Ghost Rider isn’t just a singular character in the Marvel Universe. Instead, it’s a horrifying mantle that’s been associated with numerous individuals throughout history. One of these is Robbie Reyes, who came about in an era where many of Marvel’s premier heroes were being replaced by successors. Unlike many of them, however, Reyes was actually well-received.
From his backstory to his relationship with his predecessors, Robbie Reyes had several narrative elements that other “mantle swap” heroes lacked. This allowed him to cleanly co-exist with the other Ghost Riders, which is an element of superhero legacy that’s almost impossible to achieve. This also made him more successful than perhaps the biggest legacy character in the Marvel Universe.
The Origin of Marvel’s All-New All-Different Ghost Rider
Created by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore, the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider debuted in the first issue of his eponymous 2014 comic series. This was during the “All-New, All-Different” era of Marvel Comics, in which many of Marvel’s most iconic heroes shared the spotlight or were outright replaced by new characters. Like some of the Ghost Riders before him, Reyes suffered a cruel fate when he was thrust into the life of a Rider. Living in the gang-ridden area of East Los Angeles, he met his end when mercenaries shot him in a car he used to enter a race. This competition was meant to win him the money to move himself and his young disabled brother out of town, but the event ended up changing Robbie’s life forever.
Instead of dying, Robbie was bonded with the ghost of Eli Morrow, who’s revealed to have been Robbie’s homicidal uncle. Empowered into a very different version of Ghost Rider, Robbie used his new car and powers to defeat those who tried to kill him and bring peace to his violent neighborhood. All the while, he wrestled with Morrow’s bloodthirsty desires and developed new, uncontrollable abilities. This saw him go far beyond his local haunts, fighting alongside the Avengers and other Ghost Riders in pursuit of both justice and vengeance.
Robbie Reyes’ Relationship With Other Ghost Riders
Unlike Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, Robbie Reyes doesn’t ride a motorcycle in his paranormal form. Instead, he drives a sort of ghostly Lowrider, with even his design as Ghost Rider reflecting a car’s fins. While his design is distinct from his predecessors, his head still resembles a sort of skeletal helmet. These aesthetics aren’t the only differences, however, as the very nature of Robbie Reyes’ empowerment is distinct from the two other most popular Riders.
As mentioned, Robbie Reyes is bonded with the ghost of his evil uncle. With Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, they were instead bonded to the demonic entity Zarathos, with Blaze notably making a deal with the devil himself before this happened. For these reasons, those two are driven by revenge, with Zarathos being the literal “Spirit of Vengeance.” Although later stories sometimes had them in conflict, Blaze and Reyes are respected allies, with the older Ghost Rider teaching his colleague how to control his powers. This more benevolent relationship is part of why Robbie Reyes has had few detractors from even the most ardent fans of old-school Marvel.
Robbie Reyes is a Better Legacy Hero Than Miles Morales
Robbie Reyes achieved the almost impossible balancing act of being both an integral part of his resident mythology and independent of his predecessor. He’s quite different from the other Ghost Riders, while still being firmly in the same “world” as them. This means that both Ghost Rider experts and newcomers can enjoy his stories. Likewise, his being far away from and largely unrelated to Ketch or Blaze means that they can act independently of him. Having extensive “families” of nearly identical superheroes can be a big problem in terms of narrative, especially if these heroes live in the same city. Thankfully, Reyes can spread his wheels far away from the other characters in the mythos. His coexisting with Blaze also marks a major difference between him and other legacy characters.
For instance, Miles Morales isn’t the only Spider-Man to ever be a part of Marvel’s alternate Ultimate Universe. He only came about after the death of his world’s Peter Parker, and the same goes for the version of Miles Morales seen in the two animated Spider-Verse movies. Conversely, most of his villains are foes that Peter already fought beforehand, meaning that he’s fairly dependent on the first Spider-Man in most of his incarnations. For this reason, it’s hard to truly spin him off as his own hero, especially since even his hit movies are multiversal adventures involving several other Spider-People.
On the opposite end of this spectrum is Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel. Though she’s the “sidekick” of the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel, the two aren’t really related at all beyond Kamala being a fan of Carol. Her powers are much different, and they stem from her originally being written as a member of the Inhumans. This means that she’s only nominally a “Marvel,” and her real origins tie to her to one of the publisher’s most contentious property ever. Given that she’s had a lot of solo success in spite of Carol and the Inhumans, it’s easily arguable that she’d be better served with no connection to either of them.
Thankfully, Robbie Reyes avoids both of these issues, and part of why he’s “gotten over” so well with fans is his mostly amicable relationship with the other Ghost Riders. A major issue of the All-New, All-Different era was that too many characters’ introductions felt almost derisive toward their predecessors, who just so happened to be heroes that fans had come to love for decades beforehand. When juxtaposed to the somewhat “flawless” portrayals that some of these newcomers were given, it didn’t engender them to long-term success. So far, however, Robbie Reyes has been one of the more liked heroes from this time period, namely because he’s steeped in classic Marvel Comics tragedy. He’s both a good man in a bad situation and a just man wrestling with a monster inside, echoing what made heroes like Spider-Man and antiheroes like Hulk and Wolverine so successful. He may never come to truly replace Johnny Blaze or Danny Ketch, but with his own niche somewhat carved for him, that’s absolutely fine.
The Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider is a rarity among legacy superheroes, striking a balance of success that even Miles Morales hasn’t quite achieved. Read More