For the latest in our series, this OMW (Obscure Marvel Woman) from the OMU (Original Marvel Universe) was definitely too hot to handle.
The hellfire-wielding Witch-Woman was born Linda Littletree in 1947, a member of an unidentified Apache tribe living on a reservation east of Phoenix, Arizona. Her father was a snake shaman who went by the name “Snake Dance.” At some point during her childhood, her mother died.
One day in 1952, when Linda and her family were in downtown Phoenix, she wandered out into the street and was nearly hit by a truck. She was saved by a motorcycle cop, one Officer Craig Simpson. Linda was left with a vivid memory of the experience. Plus, she heard the story many times over the years, after Simpson started a daredevil stunt show and Linda developed her own fascination with motorcycles.
As she grew older, Linda proved to have a superior intellect. She studied hard and won several scholarships that enabled her to attend quality schools in Phoenix despite her family’s poverty. As she became a teen-ager, Linda developed a disdain for her father’s beliefs, decrying them as primitive superstition. However, she sensed that the boys at her school held racist attitudes toward her, so she refused to date any of them, instead entering into a romantic relationship with Sam Silvercloud, a boy from the tribe who was several years older than her. Sam wasn’t especially smart, but he had a steady job and shared her interest in motorcycles. He was an excellent mechanic, and the couple enjoyed tearing around the countryside on their bikes.
During high school, Linda won a much-coveted scholarship to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She left Arizona for Boston in late August 1965. Once on campus, she met her new roommate, Jennifer Glatzer, a beautiful blonde who introduced Linda to the religion of devil-worship. Although Jennifer and her “sisterhood” believed themselves to be servants of the biblical Satan, they were in fact in the thrall of a demon named Marduk Kurios, who had an insatiable appetite for sex with human females and passed himself off as “Satan” whenever it suited his purposes. Notably, he had used the identity a generation previously to father two children in the same region by a woman named Victoria Wingate Hellstrom.
Over the next six months, Linda dabbled in Jennifer’s satanic texts and paraphernalia, until her soul had become sufficiently tainted for her to be offered up to the devil as his latest bride. As Linda lay passed out on her bed, Jennifer summoned her master, who placed his mark—an encircled pentagram—upon Linda’s body. Soon after, Linda and Jennifer attended a sabbat, where the girls ganged up on the terrified Linda, strapped her to the altar, and sacrificed her to “Satan.” Marduk Kurios transported her to his infernal realm, had sex with her, and then returned her to Earth to be one of his slaves. Coincidentally, this was around the same time that the lord of another hellish realm, Mephisto, merged the demon Zarathos with stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze, creating the being known as the “Ghost Rider.”
Unlike many of the girls in the cult, Linda embraced the supernatural powers that Marduk Kurios granted her, and she quickly mastered the ability to manipulate hellfire to create a variety of effects. The devil recognized that Linda could serve him in the role of the Witch-Woman, an honor he reserved for only his most adept servants—whom he would sometimes possess in order to move freely about the earth.
Then, in March 1966, having learned of the Ghost Rider, Marduk Kurios hit on the idea of using Zarathos against his rebellious half-human son Daimon Hellstrom. If he could capture Zarathos and separate him from Johnny Blaze, Marduk Kurios reasoned, he could then send the soul-devouring demon to consume Daimon’s human soul, leaving only his devilish Darksoul, which would be impervious to Zarathos’ attack. Thus, Daimon would become fully demonic and more amenable to his father’s wishes. The only problem he foresaw was stealing Zarathos out from under Mephisto’s control.
Finding that Johnny Blaze was in Arizona to jump Copperhead Canyon on his motorcycle, Marduk Kurios selected Linda Littletree as his agent, despite her inexperience, since it was right near her hometown. Playing his cards close to the vest, he instructed Linda to go home and help him “capture the soul of Johnny Blaze.” She went at once and arrived on the reservation late that evening, where she found her disgraced father about to be lynched by Sam and a group of his disgruntled former followers. Linda broke up the mob with her rifle, but then became distracted from her mission when she learned that her father allowed two venomous snakes to bite a white woman during a ceremony. When Snake Dance then revealed that he had the only supply of anti-venom, Linda snatched it and rode into the city on her souped-up chopper. Upon reaching the hospital, Linda learned that the woman was none other than Roxanne Simpson, girlfriend of Johnny Blaze and the daughter of the motorcycle cop who once saved her life. Seeing the hand of “Satan” in this confluence of events, Linda set off after her quarry when the Ghost Rider rode past the hospital, the subject of relentless police pursuit.
Linda rode after the Ghost Rider as he fled into a remote area of the desert, until they neared an ancient pueblo, which was to be the site of their confrontation. There, Linda was transformed into the Witch-Woman for the first time. Her hair grew longer, her clothes morphed into her ceremonial garb (pictured above), and her body thrilled as a new feeling of power and ecstasy swept over her. Then, as a police helicopter spotted Ghost Rider, Witch-Woman generated a space-warp that drew him deep within the ancient ruins. There, she easily defeated her opponent and rendered him helpless with her mystic flames. However, she could not resist telling Blaze her life story in great detail, and became so wrapped up in her tale that he slipped his bonds and escaped. She tried to stop him, but failed, prompting an angry Marduk Kurios to manifest himself. Witch-Woman begged her demonic master for a second chance to serve him, so he ordered her to incinerate herself just to torment Johnny Blaze. She obeyed, and her burning body plummeted hundreds of feet from the top of the pueblo, just as the dawn was breaking. A guilt-stricken Blaze rode away without looking back.
However, Marduk Kurios had a contingency plan, and the hellfire that engulfed Linda’s body prevented it from sustaining any injury. She instead reverted to her normal appearance and was teleported back to her father’s cabin, where she lay in a comatose state. Hours later, Marduk Kurios manifested himself again and woke her from her trance, saying that she would have her second chance to serve him if she permitted him to take possession of her body. Linda granted her master’s request and found her soul instantly transported to his realm of Hell. However, when the devil had successfully captured the Ghost Rider and brought him to Hell, Linda’s body and soul were reunited there, rather than on Earth—and she was likely to remain there for all eternity.
Marduk Kurios was just about to use his mystic sword to separate Zarathos from his human host when the proceedings were interrupted by Daimon Hellstrom himself, who fought off his father’s hordes and rescued both Linda and the Ghost Rider from Hell. Marduk Kurios could only assume that Johnny Blaze was under Daimon’s protection, and so he decided to abandon his plan. Furthermore, he realized that the scheme was not worth starting a war with Mephisto, who was none too pleased when he caught wind of it. In truth, however, Daimon Hellstrom had rescued both Linda and Blaze merely to spite his father, and cared nothing for either of them. Nevertheless, Hellstrom had broken the devil’s hold over Linda and set her soul free, although this meant, of course, that she had lost her supernatural powers.
Callously, Hellstrom left Linda and Blaze at another abandoned pueblo, hundreds of miles from civilization, with no provisions and no means of transportation. Desperately, Linda taught the Ghost Rider how to create a motorcycle out of hellfire. But, believing she would be unable to ride upon such a creation, she sent him on alone to get help while she remained behind. Then, sitting alone under the stars, Linda’s thoughts kept returning to Johnny Blaze, and she realized she was rapidly falling in love with him. She whiled away the hours dreaming up romantic fantasies of his coming to her rescue in the morning. Eventually, night gave way to day. Linda waited and waited, with no food or water, seeking shelter from the scorching desert sun. Finally, in the mid-afternoon, a jeep arrived to fetch her, but her savior was not Johnny Blaze after all, but a now-benevolent Daimon Hellstrom. He drove her back to the reservation, but made sure to be on his way before night fell again. Returning home, she immediately learned that Blaze had been in a terrible accident on the freeway at dawn and was hospitalized in critical condition. She left at once to visit him, only to be turned away by the nursing staff. However, while at the hospital, Linda was questioned by the police about her connection to Blaze, during which she claimed to be his lover.
The next morning she learned that the Ghost Rider had escaped from the hospital and led the police on a chase all the way to Las Vegas, where he was at last captured. Furthermore, the police paid Linda another visit, informing her that the Nevada attorney general had arranged for her to be brought to Las Vegas for questioning. Despite Sam Silvercloud’s protests, Linda went along with them, hoping to see Blaze again. Once in Vegas, she was subjected to a brutal interrogation by a swaggering, racist police sergeant named Decker, though Linda remained uncooperative. Later, she finally went to see Blaze in his hospital room, only to find him with Roxanne Simpson in his arms.
Fueled by her jealousy, and too frightened to return to college now that she was free of demonic influence, Linda followed Johnny Blaze when he hooked up with Dude Jensen’s demolition derby show. She convinced Jensen to give her a job as an office assistant, where she filed paperwork, ran errands, and passed out paychecks. For two months she tried to break up Blaze’s relationship with Roxanne, until he finally told Linda to get out of his life. When Dude Jensen died mysteriously shortly afterwards, his operation folded. Blaze and Roxanne moved on, and Linda returned home to the reservation, dejected and angry. Having forfeited her scholarship, Linda Littletree had no choice but to take a low-paying job in Phoenix, where all her many talents went to waste.
First Appearance: Marvel Spotlight #10
Final Appearance: Ghost Rider #4