Throughout the Marvel Universe, several characters have taken up the mantle of the Ghost Rider. Most notably, Johnny Blaze, Dan Ketch, Alejandra, and more recently Robbie Reyes. As the fiery character races toward its 45th anniversary, there is no better time for a walk down memory lane.
The very first Ghost Rider was Quentin Carnival stunt motorcyclist, Johnny Blaze. Blaze - created by writer-editor Roy Thomas, writer Gary Friedrich, and artist Mike Ploog - made his debut appearance in Marvel Spotlight #5 in 1972. When his surrogate father develops cancer, a desperate Blaze foolishly turns to the occult. After making a deal with Mephisto, under the guise of Satan, Blaze trades his eternal servitude in exchange for his father’s well-being. While his father recovered, he cruelly perished in a stunt accident shortly after. In order to save his soul from eternal damnation, Blaze was bonded to a divine Spirit of Vengeance, becoming the Ghost Rider. Subsequently, he ventures off on a quest to fight his possession and Satan’s influence over the world. This version of the Ghost Rider was adapted into several films, with Nicholas Cage in the title role.
The next Ghost Rider - Blaze’s long lost little brother - Danny Ketch, made his first appearance in Ghost Rider Vol. 3 #1 in 1990. After witnessing a horrific murder by Deathwatch and his goons, Ketch and his sister were attacked. While his sister is mortally wounded, Ketch stumbles upon a particular motorcycle. Ketch is drawn in and touches the gas cap, igniting a mystical transformation. He is then transformed into Ghost Rider, declaring himself the Spirit of Vengeance and begins seeking vengeance for sins rendered upon the innocent. This new Ghost Rider was nearly identical to the previous, although he now wore a mystic chain across his chest, which responded to his mental commands and served as his primary melee weapon. His motorcycle now resembled a futuristic machine, but like the original Ghost Rider's bike, the wheels were composed of mystic hellfire.
During the Fear Itself crossover arc in 2011, a Nicaraguan woman named Alejandra temporarily becomes Ghost Rider through a ritual performed in Ghost Rider Vol. 4 #1. She somehow managed to convince Blaze to give up his demon, thus transferring the power to her. Although Blaze later regains his Spirit of Vengeance, Alejandra retains a fraction of the Spirit’s power. As she drives off, the series alludes that Alejandra will continue her mission to render vengeance and retribution.
In 2014, Marvel debuted their All-New Ghost Rider series featuring Mexican-American Roberto "Robbie" Reyes at the helm. Reyes is an impetuous 18-year-old, who is the sole caretaker of his disabled little brother, Gabe. The young adult works tirelessly to balance homework, a part-time job at Canelo’s Auto & Body, caring for Gabe, and a low-key street racing gig. One night, Reyes enters a street race with a stolen muscle car, hoping to earn enough money to get his family out of crime-ridden East L.A. Unfortunately, the car was haunted by the evil spirit of Eli Morrow, a serial killer, who happens to be Reyes’ uncle. Unlike a traditional Ghost Rider, Reyes is not host to a Spirit of Vengeance, but rather the host of the spirit of a satanic serial killer. He struggles with the need to extinguish all life, but still finds a way to do good and serve vengeance. Recently, Reyes debuted on Agents of SHIELD portrayed by Gabriel Luna.
Typically each Ghost Rider possesses the same powers and abilities. Namely: immense superhuman strength, stamina, agility, reflexes, endurance and durability, invulnerability to fire, heat, lava and flames, penance stare, resurrection, immortality, regeneration, accelerated healing factor, ability to project regular/ethereal flame, and the ability to travel between interdimensional realms and along any surface. Ghost Rider’s also possess an enchanted hellfire chain, motorcycle and shotgun. Although in Reyes’ case his muscle car is enchanted, rather than a motorcycle.
As Ghost Rider’s continue to bring their scorching vengeance across pop culture, only one mystery remains - who’s next?