Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, rides through the streets of New York City and accidentally witnesses two men killing another. Wanting no part of what's happened, he rides on, but is then chased by the killers. Upon trapping him in an alley, the men are shocked to see Blaze's flaming skull. The Ghost Rider points his finger, causing flame to erupt on the ground. The men make a run for it, and Blaze rides back to Madison Square Garden, where he transforms back into his human form. He thinks back to try and remember what happened, hoping to find some answers in the past.
Johnny's father, Barton Blaze, died in a motorcycle accident when his son was very young. Johnny was then adopted by Crash Simpson, another stunt rider that ran his own cycle show with his wife Mona and daughter Roxanne. Johnny grew into adolescence, and had followed his step-father's footsteps by taking up cycle riding. When he was fifteen, his motorcycle caught fire during a practice session. Though he attempted to save his family, Mona Simpson is killed in the bike's explosion. Before she dies, she makes Johnny promise her that he'll never ride in the show due to the danger, which he agrees to. Five years later, Johnny is discovered riding in secret by Roxanne, who tells him that she is in love with him. Later on, Crash tells the two that he has cancer,and that the show's performance at Madison Square Garden will be his last, if he lives to even see that.
Determined to keep his step-father from dying, Johnny researches some occult books, finally using them to summon "Satan" (actually the demon lord Mephisto, in one of his many forms). In exchange for Johnny's soul, the devil will spare Crash Simpson from the cancer that's killing him. Three weeks later, Crash tells Johnny that he plans to try and break the world's cycle jump record at the Garden. Johnny knows he'll be fine, due to the deal he made with Satan. When Crash attempts to jump it, he doesn't make it, and dies in the resulting accident. Furious at what happened, Blaze suits up, mounts a bike, and does the same stunt... and makes it, breaking the world record. That night, Satan returns to claim Johnny's soul, claiming that he only said he'd spare Crash from the disease and nothing else. As Mephisto prepares to take Johnny to Hell, Roxanne enters and banishes the demon with the pure essence of her soul. She tells Johnny that she read his books behind his back, and learned how to send the devil away. The next night, however, Johnny begins to burn with fever, until his head suddenly transforms into a flaming skull. Every night since, he has undergone the transformation into... the Ghost Rider!