• Ridha Rizqi Nafi'ah

Myth of Utilitarianism as Reflected in Johnny Blaze the Ghost Rider


When people talk about a hero, they will think about a person who fights the bad and saves the world. Hero is a person or main character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength, often sacrificing their own personal concerns for a greater goods. The concept of hero catches a lot of people attention and become a popular and be loved figure. “Popular beliefs and values are the meanings which lie behind the artefact and events which are their visible expression --they are the truths which explain the facts and thus weave existence into a pattern which we can all recognize and share.” (Nachbar & Lause, 82). All the popularity that makes “hero” figure become worldwide is indeed because of the help of literary works which spread around and become popular.

A lot of authors or writers are venturing a hero in their works. Heroes are not any longer a knight who goes to save the kingdom or a demi-god who fight the monsters. In recent centuries, heroes are no longer a knight or a demi-god. Author makes their hero in a casual look. Heroes, in contemporary works, are humanly. A hero often starts from an ordinary person who has a supernatural experience to become a hero or experiment failed and become a mutant. Though appearing in casual look, all heroes who exist are carrying their own speciality and have their own myth which made them acceptable. Based on author’s belief, they treat a myth as a “significant and long-lasting—vital to the mind-set of the culture which holds it—and that it is widely accepted as being true. . . The myth is believed and people make choices and take action based upon belief in the myth.” (Nachbar & Lause, 84)

There are a lot of heroes in literary works. One of them is Ghost Rider. Ghost Rider is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. Johnny Blaze is the second Marvel character to use the name Ghost Rider. Johnny Blaze becomes a Ghost Rider after he made an agreement with Mephisto and sold his soul to save Crash, his father, from his cancer. He did not realize that Mephisto bound him with Zarathos. Then, Johnny was transformed into a Ghost Rider, a leather-clad skeleton and his head cloaked in a sheath of flame. In his eccentric appearances, he also carries his own myth.

Using Nachbar and Lause theory of myth narrative, writer tries to find the myth which following the appearances of Ghost Rider. After done the analysis of Ghost Rider’s name, power, enemy, icon, ability, etc.; writer found that “Utilitarianism” is following the appearance of Ghost Rider. Utilitarianism, people understand it as sacrificing something for a greater good. From Miriam Webster Free Dictionary, Utilitarianism is a philosophy which means the belief that a morally good action is one that helps the greatest number of people. Seeing Ghost Rider from his looks seem nothing special for he done something for the greater good, but by looking deeply behind his looks, utilitarianism is proper to follow him.

Name

As an identity, name is an important thing. A name helps people to differentiate one from the other. Name also carrying an understanding when a name is treated as a symbol. All names have its own meaning, so do a hero’s name.

Analysing the name of Ghost Rider, he carries his own character with his name. The name Ghost Rider is built from two nouns; Ghost and Rider. Ghost is a soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons; and Rider is a person who rides a horse or other animal, a bicycle, etc.

In another hand, the one who becomes Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, is quite different in meaning. In some countries the name Johnny is carrying the meaning of Jehovah gift; that shown a favour. From Urbandictionary.com, Johnny or jah-nee is; 1 One who has no fear; having courage; having a fine appearance. 2 Gallant, courteous, like an ideal knight. 3 Someone with a special charm or allure that inspires allegiance or devotion. When Blaze is the opposite, the word Blaze is borrowed from the French, Blaise is of uncertain etymology. Some believe it is derived from the Latin Blaesus, which is from blaesus (deformed, stuttering), and in the simplest way to understand the meaning of Blaze is as an intensely burning fire or an intense direct light accompanied by heat.

Analyzing the name of the hero and the person who becomes the hero, it quite ironic. The name of the hero, Ghost Rider, carries a bad luck meaning which the meaning of his name is a soul of a dead person who hunt a living person which ride, in this case, a motorcycle.; when his sure name, Johnny Blaze have a blessing meaning. He chooses to become like that, when he sacrificing his soul to protect his father, he also sacrificing his identity. Before, he is a good son who always obeyed his father and helps him in work. When he knows the fact that his father has cancer and someone approached him and offer for his father’s cure, without any hesitation he agreed. When he said his agreement he lost his identity as Johnny Blaze and had a new identity as Ghost Rider. He lost all the blessing he had for the cursed one.

Not all bad things follow him in the rest of his life. Even though bad names that he always carries, he becomes a saviour for the innocents and the judges for the sinners. With all his power he will turn the bad into good. Sacrificing his good name for the bad one does not make him turn into a bad characters. In fact, his transformation brings his more good effect because his power can protect the innocent.

Power

When Blaze transforms into a Ghost Rider, he will become a flaming skeleton covered in fire. The fire which surrounds him is the hellfire. Hellfire "burns the soul" without leaving physical injuries on the victim. When he will surrounding will hellfire he can transform his motorcycle to surround by hellfire. He also can manipulate the hellfire to become his weapon; like covering his chain with fire, shooting a fire from a gun, and later he has an ability of hellfire breath. He has the power to control the hellfire; even he can make one for himself.

Fire, as become Ghost Rider’s power, have a lot of symbolical meaning. One of them is the symbol of sacrifice. In Grace Mythology, it was told a Titan named Prometheus who stole the fire for mankind. It was told that as a Titan, he always thinks about the future. Knowing that all his brothers and sisters only thinking about their self, he went down to the earth to live with human. When he reaches the earth, he found that human live in cold due to their cluelessness about fire. Then, he went to the Olympus and asked Zeus for fire, but he refused. Later on, Prometheus stole Zeus’s fire and gave it to human so they can warm their self, start for cooking, and start making tools. Soon after Zeus found out what Prometheus did, then Zeus punished Prometheus in eternal punishment. Nothing makes Prometheus regretted. Though he fell in eternal punishment from Zeus, he feels relieved because he can save mankind from unawareness.

In Hindu, there is a Goddess named Agni who becomes the personification of fire. Agni is depicted as a Goddess with flaming hair and rides on a goat. Agni is associated with furious form of fire, but from those fires, Agni is most closely associated with sacrificial fires due to her responsibility for carrying the offerings of human beings to the Gods.

It is rather different in Ghost Rider’s case. The sacrifice they have done was due to their own decision to make a better life of human. In Blaze case, he sacrificed himself because he did not want to be left behind by his father who has a cancer. When he sacrificing his soul to Mephisto, he never has the idea that he would become a Ghost Rider, but after his transformation, he accepted his destiny because he cannot turn back time and cancel the agreement. In the beginning of his transformation, he regrets and tries to deny the fact that he is now a Ghost Rider, but as the time goes by, he found out that he causes no harm to innocent people and only attack the sinners. His curiosity kills himself to become a Ghost Rider, but by becoming a Ghost Rider, he can help innocent people from the bad one. As a Ghost Rider he also tries to bring peace for mankind by catching all demons which spread freely in the world. By sacrificing his soul for a hellfire, Blaze helps the innocent to be part with the evil.

Catchphrase

There is one description that always Blaze think about himself regarding his destiny to become a Ghost Rider; “Man in a day and monster in a night”. He is constantly transforms into a Ghost Rider every night and it frustrates him a lot. In a day light he has to be Johnny Blaze who is a stunt performer and when the night comes he has to be a Ghost Rider. Becoming a Ghost Rider also make him has to sacrifice his daily time become mashed up.

In a day, Blaze is a stunt performer whose always risk himself. Even after done his perform he also has to work his daily life; practicing and do chores. Like the features of day when people will do all work for in the day there is sunlight and the sunlight assuming that there is no obstacle in life. Blaze is also shone in the day. He is the best stunt performer and gains a lot of love from his fans. Like the day which always being loved by people because it offers the light and warm. When the night comes touch the earth, the dark will follow closely. Night brings the dark and the cold. Night often related to obscurity, ignorance, sinfulness, and misfortune. Blaze, when the night comes, he will transform into a Ghost Rider; cursed creature which haunts every night for evil. Even he is haunting for the evil to make peace in the earth, but due to his appearance which take the form of flaming skeleton, people misjudge him as the bad characters. It is like the night. Even night is the save place to rest, but night brings darkness with it. People often terrified with the night because it is dark.

Moreover, day and night also have their own sacrifice which they have to be done for the greater good of human. Day which brings light and warm, and become the perfect time to do chores and meet an acquaintances have to give up with the night who bring the dark and cold so that people can rest without worrying a work that must be done. Day and night has to split their part and deal with each other to make the balance.

Ability

Johnny Blaze, when he does not become a Ghost Rider, he is a motorcycle stunt performer. He often makes an action that makes his life in risk. People, or rather his crews, often doubt him and complain for his performance. He also often risks himself even during the practice. After make the agreement with Satan, he often feels guilt due to his double identity. He release all his anger by doing stunt performance, and from that reason, his performance become a rough performance. When he was bound with Zharatos, he also became an immortal. He often challenges his life to see whether he can win over his destiny or not.

The occupation as a stunt performance itself is already risk a life. In his performance Blaze also play with a ring fire and often try to past the lines of truck to show his talent. It is all due to his debt with Crush who already adopt him after the death of his own parents. Crush run a caravan for a stunt performance, and long after Blaze join the caravan he starts to practice and join the performance. After the death of Crush, who make him make agreement with Satan, his performance become wilder that before. Though he has to transform nightly into a Ghost Rider but he always practice and make a great performance for the live of the caravan. He risks his life to gain the fame and popularity for the existence of his family’s life.

Icon

Speaking of Ghost Rider’s icon, he cannot be parted with his motorcycle, black leather jacket, flaming skeleton, and fire which covered his body.

Motorcycle, from www.quora.com, Paul Turner state that,”….In order to ride a motorcycle you have to disengage from the device that bind us to work.” Turner also said that the time of yesterday which he said it as laptop and computer will be left behind as he rides his motorcycle. When ride a motorcycle, a rider has to focus in the way in front of them. They cannot do another work accept focusing in the way. Also, as stated by Turner, work has be left behind when people go on a ride. Stop to worry about everyday work and once in a while enjoying the fresh air while ride is better for the health.

The second one is black leather jacket which always he wear when Blaze turn into a Ghost Rider. People may think that black leather jacket makes them feels hot when they wear it, but for who often use a motorcycle, like rider, they will find that black leather jacket is much more comfortable to use because it can protect them from the wind and cold while riding. Maybe when it wears when people do not riding a motorcycle it would be really hot to wear and not too comfortable to be wear for.

A skeleton also become the features of Ghost Rider. Connecting the skeleton with the Norse mythology, a skeleton is something sacred in Norse. Speaking of a skeleton, it cannot be apart from Odin’s crows, Huginn and Munnin, who become the eyes, spies, and messengers for Odin. Huginn and Munnin will fly around and gather information; even from the death, to be reported to Odin. Skeleton or skull is also a symbol of will, desire, and knowledge which need a sacrifice. In Blaze case, his desire to save his father turn him into a Ghost Rider, but not all of his transformation gain an ill fate to him. Though he has to sacrifice his soul to Satan and become a Ghost Rider but actually his transformation is for the greater life of human due to Ghost Rider’s job is to haunt the evil and send them back to Hell. Although he became a monster in people’s eyes but actually he protect them from the evil.

Villain

Great power brings a great enemy to Ghost Rider. As he goes strong and steady to control his power, he also gains a lot of enemy. All his enemy are strong, but there is one enemy which become his arch enemy , for he reflects Ghost Rider in many way and become Ghost Rider’s nemesis; Blackheart. Blackheart is the “son” of Mephisto who was created from the accumulated wrongs or evils. Blackheart explores the nature of evil under the tutelage of his father, Mephisto. He was trying to tempt Inhuman Gorgon, Karnak, and Ahura whom Mephisto sends to hell, but soon after, Blackheart was impressed by humanity’s free will and learn that evil cannot win against the good. Then, he starts to against his father and seeks for the new form of evil. For his curiosity in the new form of evil, his father punish him by diminished his power.

For his rebellion against his father, Blackheart recruits Wolverine, Punisher, and Ghost Rider, but he falls in a failure. Then, he helps Wonder Woman against Mephisto and doing another action to win against his father. Finally, he can banish Mephisto from Hell and get his power back in full strength and become the ruler of Hell.

Rather different from Ghost Rider, but the two of them, in choosing their way of life, is similar and different in the same time. Blackheart, feeling curious for a new power, he go against his father and make him loose his power and kicked from the hell. His curiosity make his has to sacrifice his power to gain the new form of power and win against his father.

Comparing Blackheart and Ghost Rider and how they share a similar yet different path in their life, it is about their curiosity that brings them to sacrifice themselves. The sacrifice which Blackheart done is all for he himself, in other hand, Ghost Rider, in this case Johnny Blaze, his sacrifice is for his beloved. Knowing his father has a cancer, he tries to ask for Satan’s help to cure it. His curiosity to know whether Satan can help his or not make his bound in an agreement with Satan. He ends up selling his soul for the change of his father’s health and become a Ghost Rider. Knowing that he become a Ghost Rider who collect the souls of evil, he start to accept his fate. He knows that his power will not hurting an innocent people. With his new power as a Ghost Rider, he starts to help the innocent people and banish all the evil from the world.

Blackheart, after he was dumped to the earth, he tried to make an alliance to against his father. Many things happen and lots of them were a failure, but in the end he wins over his father and gains a victory. For his aims for a new power, he lost his power. He fights against his father also for the new power. But all the power he wanted is all for he himself. Including his entire act helping Wonder Woman or trying to recruit Punisher and Wolverine is only to claim the highest power after he can wins over his father. In is his nature to attract to the strongest power in the earth for he is the accumulation of evil souls. His aims comes after he realise that in his state of power, he will never win against the goods in the earth, so he tries to find the new one to rule the world. After losing his power when he was sent to the earth, in his final battle against his father, he was employ Punisher and Wolverine to fought his father. Later after, he wins in the battle and gaining back his power and becomes the ruler of Hell.

Fans

Ghost Rider is a comic from Marvel Comics. Ghost Rider is a hero which take appearances of a flaming skeletal in the form of devil. Though in the form of a devil but Ghost Rider is comes as a hero. For this disambiguate, the target reader of this comic much more appropriate for young adult reader.

According to Erikson, young adult is the phase of identity formation. They search for an identity and willing to fuse their identity with others. This state is the state where they ready for intimacy and start to communicate with their surroundings. When they ready to meet the surroundings they also have to ready to face the ego-loss and the ego-loss may lead to a deep sense of isolation. In modern society, young adult close to people in their late teens and early 20s so they have to take a responsibility over their choice. Young adult become the crucial phase because this phase people choose their lifestyle.

Have a young adult as the target reader, Ghost Rider become the best reflection of the young adult. The identity formation of young adult reflects as Johnny Blaze who has double identity; Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider. In his very first transformation becoming Ghost Rider he tries to deny his other identity, but he knows that nothing will change even he want it. Later after, he, little by little, accepts his double identity while searching the way to break the agreement, and it is become the reflection where young adult ready for intimacy and face their environment. In Blaze case, when he accepts his identity as a Ghost Rider, he has starts his job to collect the evil souls for Mephisto. In his haunting of evil souls he also has to deal with all the evil that refuse to go back to Hell and also deal with normal people who hate him as an evil creature. Accepting his identity as Ghost Rider means he will often lost his self as a human and become a monster. In the Ghost Rider’s form, he cannot control his thought and emotion. He often loss of control in the Ghost Rider form and also often have a memory lost after he gets back to human form.

Eventhough he accepts his ill fate and transform nightly into Ghost Rider, he still want to become a normal human. In his way collecting the evil, he seacrch the way to broke the agreement. He wants to win over Mephisto so the agreement will be canceled, but he cannot win over him. He has to choose his lifestyle and take responsibility to that choice. He decide to once more become a human, so he search in every possible way. In the end, when Mephisto sent Centurious to fight Ghost Rider, Blaze can imprison Zharatos and Centurious; and end the curse of become Ghost Rider.

Media

Ghost Rider was firstly published by Marvel Comic as the issue of Marvel Spotlight #5 in 1972. The comic of Ghost Rider which featuring Johnny Blaze as the alter ego, exist from 1972 until 1983 in Marvel Spotlight #77. Though Blaze’s story end in 1983, but the story of Ghost Rider still exist.

Even after Blaze can get his freedom after imprison Zharatos, there are appears another Ghost Riders following him. Danny Ketch is the closest with Blaze. Danny is Blaze’s long lost little brother. His story as Ghost Rider begins in Ghost Rider vol.3, #1 in May 1990. Except from Danny Ketch, there is Robbie Reyes who also becomes Ghost Rider following Blaze step. Beside take a role in their own series, Ghost Rider also makes appearances in another hero story such as; Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thor, DareDevil, X-Man, and another Marvel story.

The existence of Ghost Rider does not end with printed book. Except the printed form to be enjoyed with reading, Marvel also make Ghost Rider appears in TV media. In 2007, Marvel agreed to make the movie version of the first Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. The movie make it sequel in 2012 with Ghost Rider: The Spirit of Vengeance, which tells the story of Johnny Blaze and Daniel Ketch, the second Ghost Rider.

Johnny Blaze as the first generation of Ghost Rider indeed gains the most fame from the fans. Blaze makes a lot of contribution regarding the appearance of the other two Ghost Riders. In Danny Ketch story, after Blaze found that there is a new Ghost Rider, he went to find the creature. Finally he found Dan in the form of Ghost Rider. Blaze wants to help Dan and become his mentor even Blaze has to go against his wife’s will. Soon after Blaze become Dan’s mentor, the two of them fall in a battle fight with the Vengeance. In the battle, Blaze was wounded and from his wound comes the hellfire. Once again Blaze became a Ghost Rider. He has to go against his wife’s will to protect Dan, who soon after was revealed as Blaze relative, and once again turn himself to become a Ghost Rider.

In Blaze newest appearances in The Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D which also featuring Robbie Reyes, it is revealed that Blaze is the one who turn Robbie into a Ghost Rider. In the story explained that Robbie and his brother Gabe got an accident and Robbie was dies. Gabe prays for the samaritan to save Robbie. Than appear the Ghost Rider who makes agreement with Robbie to turn back his life. When Robbie agreed with the agreement he turns into a Ghost Rider. Now besides the comic version, the fans of Ghost Rider can enjoy his story through Marvel Ultimate Universe.

Alter ego

Ghost Rider, the hero in appearances of devil creature, is often judged as a strong characters with no fear even touch his soul. Though Ghost Rider is a rough in both appearances and act but Johnny Blaze is the opposite. Blaze is an orphan who lives the Crush who owns a stunt caravan after his parent death. He starts to practice to be a stunt performer. Without knowing his ancient’s bound with Satan he continues to practice. After Crush wife, Mona, had an accident, in her death-bad she asked Blaze to promise that he would never ride again and Blaze said his promise to Mona.

After Mona’s death, Blaze keeps his promise and does not doing the performance again, but he secretly practice by himself. Roxanne knows that Blaze still continuously practice by himself. She tries to convince Blaze to join the performance but laze refuse that. For his refusal, Roxanne calls Blaze as a coward and Roxanne often calls his as a coward.

Though Roxanne calls his a coward, but she does not know the reason behind his cowardice. Blaze loves to rides, he loves his motorcycle, and he wants to do the performance. His continual practice makes a proof that his heart is in the ride, but due to his promise to Mona who accidently died when she went to helps Blaze, he cannot ride anymore.

His cowardice also shows with his denial of his double identity. To keep everyone, especially Roxanne, in peace, he often refuse Roxanne request and turn her down. He does not want his beloved in a danger, and the only way to save Roxanne from the evil is keep their distance as long as possible. He sacrifices his love to save his beloved one.

Referents:

#GhostRider #Utilitarianism #superhero #myth #agni #JohnnyBlaze #DannyKetch #RobbieReyes #IAINsurakarta #SastraInggris #englishliterature #Zarathos #Mephisto #Blackheart #Catchprase #name #Hellfire #motorcycle #Alterego #Sacrifice #AgentsofSHIELD #Prometheus #PopCulture #marvel #MarvelComic #MarvelUltimateUniverse #StuntPerformance

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