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Cover of Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider #77
|First appearance||Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972)|
|Created by||Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Mike Ploog|
|Place of origin||Earth|
|Notable aliases||Ghost Rider|
Zarathos (UK: //, US: /-/) is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. He is depicted usually as a villain in stories featuring the character Ghost Rider. A demonic being who tortures and devours souls, he first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #5 (August 1972), and was created by writers Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich, and artist Mike Ploog.
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Fictional character biography
As explained in Ghost Rider #77 (1973 series), the physical, stone body of the demon Zarathos had lain inert and inanimate beneath the earth for eons until his spirit was summoned by a Native American tribal sorcerer named K'Nutu to help his tribe. Zarathos was then offered a steady supply of souls to consume in exchange for his aid in vanquishing enemies of the sorcerer's tribe, and for offering his might in their service. This alliance proves mutually beneficial, flourishes and a strong cult builds up around Zarathos, which gets the attention of Mephisto, who decides that Zarathos has too much of a following and is depriving him and the other Lords of Hell of souls. Mephisto eventually confronts Zarathos and defeats him (by the deceptive use of his soulless pawn, Centurious).
Zarathos is then forced to serve Mephisto for many centuries in the Netherworld, an extra-dimensional land of the dead sometimes called "Hell", though still powerful enough to avoid total confinement. Mephisto sends his unruly vassal back to Earth on occasion, binding him to human hosts and allowing him to ravage souls (on a smaller scale). In modern times, Zarathos is bound to Johnny Blaze; the combined Blaze/Zarathos entity manifests as a leather-clad flaming skeleton known as the Ghost Rider, ultimately serving the side of "good" while still using hellish means, which earns the Ghost Rider a reputation of fear and Johnny Blaze a never-ending sense of guilt. As time progresses, Zarathos would occasionally from time to time assert his control over Johnny Blaze's body. Zarathos was temporarily separated from John Blaze by the Crimson Mage. Zarathos gained additional control over the Ghost Rider, becoming more violent. As the Ghost Rider, he re-encountered Centurious. John Blaze had grown stronger, causing an eventual clash over Blaze's physical body, as Mephisto temporarily frees Zarathos to compete with John Blaze for his freedom. Before it can reach that point, Centurious (Mephisto's champion who defeated Zarathos thousands of years before) returns and has his pawn Sin-Eater use his Soul Crystal to suck Blaze's soul from his body. This greatly weakens Zarathos who, without Blaze's soul, finds himself dying, for as a demon, and thus truly not of the Earth as mortals are, Zarathos cannot maintain himself upon the earthly plane unless he possesses the physical body of a mortal. Using the last of his strength, Zarathos splits the crystal in half, freeing not only Blaze's soul, but innumerable souls that had been consumed in the past. Before the crystal merges back into one piece, it sucks Centurious inside as well. Zarathos feels cheated out of his revenge against Centurious, but with the help of the now-dying Sin-Eater, the demon manages to transfer his essence into the crystal. Johnny Blaze is now free from the curse that Mephisto placed on him many years before and the first existence of the Ghost Rider comes to an end.
Near the climax of the events of Secret Wars II, the Beyonder, angered at humanity and the entire plane of existence, travels to Hell and informs Mephisto of his plan to erase all existence contained in this universe. Mephisto pleads with the Beyonder not to commit such an act, going so far as to make a bet with him. The Beyonder agrees, under these terms: he chooses both a champion to represent him and a separate champion to represent Mephisto; if Mephisto wins, the universe will be given a twenty-four-hour reprieve from destruction, but if the Beyonder wins, not only will he erase the universe from existence, he will give his champion ample time to exact revenge on Mephisto himself. The Beyonder chooses Spider-Man as Mephisto's champion and decides that Zarathos will be his own champion. Zarathos' goal is not only to corrupt Spider-Man's spirit and morals, but to prevent Spider-Man from stopping an assassination attempt on the Kingpin. Spider-Man overcomes Zarathos' nightmarish attempts at corrupting him and saves the Kingpin's life. Thus the Beyonder (after re-imprisoning Zarathos inside the Soul Crystal) allows the universe one more day to exist (during that additional day came the Beyonder's defeat and seeming death).
Zarathos becomes a threat once again when the Midnight Sons are formed. He briefly joins forces with the demon mother Lilith (not to be confused with Dracula's daughter, who has the same name),[volume & issue needed] but soon leaves her after he realized she was just using him to bring her the Medallion of Power.[volume & issue needed] Another reason he left her was because she duped him into joining her forces. (His memory was so bad at the time that Lilith actually convinced him that he was her son). After he left, he went to become the leader of the Fallen, the evil Blood (his acolytes) once again. Having lost his memory, Zarathos has not quite reached his full power until he meets the Fallen.[volume & issue needed] After that he gains enough power to defeat Ghost Rider and absorb his essence. However, he suffers horrible agony since Ghost Rider was still residing within him. This gives the Midnight Sons a chance to defeat Zarathos. It is Blade who takes Foundry's sword, killing her with it so he can use her blood-stained sword to defeat Zarathos. Blade defeats Zarathos by turning him into stone;[volume & issue needed] he remained that way until the Ghost Rider: Hammerlane mini-series where he began to reconstitute himself within Johnny Blaze, after which he and Johnny made peace with one another.[volume & issue needed] After the Fear Itself storyline, Blaze had Zarathos exorcised from him.[volume & issue needed] The demon Zarathos was eventually then bonded to a female host in the present series.[volume & issue needed] Eventually, Zarathos was ultimately bound once again to Johnny Blaze.[volume & issue needed]
Before he was turned to stone, Zarathos had claimed that he had coupled with Lilith, impregnating her.[volume & issue needed] Lilith plans to unleash her children, but this is yet to be seen.
Powers and abilities
Zarathos is an extremely powerful demon almost on the same level as Mephisto. Zarathos possesses various inherent supernatural powers, and as such he is able to control the elements on the Earth themselves, and can trap his opponents by taking the ground itself and wrapping it around his foe. Zarathos, if he wishes, can form the rocks into spikes, impaling his foes.
In addition, he has superhuman strength, durability and stamina and possesses the trait of immortality. He is able to shoot hellfire from his hands and is able to transport both himself and others to different locations. Apparently, the more souls he consumes, the more powerful he becomes. Zarathos also has significant knowledge of magical lore, and possesses the ability to manipulate magical energies for a variety of effects.
In the MC2 alternate future, Kaine summons Zarathos in an attempt to save the life of his nephew, Reilly Tyne (the son of Ben Reilly and Elizabeth Tyne) who is dying because he has inherited the genetic defects from his father’s cloned physiology. This backfires when Zarathos attempted to claim Tyne’s body as his own. At the same time, Kaine also tries to bring Daredevil (who had been killed by the Kingpin while saving Kaine's life) back to life. The soul of Daredevil takes up residence in Tyne's body. The forces of the two spirits residing within him tend to keep each other in check; Tyne gains Zarathos' physical appearance, demonic and regenerative powers, while the influence of Murdock keeps him from becoming corrupted. Under the influence of these two entities residing within him, Tyne decides to become the hero Darkdevil.[volume & issue needed]
In other media
In the 2012 film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the Ghost Rider is revealed to be an incarnation of Zarathos himself. In this version, Zarathos was an Angel of Justice sent to protect man. He was tricked by the Devil into Hell, where he was corrupted and driven insane. His mission of protecting the innocent turned into punishing the guilty; as a result, he became the Devil's Spirit of Vengeance. Because of this the Ghost Rider is covered in yellow flames as he is a corrupted spirit. After defeating Roarke (The Devil) and saving Danny, Zarathos finally remembers what his original mission was and the angel inside him finally reawakens. At the ending of the movie, the Ghost Rider is shown to be covered in blue flames.
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #77
- Marvel Spotlight vol. 1 #5
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #26
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #43-44
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #68
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #74
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #76
- Ghost Rider vol. 2 #80-81
- The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #274