THE FRIEND

Real Name: Inapplicable (but then again, possibly Yeshua ben Yosep)

Identity/Class: Demonic illusion (or possibly avatar or servant of the Judeo-Christian God)

Occupation: Demonic deceiver (or maybe agent of Heaven)

Group Membership: None (or possibly the Heavenly Hosts)

Affiliations: Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze), Mephisto

Enemies: Possibly Mephisto and other demons

Known Relatives: None applicable (or perhaps Yosep (father), Mary (mother), King David (ancestor), several unnamed siblings))

Aliases: None

Base of Operations: Inapplicable (or Heaven)

First Appearance: Ghost Rider II#9 (December, 1974)

Powers/Abilities: If the Friend is simply an illusion created by Mephisto, then “he” has no innate powers.
    If he is in fact who he seemed to be in his first appearance, then he possibly has a wide array of divine powers, including transmutation, matter replication (see: loaves and fishes story), power over demons, walking on water, healing the sick and injured, and the ability to resurrect the dead.










History: (Ghost Rider II#9) - The Friend appeared during Johnny Blaze’s darkest hour: Previously, the Devil’s claims on Johnny Blaze’s soul had been thwarted by the innate purity of his lover, . Unfortunately, after being tricked by an illusion of her father suffering in Hell, had withdrawn her protection of Johnny, leaving him open to damnation. When it seemed that Johnny Blaze was about to be dragged down into the depths of Hell, a long-haired man wearing a denim jacket appeared, vehemently rejecting the demon’s claim on Johnny Blaze. The Devil, clearly rattled by this intrusion, backed away from the man, and disappeared with a “this ain’t over”-type warning. When Johnny asked the man’s name, he simply replied that he was a “friend.”

(Ghost Rider II#15) - Enraged after an altercation with the super villain known as the Orb, Ghost Rider threatened to kill the defeated criminal. He was stopped when the Friend (wearing a different shirt this time) appeared and urged him to reconsider this decision. Johnny did so, and the Orb’s life was spared. Feeling ashamed of his murderous rage, Johnny didn’t wait around to question the Friend further, but instead rode off into the sunset down the Ventura Freeway.

(Ghost Rider II#18) - Accepting a series of ordeals from the being called the Challenger for the soul of Katy Milner, Ghost Rider was treated to a series of highly disturbing illusions, including one of the Friend being crucified by several of Ghost Rider’s former adversaries.

(Ghost Rider II#19) - After triumphing over the difficulties set before him by the Challenger, Ghost Rider confronted the being, only to discover the Challenger (who had previously appeared to be a costumed super-villain) was actually a demon. The Challenger revealed to Blaze that the Friend was nothing more than a demonic illusion used to instill in him false hope. False hope or not, Ghost Rider still managed to defeat the laughing demon.

Comments: Adapted by Tony Isabella and Vince Colleta. Original concept bowdlerized by Jim Shooter.

The Friend, as originally written by Tony Isabella (and suggested by Steve Gerber), was indeed supposed to be Jesus Christ. When Jim Shooter took over as editor of Ghost Rider with issue #19, he promptly re-wrote the Friend as being nothing more than a demonic illusion. This may have been done to be consistent with Marvel’s unwillingness to avoid offending Christians by using religious figures, or, as Tony speculated, may have had to do with the concept offending Jim Shooter’s agnosticism. As an agnostic myself, I can’t find anything remotely offensive in Isabella’s storyline. In fact, if I were living in the Marvel Universe, I’d probably have to reconsider my position, since objective evidence is available that the Greek and Norse pantheons are real. Since vritually all other earthly pantheons have been revealed as existing in the Marvel Universe, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Jewish/Christian/Islamic faiths have a reality behind them as well. Unfortunately, the existence of other pantheons would seem to negate the Judeo-Christo-Islamic insistence that no other gods exist, but perhaps the latter is human misinterpretation.

Anyway, if the Friend is more than a demonic illusion, that still doesn’t necessarily mean he’s Jesus. He could be a mystical force on the side of Good, a la the Phantom Stranger from the Distinguished Competition (I also kind of like the idea of him just being a well-meaning hippie, whose insane bravery in the face of the supernatural were enough to startle an arrogant demon!)

It’s also kind of dumb that Johnny Blaze took the word of a demon on the matter--demons? Hello? Johnny? They’re notorious liars!! Of course, that raises the question of why the Friend didn’t show up in issue #19 to pull Johnny’s fat out of the fire once more…but if you look at the way the Challenger was beaten in that issue, the Friend probably knew Johnny didn’t need any help!

    Jesus has other appearances in the MU, including Howard the Duck's MAX series #5-6, but these are not included here b/c they are not specifically "The Friend"

by Reddie

CLARIFICATIONS:
The Friend should not be confused with:


Ghost Rider II#9 (December, 1974) - Tony Isabella (writer), Jim Mooney (pencils), Sal Trapani (inks), Roy Thomas (editor)
Ghost Rider I#15 (December, 1975) - Tony Isabella (writer), Bob Brown (pencils), Don Heck (inks), Marv Wolfman (editor)
Ghost Rider II#18-19 (June-August, 1976) - Tony Isabella (writer), Frank Robbins (artist), Vince Colletta (inker), Marv Wolfman (editor)
 

Last updated: 12/08/11

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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