Marvel Spotlight #10 by Friedrich and Tom Sutton, or even Ghost Rider #1, where his interactions with the police are pivotal moments in both stories.) Ghost Rider was clearly a reflection of the times in which he was created – times in which authority was being questioned constantly, and different power structures were being imagined and advocated by people who had been disenfranchised by society. However, it is also these qualities which relate a certain political urgency to Ghost Rider’s character, and make him as potent a symbol of anti-authoritarianism today as he was when he was first imagined.

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