"Ghost Rider" is the title to the fifth issue of the Marvel Spotlight comic book series published by Marvel Comics. The story was written by Gary Friedrich with artwork and inks by Mike Ploog. Ploog also composed the cover art illustration to this issue. The colorist is unknown and it was lettered by John Costanza, who is credited as Jon Costa in this issue. The story was edited by Stan Lee. This issue shipped with an August, 1972 cover date and carries a cover price of .20 cents per copy.
The mysterious Ghost Rider rides his motorcycle through the rainy streets of New York. He witnesses two thugs murder a pedestrian and decides to exact vengeance upon them. The thugs take notice of him and decide to kill the only witness to their crime. The Ghost Rider leads them on a chase through the back alleys, luring them into a trap. Once he has them cornered, he creates a ring of Hellfire to keep them contained. As the morning approaches, the Ghost Rider knows that he will soon return to his human form and he rides back to his apartment where he transforms back into his true identity, Johnny Blaze. Johnny reflects upon the events that first turned him into the Ghost Rider.
When Johnny was ten-years-old, his father Barton Blaze was a world famous motorcycle stunt rider. Unfortunately, those in that profession have notoriously short life spans and Blaze tragically died performing a stunt. Johnny went to live with the Simpson family, which consisted of fellow stunt rider Crash Simpson, his wife, and his daughter, Roxanne. Johnny took up the family's trade, and began practicing on a motorcycle. He practiced stunt riding for five years until one year, when he was fifteen, he was performing a stunt with Roxanne when his motorcycle caught fire. He pushed Roxanne to safety then angled the bike towards a tree. Roxanne's mother rushed over to save him, but the cycle exploded, gravely injuring her. On her deathbed, Mrs. Simpson made Johnny promise to never perform in the stunt show ever again. She passed away soon after.
For the next five years, Johnny kept his promise, but never told Crash or Roxanne of the vow he had made. Both of them began to think that Johnny was a coward for not riding any longer. Crash took it particularly hard. Johnny re-evaluated the vow he made and while he had promised to never again perform in the show, he never promised that he wouldn't ride at all. He began practicing his stunts again, but in secret. When Roxanne found out, she was greatly relieved to see that Johnny was not a coward and the two began to fall in love.
Their circuit became large enough that they were able to book a show at Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, Crash Simpson discovered that he was dying of an incurable illness and had less than a month to live. Nothing could be done to save him, so Johnny turned towards the most unlikely resource of all – the occult. Having spent some time reading about Satanic rituals, he summoned forth Lucifer himself and bargained his own soul in order to cure Crash from the disease that was killing him.
Crash, unaware that he had been cured, decided to go out in a blaze of glory by performing an over-the-top, high-risk motorcycle stunt – Jumping twenty-two cars. Johnny and Roxanne tried to talk him out of it, but Crash wouldn't hear of it. Johnny wasn't truly worried though as he believed the Devil would protect him. Crash performed the stunt and failed to jump all twenty-two cars. His cycle crashed and exploded and Crash died. Johnny was furious at this seeming betrayal on the part of the Devil. Lucifer came to collect Johnny's soul and reminded him that he only agreed to cure Crash of the disease. He made no guarantees that Crash wouldn’t die from some other means. Lucifer used his powers to place a curse on Johnny Blaze. At that moment, Roxanne appeared in Johnny’s trailer. She was schooled in the occult herself and knew that only someone with a pure heart could drive the Devil away. She spoke a hurried and incantation and forced Lucifer to disappear. The damage had already been done though. That night, Johnny Blaze became the Devil's servant of darkness, transforming into the Ghost Rider for the very first time.
Back in the present, night falls and Johnny once again turns into the Ghost Rider. He reads the newspaper and learns that the thugs he terrorized had given his description to the police. He decides that he can no longer stay in New York and rides off.