Marvel’s Ghost Rider legacy includes iconic figures like Johnny Blaze, but others like Frank Castle and the Hood have also carried the torch.
Doctor Strange’s Las Vegas mishap led to the Avengers becoming Spirits of Vengeance, showcasing the complexities of their powers and alliances.
The Cosmic Ghost Rider, portrayed by Frank Castle, has taken on universe-altering tasks and raised eyebrows with his wild and hard-to-follow career.

There is no question that Johnny Blaze is the most iconic of all the Spirits of Vengeance to grace the pages of Marvel Comics. That being said, Marvel’s original Ghost Rider is far from the only one of his kind in terms of his place as a hero and the very particular space he inhabits in the wider Marvel Universe.

While the fact that there have been numerous Ghost Riders throughout Marvel history may not come as any surprise, some of the specific figures who have had that burden thrust upon them certainly do. Not only have some of the biggest names in pop culture had their time to shine as a Spirit of Vengeance, but most of them had no say in the matter when that time came, nor did they have any idea how much worse their respective situations would get because of it.

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2018’s Doctor Strange: Damnation (by Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, and Rod Reis) was an infernal epic in every sense, bringing about literal Hell on Earth from within the heart of Sin City itself. Following the widespread destruction caused by Hydra during their global takeover in 2017’s Secret Empire event, Doctor Strange took it upon himself to undo the damage as best he could. In magically reverting Las Vegas to its previous state, the Sorcerer Supreme unwittingly manifested the Hotel Inferno on Earth and its resident King of Hell – Mephisto.

Despite Doctor Strange’s best attempts to then undo the further damage he had caused due to his lack of foresight, Mephisto wasn’t willing to give up the prime real estate he had acquired. Not only did Mephisto set about stealing away the souls of nearly everyone in Las Vegas for even the smallest of sins, but he enlisted the help of numerous Spirits of Vengeance to safeguard his stronghold.

Soon enough, Captain Marvel, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Panther, and the Falcon were all bearing blazing skulls. Worse still, Doctor Strange joined their ranks when he tried to cheat Mephisto in a game for the city’s fate. Between the powers they already wielded and their newfound infernal abilities, these Avengers were more than the Midnight Sons could handle on their own. It was only thanks to Johnny Blaze assuming the throne of Hell in Mephisto’s absence that the heroes were freed from their demonic transformations, and if he hadn’t, they likely never would have been.

5 Frank Castle Redefined Spirits of Vengeance as Marvel’s Cosmic Ghost Rider

2017’s Thanos #13 (by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, and Antonio Fabela) marked a turning point for the stories of numerous Marvel fan favorites, and not just the titular Mad Titan. While the issue introduced the future version of Thanos known as the Final King or King Thanos, it also introduced a version of Ghost Rider who had survived Thanos’ wrath, the coming of Galactus, and an entire lifetime as the most lethal man in the Marvel Universe, Frank Castle.

As it was soon enough revealed, this Cosmic Ghost Rider from the not-so-far-flung future was none other than the Punisher himself. In this Frank Castle’s native timeline, Thanos prevailed over the Avengers and annihilated all life on Earth. In contrast, the Punisher was allowed to go back and right that wrong as best he could as Mephisto’s then-latest Ghost Rider. Instead, Frank worked alongside King Thanos, helping to bring the Mad Titan and his younger self together in the first of several mind-boggling plots the Cosmic Ghost Rider would be a part of.

Since then, the Cosmic Ghost Rider has raised a baby Thanos of his own, stared down the death of entire histories, and faced off against severed aspects of himself given physical form. He has also remained consistently underrated, if only for how wildly hard to follow his career as the Cosmic Ghost Rider has been.


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While the Midnight Sons and Avengers waged war against one another in the pages of mainline Damnation titles, the 2018 crossover’s Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider #17 (by Peter David, William Sliney, and Rachelle Rosenberg) tie-ins dragged not one, but two clones of Peter Parker into the infernal action for themselves. For Ben Reilly, then operating under the mantle of the Scarlet Spider, this wasn’t any surprise, especially not when Las Vegas was where he had made a home for himself.

On the other hand, it was a decidedly drastic turn for Kaine Parker, mostly because he hadn’t made the trip expecting to become a Ghost Rider for his troubles. As Ben fought tirelessly to help avert the complete and total destruction of Las Vegas, he was forced to do so while a possessed Kaine honed in on him and only him. Though the two had a decent enough working relationship at the time, there were still plenty of old wounds and bad blood between them for Mephisto’s dark influence to exploit.

Coupled with Ben’s open defiance of Mephisto’s reign and the deal with the devil he backed out on, the Ghost Rider within Kaine had every reason to seek the Scarlet Spider out specifically. Fortunately, some well-timed holy water was enough to drive the demon out of Kaine’s body, even if doing so opened the door for many uncomfortable questions about what the Scarlet Spider was up to by bargaining with Mephisto in the first place.

General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross has easily had one of the most unexpected trajectories of any classic Marvel character. Originally the primary antagonist of Bruce Banner’s Hulk and one of the sternest military leaders in the pages of Marvel Comics, the character’s revelation as the man behind the once enigmatic Red Hulk shook readers to their core.

2012’s Venom #14 (by Rick Remender, Tony Moore, and Val Staples) pushed Ross’ story even further into awesome, albeit abjectly absurd, territory by bringing him closer to his Circle of Four teammates than ever before. During an ongoing effort against Mephisto’s demonic offspring, Blackheart, the heroes were tasked with getting Johnny Blaze’s old Spirit of Vengeance back to him so he could call upon the powers of the Ghost Rider again.

In the process, the team came under fire from Blackheart directly, forcing them to take drastic action to complete their mission, let alone escape Hell in one piece. Seeing the team’s biggest member as their best shot at success, Flash left his symbiote in the hands of the Red Hulk, with the Ghost Rider Alejandra following suit with her own dark passenger in turn. This culminated in one of the most short-lived yet infinitely memorable character mash-ups of all time, not to mention what might be the most fiery Hulk to date.

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Apart from all the human and mutant-born horrors that the Marvel Universe has thrown at him over the years, the X-icon, best known as Wolverine, has dealt with more than his fair share of ghastly foes and demonic villains. Wolverine has even been the subject of his very own demonic possession on more than one occasion. 2023’s Ghost Rider/Wolverine: Weapons of Vengeance Omega (by Benjamin Percy, Geoff Shaw, and Rain Beredo) completely changed everything Wolverine thought he knew about the kind of powers Hell has to offer, or at the very least what they can do.

At the time, Johnny Blaze and Logan were following the same road toward Hell on Earth in the form of a supposed desert race with a deal with the devil waiting for the first one across the finish line. Along the way, the Ghost Rider was preyed upon by a demonic parasite that burrowed deep within him and engorged itself on his festering wounds. When the demon began exerting control over Johnny, he knew the only way to stop it was to cut the infection out, and Wolverine was just the one to do it.

Rather than becoming a Ghost Rider unto himself, Wolverine’s claws were imbued with the Ghost Rider’s Hellfire, which he used to perform what might be the most gruesome exorcism ever featured in the pages of Marvel Comics.

Although Johnny Blaze has served as Marvel Comics’ premier Ghost Rider for more than fifty years at this point, the time has come for him and the demon Zarathos to part ways, albeit through no fault of his own. As seen in the pages of Ghost Rider: Final Vengeance #1 (by Benjamin Percy, Danny Kim, Bryan Valenza, and VC’s Travis Lanham), it is by the will of Mephisto that Johnny has been abandoned by his resident Spirit of Vengeance.

Zarathos then left the latter to traverse the planet for a new host. Despite touching down within the bodies of numerous deserving figures such as Kraven the Hunter and Danger, the demon Zarathos takes up residence within the body of none other than Parker Robbins, aka the Hood. Once an unremarkable kid with a dangerous obsession with supervillains, Parker scrounged his way into power through various stolen tech and artifacts. Eventually, Parker happened across the eponymous Hood, who helped make him into the mystically enhanced underworld crime boss he is today.

As hard as it is to imagine what good the Hood could do as a Spirit of Vengeance, it is even harder to imagine that Mephisto was hoping Zarathos would do any in the first place, making his new position in the Marvel Universe that much more concerning.

Ghost Rider: Final Vengeance

WHO IS THE NEW SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE? Johnny Blaze was bonded with the Spirit of Vengeance. Unwilling to be a monster, Johnny used this demon from Hell to do good as the Ghost Rider. But heroism isn’t what the Rider was meant for. So who will be the new Spirit of Vengeance? And what will it mean for the Marvel Universe? Find out in this extra-sized first issue by writer Benjamin Percy and hot new art sensation Danny Kim!

“}]] Johnny Blaze is far from Marvel’s only Ghost Rider, although there have been more than a few who fans might recognize at first glance.  Read More