BY MATT TUCK
Marvel’s upcoming role-playing game, Midnight Suns, has reignited the Ghost Rider rumors, but which Spirit of Vengeance will ride into the MCU?
A LONG HISTORY
When most passing fans think of Ghost Rider, they think of Johnny Blaze riding his chopper in the 1970s. However, the character has a much longer history than you might guess. The original concept came about during the Golden Age as a vengeful ghost cowboy. That trend would continue into the Silver Age before Marvel created the Harley Davidson-riding Spirit of Vengeance that we know and love to this day.
Over the decades, Ghost Rider has undergone more casting changes than almost any other major comic character. Since the late-1940s, there have been ten different incarnations of the Rider. That presents a unique creative opportunity for Marvel Studios and gives Kevin Feige and company plenty of options.
THE ENDURING RUMORS
Since practically the dawn of the MCU, fans have been crossing their fingers for Ghost Rider to take his rightful place among the franchise’s stars. While the Nicolas Cage movies are dear to some fans for its over-the-top, campy bravado, most Ghost Rider faithful want a complete reboot that erases the past. That has sparked rumors of a Rider reinvented for the MCU for years.
Technically, he is already in the MCU. Robbie Reyes raced into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., though many fans still yearn for the biker with the flaming skull. These days, it is unclear whether Agents is still considered canon. However, the trailer for Midnight Suns features Robbie’s Ghost Rider, which has spawned theories that he remains the official MCU GR.
Before WandaVision and Loki utilized the Multiverse to change all the cinematic rules of franchises, we would be debating which one character would be Marvel’s onscreen Ghost Rider. The game has changed now that variants and alternate dimensions are on the table. That makes it a wonderful time to be a GR fan as any or all of the ten Spirits of Vengeance could be used in the MCU.
10. REX FURY
FIRST APPEARANCE: TIM HOLT #11 (1949)
While most of us immediately connect Ghost Rider with Johnny Blaze and Carter Slade as the original Ghost Riders, the first Western-themed Rider was actually the Calico Kid, aka Rex Fury. Although he debuted in Tim Holt #6, the Kid would officially become the first Ghost Rider in 1949.
9. GHOST RIDER 1,000,000 BC
FIRST APPEARANCE: MARVEL LEGACY #1 (2017)
Before the advent of What If…?, the Ghost Rider from Avengers 1,000,000 BC would have easily been the least likely to make it into the MCU. With Marvel exploring the alternate realities of the Multiverse, there are no rules when it comes to which versions of famous characters will make it onto the screen, animated or live action. The Avengers 1,000,000 BC is a novel concept that could be used for a future What If…? episode or perhaps an Easter egg in another movie or Disney+ series. Past that, I can’t imagine seeing any of those characters being heavily featured, but a Ghost Rider 1,000,000 BC riding a mammoth would make for an awesome visual, even if only for a glimpse.
8. HYBORIA GHOST RIDER
FIRST APPEARANCE: SAVAGE AVENGERS #21 (2021)
Speaking of What If…?, the alternate-timeline animated series opens the possibility for practically anything to happen in the MCU. Who’s to say Conan the Barbarian won’t appear in his own future episode? After Marvel Comics reclaimed the publishing rights for the Conan comics, they have incorporated him into the official Marvel Comics canon. As a member of the Savage Avengers, the sword-and-sorcery hero has even entered the modern world while also telling stories from Hyboria. One of those tales happened to include a Ghost Rider who existed in Conan’s homeworld.
7. COSMIC GHOST RIDER
FIRST APPEARANCE: THANOS #13 (2017)
From his debut in Thanos #13, Cosmic Ghost Rider was an immediate hit with fans, and he would be an excellent choice for the MCU.
The former Frank Castle debuted as the Ghost Rider of an alternate future in which Thanos conquered not just Earth, but the entire universe. The wise-cracking CGR was far from the Punisher readers knew, and he gave off a distinct Deadpool vibe. After becoming the Spirit of Vengeance, Frank punished the wicked until the extinction of humanity. He was alone for so long afterwards that it drove him insane, thus giving his normally stoic demeanor an injection of Deadpool’s sense of humor.
Again, What If…? is the perfect vehicle to introduce another radically different Ghost Rider. With so much of the MCU shifting to the cosmos (not to mention the Disney-patented action-comedy routine), having an interstellar Spirit of Vengeance would actually fit perfectly with either the Guardians of the Galaxy or possibly the Taika Waititi Thor franchise.
6. GHOST RIDER 2099 #1
FIRST APPEARANCE: GHOST RIDER 2099 #1 (1994)
Thanks to the Multiverse, it may not be much longer before Marvel 2099 makes its grand entrance into either the live-action or animated MCU. That could pathe the way for Kenshiro “Zero” Cochrane to take up the chopper and become Ghost Rider 2099.
Many of the 2099 characters have risen to cult status. In fact, you could say all of Marvel 2099 has a cult following. There are rumors of a Secret Wars movie in development, and that could be the avenue to incorporate the futuristic Marvel. That is if the plot follows the 2015 version of SW. In that iteration, the characters of Marvel 2099 had their own corner of Battleworld. That could pan out on the silver screen. It doesn’t hurt that Spider-Man 2099 made his debut in the animated Into the Spider-Verse.
5. CARTER SLADE
FIRST APPEARANCE: GHOST RIDER #1 (1967)
Before Loki and the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, it would have seemed unlikely to see a character from the Fox Ghost Rider franchise. Marvel Studios has opened the door to virtually everything, and that could mean the return of Carter Slade as a Spirit of Vengeance of his own, the Phantom Rider. Following the Golden Age exploits of Rex Fury, the character was reimagined for the late-1960s. Once again, Ghost Rider was a cowboy, but that would be short-lived as GR was reinvented in the 1970s as a biker. Thus, the Phantom Rider was born to avoid confusing the readers.
4. ALEJANDRA JONES
FIRST APPEARANCE: GHOST RIDER #1 (2011)
Out of all the Ghost Riders on today’s list, Alejandra Jones may be the least known with the most MCU potential.
Who is she? Eighteen-year-old Alejandra was trained to be a host for the Spirit of Vengeance in a Nicaraguan temple. After Johnny Blaze gave up the spirit, the Seeker chose a new host from the temple, eventually deciding on Alejandra. The stint did not last long, and she became overzealous with ridding the world of sin, which prompted Johnny to take back the power.
Over the past decade and more, Marvel Comics has made a considerable push for diversity with its marquee characters. As part of the “Fear Itself” crossover, the company introduced Alejandra as the first Latino and female Spirit of Vengeance. Marvel Studios continues to cast more women and minorities in major roles, so who is to say that we won’t see some version of Alejandra crank up the hellblazing Harley? It doesn’t hurt that she is a teenager, since Disney/Marvel gears many of its films for that age group. Those factors make her a distinct possibility to appear in the MCU.
3. JOHNNY BLAZE
FIRST APPEARANCE: MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #5 (1972)
There is no beating the original.
When talking about Ghost Rider, “original” is a relative term. In this case, Johnny Blaze is the landmark, motorcycle-riding Spirit of Vengeance that brought a modern appeal to the Rider. No matter who takes up the mantle, Johnny is the most iconic Ghost Rider, and he can’t be ruled out as a possibility for the MCU.
The Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider twice rode into theaters in some of Nicolas Cage’s most exaggerated and campy performances of his career (which is saying a lot). Again, the Multiverse makes anything plausible in the modern MCU. Since No Way Home is giving us Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx (and maybe even two more Spider-Men), that could signal a return for Cage.
2. DANNY KETCH
FIRST APPEARANCE: GHOST RIDER #1 (1990)
Until recently, the odds-on favorite for the next onscreen Ghost Rider was Danny Ketch. After all, we had already seen Johnny Blaze, and it was assumed that Kevin Feige and company would want to distance themselves from the Fox movies. While Robbie Reyes had appeared on Agents of SHIELD, everything from the series had been disconnected from the greater MCU. That led to the assumptions that Marvel Studios was moving away from Robbie and looking to bring back the chopper-riding flaming skull for the proposed Ghost Rider live-action Hulu show. Famously, that idea was dropped, but it led many to believe that the Spirit of Vengeance was incoming, and that it would be Danny rather than Johnny.
After the trailers for the Midnight Suns role-playing game, it has raised many questions about which Ghost Rider will be in the MCU. Although that has lowered the odds for Danny Ketch, it would still seem to be a strong possibility that he will appear in a movie or Disney+ series at some point.
1. ROBBIE REYES
FIRST APPEARANCE: GHOST RIDER #1 (2014)
Robbie Reyes may be the most polarizing Ghost Rider to ever grace a Marvel Comic. After riding either a ghost horse or a magic motorcycle, the Spirit of Vengeance was just that - a rider. Then came 2014, and Marvel’s creative team gave the Ghost Rider a makeover. This time, he would drive a classic sports car rather than a motorcycle with the second Latino character filling the role.
Before Midnight Suns, most fans assumed Robbie would be written out of MCU mythos. Since it is clearly Robbie’s Ghost Rider featured in the game, it has left many theorists to wonder if that means the onscreen Rider will, in fact, remain Robbie. Could Midnight Suns be Marvel’s way of introducing mainstream audiences not only to its supernatural Avengers, the Midnight Sons, but also helping establish Robbie’s GR? Only time will tell.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.