Ghost Rider: story and newsKeyin Web
Interpreted by Nichola Cage in two movies and by Robbie Reyes in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Ghost Rider is one of the most fascinating characters of the whole Marvel Universe. Let’s discover together how this incredible character was created and evolved.
The first Ghost Rider was not from Marvel, it was created by magazine Enterprise. It debuted in 1943 as a U.S Marshall named Rex Fury. Then, the magazine had the brilliant idea of killing him and make him come back to be a Ghost Rider. Readers did not really appreciate the idea and the creators were forced to stop publishing the character.
Abandoned by Magazine Enterprise, the character was bought by Marvel Comics which saw a great potential in it. Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas, inspired by the lyrics “yippee i-oh, yippee i-yay, ghost riders in the sky” included in the famous 1948 song “Riders in the sky” by Stan Jones (yup, Johnny Cash performed an incredible cover), wanted to create a western character. Unfortunately, at the time the name “Ghost Rider” was not available yet, so they named it Phantom Rider.
Carter Slade was a teacher (sounds familiar? If you watched the movie, it should) that, thanks to a shaman, turned into Phantom Rider and gained incredible powers that allowed him to take part in breathtaking adventures. Of course, with his white horse Banshee always by his side. As anticipated, due to rights on the name, Slade will never use the name of Ghost Rider. However, later on he will take the name of Night Rider to create a stronger relation with the Spirit of Vengeance.
Problem is that the name “night rider” was also used by Ku Klux Klan member in Southern states of the USA… Obviously, after a long list of complaints, Marvel Comics decided to go back to Phantom Rider.
In 1972, Friederich and Thomas could finally use the name Ghost Rider. Initially they had in mind to create a villain but, while working on it, they decided that Ghost Rider needed to not be a negative character. Since the western style was not appealing to readers anymore, they decided to make the character more modern. Therefore, they decided to give it an Evel Knievel vibe and to swap from the horse to a motorcycle.
The three Ghost Riders
Appeared for the first time in August 1972, Johnny Blaze is the very first official Ghost Rider. His story is particularly complex and makes us understand how much Marvel wanted to create a character that could draw a lot of interest. They did an amazing job. Johnny comes from a family that works in the Quentin Circus and things seem to look good, at least until his mother decides to take his brother and sister and skip town. A couple of years later his father dies too and Johnny is adopted by the Simpson family. Johnny loved the Simpsons and when Crush Simpson get diagnosed with cancer, he decides to cut a deal with the devil exchanging his soul for Crush’s life. Once cured, Crush dies trying to perform the craziest motorcycle stunt ever seen. The devil shows up claiming Johnny’s soul but Roxanne – Crush daughter and Johnny’s girlfriend – get in the way. The devil manages to put Zarathos’ spirit into Johnny’s body. It is basically an alternative way to own Johnny, who – now – turn into the Ghost Rider at night to claim souls for Mefisto. Overtime Johnny learns to deal with this new part of himself and to use it for good causes.
In 1990 the Ghost Rider character is in the hands of Howard Mackie and Javier Saltares. Ghost Rider is not Johnny Blaze, this time the Spirit of Vengeance is Danny Ketch. Yup, Jonny’s younger brother. The mother did a very well job to keep them apart to protect them from the curse…
The story has a peculiar beginning: Danny and his sister are at the Cipress Hill cemetery looking for Houdini’s grave when they get in the middle of a gang fight between Kingpin and Deathwatch. The two starts running and, while looking for a place to hide, the run into a motorcycle equipped with a strange talisman.
Danny turns into Ghost Rider as soon as he seats on the motorcycle. This allows him to run away with his sister who will die at the hospital. At this point Danny decides to be the Ghost Rider and, along with johnny Blaze, will form the Midnight Sons.
This series had an incredible beginning and then started to loose reader due to a progressive loss of quality of the stories. The series closed in 1998 but readers had to wait until 2007 to read the last number of the series: #94.
In 2014 the third Ghost Riders sees the light. Son of Felpie Smith and Tradd Moore: Robbie Reyes – the new Ghost Rider – is not a biker anymore, he drives a muscle car.
Robbie turns into Ghost Rider thanks the spirit of Eli Morrow – a murderer related to him – trapped into a 1969 Dodge Charger. Guided by Johnny Blaze, Robbie learns how to deal with the spirit of Eli Morrow and use the Ghost Rider against bad souls only.
Cinema and TV Shows
As discussed above, Nicholas Cage plays Johnny Blaze twice. In the 2007 movie Johnny battles Black Heart (Wes Bentley) and Mefisto (Peter Fonda). Johnny is helped by Cartel Slade (Sam Elliot) who is the Phantom Rider and the Caretaker at the same time.
In Ghost Riders: Spirit of Vengeance (2012), Johnny has to save a child – Danny Ketch – from Roarke who in reality is Mefisto.
In 2013 Marvel Studios finally acquires all the rights for this character from Sony and starts to study a way to give him a sense in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
At the moment, Ghost Rider has only appeared in the 4th season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, as Robbie Reyes. Rumor has it that Marvel might be working on a series focused on Ghost Rider. Gabriel Luna might be playing Robbie Reyes and Norman Reedus might be playing Johnny Blaze.
If true, it will be a blast.