Since the dawn of the Silver Age, legacy characters have been a staple of superhero fiction, and having a new character step into a well loved role can open up new opportunities for writers and artists to tell different kinds of stories. In The Replacements, we’ll look back at the notable and not-so-notable heroes and villains to assume some of the most iconic mantles in the superhero genre.
The original Ghost Rider was a cowboy named Carter Slade who was prophesied to fight injustice in the wild west along with his bright white stallion, Banshee. The concept of what a Ghost Rider is has deviated considerably since then, taking on a much more supernatural tone, with some of that mythos folded into Slade's own story. Today we're going to look at the men and women who took up the name and curse of the Ghost Rider.
Ghost Rider (Johnny Blaze)
Created by Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas & Mike Ploog (Marvel Spotlight #5)
Johnny Blaze was a circus stuntman raised by “Crash” Simpson after his mother left and his father died while performing a stunt jump. When Simpson was faced with a terminal illness, Johnny sold his soul to the demon Mephisto to cure the cancer; such bargains tend to have intended consequences, and although Simpson was cured, he died shortly afterwards in a stunt accident of his own.
When Mephisto came to claim Johnny’s soul, the demon was driven away by the pure love Blaze’s girlfriend Roxanne felt for him, so in turn cursed Blaze by bonding him with the demon Zarathos, which transformed him into the Ghost Rider. Whenever in the presence of great evil, Johnny Blaze would transform into the Ghost Rider to punish the wicked and send them to Hell.
As Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze travelled the country as an adventurer, vigilante and — although he’d refuse to term — superhero. While freed from the curse, he became a demon hunter of sorts who travelled with the new Ghost Rider, equipped with a shotgun capable of firing pure Hellfire.
Blaze would eventually discover that as Ghost Rider he was not an agent of Hell but in fact served Heaven, specifically the angel Zadkiel, whom he deposed with the assistance of other Ghost Riders from around the world. He would later train another recipient of the Ghost Rider curse, but as usual, the curse somehow and someway always finds its way back to Johnny.
Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch)
Created by Howard Mackie & Javier Saltares (Ghost Rider Vol 3 #1)
Daniel Ketch grew up incredibly close with his sister Barbara, until she was caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting. In his attempt to get her to safety, he found an old motorcycle with a strange medallion. Touching the medallion made him the new Ghost Rider. Using his new abilities he wreaked vengeance on the gangs, but the vampiric villain Blackout got his own revenge by killing Barbara as she recovered in hospital.
Allied with the mysterious Caretaker, who taught him in the ways of his powers, Danny Ketch ran into Johnny Blaze when the previous Ghost Rider arrived to kill the new one, thinking it was the demon Zarathos unleashed. It was eventually discovered that Blaze and Ketch were actually long lost brothers, who were torn apart when their mother left, taking Danny and Barbara with her.
The true nature of the power of Ghost Rider and its connection to the pilgrim Noble Kale was discovered, and Danny would eventually have the spirit of Kale exorcised from him. Regretting the loss of his power, he was seduced into the service of Zadkiel, who turned him into an addict, dosing him with brief intervals of power and leaving him craving more, before setting Danny on his own brother.
Dany Ketch was initially twisted in his service to Zadkiel and hunted down Spirits of Vengeance around the world, killing them and absorbing their power. When he returned to his master he was betrayed and cast out. The two brothers eventually reunited and along with Sister Sara — the granddaughter of the Caretaker — they worked together to unite the Ghost Riders and bring down Zadkiel who was staging a coup in heaven.
Vengeance (Michael Badilino)
Created by Howard Mackie & Ron Wagner (Ghost Rider Vol 3 #21)
Michael Badilino was a New York City detective assigned to cover the “special” cases that arise in a city with literally hundreds of super-powered people calling it home. Mephisto manipulated Blaze into shooting Badilino’s father with hellfire, which sent the man insane, causing him to kill his wife and daughters before killing himself.
Unable to stop his father, Badilino blamed Ghost Rider for the tragedy and accepted Mephisto’s offer of enough power to get revenge on Ghost Rider, becoming the being known as Vengeance. Initially a major antagonist for the Ghost Riders, Caretaker explained how Mephisto had manipulated them all, and Vengeance became somewhat of an ally.
He joined the supernatural super team the Midnight Sons and briefly filled in for Ketch as the protector of Cyprus Hills, NY. In an effort to get at his arch-nemesis Anthony Hellgate, he killed anything that got in his way, and realizing that he crossed a line he couldn’t come back from, triggered a massive explosion that killed both himself and Hellgate.
Ghost Rider (Caleb)
Created by Garth Ennis & Clayton Crain (Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #1)
Caleb was a former slave who took in and befriended an injured confederate soldier named Travis Parham. In order to repay Caleb for this, Parham stuck around to help any way he could, but discovered a mysterious cave full of glowing skulls. Upon touching one, he saw a vision of a monstrous creature with its head aflame.
Caleb explained to Travis that the creature came from his homeland, and could be called upon when needed as a spirit of vengeance. When Caleb and his family were murdered by George Regan and his gang, Parham swore vengeance against the outlaw, but he was unaware the spirit of vengeance was already hot on the criminals’ trail.
One by one, the Ghost Rider picked off Regan’s gang, but they returned having made their own deal with the devil. In the final showdown, Parham discovered that the Ghost Rider was in fact his friend Caleb, who was possessed by the Spirit of Vengeance he had once told him about, and was granted a vision into the future to see all the Ghost Riders there would be in the years to come.
Ghost Rider (Alejandra Jones)
Created by Rob Williams & Matthew Clark (Ghost Rider Vol 7 #1)
Alejandra was a victim of human trafficking who ended up in the possession of a man named Adam in Nicaragua. Alongside other orphans who lived with her, they all trained to be the next Ghost Rider, as Adam knew there would always need to be one and he wanted to have it under his control if there were to be a new host.
After tracking down Johnny Blaze, Alejandra was able to convince him to pass on the curse of the Ghost Rider to her, but Blaze later learned that Adam’s plan was to destroy the very concept of sin, which would turn humanity into emotionless puppets. Although Blaze tried to stop Adam, the villain was able to control Alejandra into wiping out all sin in Nicaragua before escaping to continue his plan.
Eventually, their confrontation ended in a space station — after Johnny Blaze acquired a motorcycle he could ride into space — and the former Ghost Rider was able to get through to Alejandra and release her from Adam’s control. A free person for the first time in her life, Alejandra allied with Blaze, who agreed to teach her how to control the great power.
She formed an unlikely quartet with Agent Venom, Red Hulk and X-23 to stop the demon Blackheart’s plans in Las Vegas, but was unable to stop Mephisto from claiming the souls on innocent people. Her quest to retrieve the souls led to Johnny Blaze once again taking on the mantle of the Ghost Rider, and the two parted on unpleasant terms.
Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes)
Created by Felipe Smith & Tradd Moore (All-New Ghost Rider #1)
Roberto Reyes was a teenage living in LA, trying to juggle school, work, pressure from local gangs, and the responsibility of raising his younger brother Gabe, who requires the use of crutches or a wheelchair for mobility. A skilled street racer, Robbie was chased down during a big race by people he assumed were police and was shot dead because they were after the contents of the car.
This particular car was haunted by a ghost named Eli, who possessed Robbie, returning him to life as the new Ghost Rider. Seeking answers for his new condition, Robbie tracked down the drug cartel to find it being run by the supervillain Mister Hyde, who he defeated. However, Robbie had no interest in being a vigilante, and instead used his powers to win street races in order to provide a better life for his brother.
Johnny Blaze arrived in Los Angeles seeking out the new Ghost Rider as Eli gained more and more control, and it was discovered he was Robbie’s uncle, a Satanic serial killer who butchered thirty-seven people before being shot dead by the police.
Driven by a vendetta against a Russian mob boss, Eli possessed Gabe in order to enact his vengeance, but Robbie made a deal with Eli to save his brother. He killed the mob boss, but was eternally bonded to the ghost of Eli Morrow, and made a vow to kill those that deserve it, but no-one else.