"Hell hath no fury like a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle."
Ghost Rider is one of the earlier 'thriller' heroes of the Marvel Universe, as in, heroes that deal with the underworld baddies like demons and the likes of Mephisto. The premise is basically: Badass Biker with a Flaming Skull for a Head. There are two famous Ghost Riders in the universe that the audience knows.
The first is Johnathon 'Johnny' Blaze, who first appeared in "Marvel Spotlight" #5 (August, 1972). A stunt motorcyclist who trained under his dead father's friend Craig 'Crash' Simpson. He also became the fiancee of Crash's daughter Roxanne. His mother was alive, as well, but she abandoned him, taking away his brother Daniel and sister Barbara. Due to the abandonment, Johnny tended to suppress the memory about them, so it would seem life would be good for him...
Until one event where Johnny slipped off on his motorcycle stunt training, costing the life of Crash's wife, a mother figure to Johnny. This caused Johnny to swear off motorcycling, and deteriorated his relationship with Crash as Johnny refused to take public stunts, preferring to train in the shadows. Then, Crash revealed that he had cancer, but even then Johnny still refused. Trying to find a way out of his impasse, Johnny turned to the occult and eventually learned of a spell that could summon Satan. That spell summoned Mephisto (though it has recently been retconned to be Lucifer who made the deal with Johnny), whom Johnny asked to cure Crash's cancer. Mephisto upheld his bargain and cured Crash...
... only to have him dead in an accident at the very next stunt he performed.
Obviously, Mephisto demanded Johnny hold to his bargain and agree to become his slave... except Roxanne did a Big Damn Heroes and expelled Mephisto with The Power of Love. Unfortunately, Mephisto already bonded Johnny with the spirit of Zarathos, a vengeful demon (angel after the retcon) that he defeated in the past, turning him into the Ghost Rider. Both souls defied Mephisto, but eventually came to clash in who was to have control of the body. After much struggling, Johnny managed to seal the spirit of Zarathos and live in peace. For a short while, at least, until the next Ghost Rider appeared...
The second Ghost Rider is Daniel Ketch, actually the half-brother of Johnny Blaze. He first appeared in "Ghost Rider" vol. 2 #1 (May, 1990). When attacked by thugs to protect his sister Barbara, a touch to his sister's pendant suddenly bonded him with a spiritKale, turning him into the new Ghost Rider. Johnny took note of this and eventually became Dan's Big Brother Mentor of sorts in his adventures.
However, both Johnny and Danny eventually found themselves at odds and the two Ghost Riders clashed in battle. Meanwhile, an angel called Zadkiel was taking advantage of events on Earth for his own plans.
It's eventually revealed that the Ghost Rider has quite another origin from what Johnny and Danny were told: the Spirits of Vengeance are black-ops agents for Heaven, and there have been multiple Spirits across the cultures of the world since Biblical times. Thanks to Zadkiel, though, there are now only two - Johnny and Danny. And it's down to them to stop Zadkiel's ultimate scheme...
As of 2011, Johnny Blaze has officially given up the mantle of the Ghost Rider, letting Alejandra become the new host of the Spirit of Vengeance.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Skin Bender pesters John Blaze into becoming Ghost Rider, which she says is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.
- Affably Evil: Hoss, a redneck demon who hunts down other demons and wayward souls is pretty polite, even to the souls of victims he killed. He also tries to make Ghost Rider's stay in hell more pleasant.
- Amazon Brigade: H.E.A.R.T.
- Ancient Artifact: Two of the spirits of vengeance were bound to two shards of a medallion at one point. Dan Ketch met the caretaker because it was his job to keep an eye on the thing. It no longer drives any plots, having served its purpose but Caretaker stuck around. Also, Centurious had an item called the crystal of souls.
- And I Must Scream: Ghost Rider attempts to put Scarecrow in this state by breaking all his bones and twisting his limbs in a way that would have insured he never healed properly.
- Anti Christ: Anton Satan, Aka Kid Blackheart, claims to be the antichrist. He has human parents but claims his father is the devil. Daimon Hellstrom is the son of a demon lord who intended for him to be the antichrist but he has no desire to be one. Anton and Daimon don't like each other.
- Anti-Hero: As a Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze ended up Type IV when Zarathos gained more control and Dan Ketch is Type III.
- Anti-Hero Substitute: In the 90s there was a short time when they tried to replace Ghost Rider with his Darker and Edgier counterpart and ex-enemy, Vengeance. Obviously, it didn't work, because you can't make somebody so dark much darker without coming out as ridiculous.
- Badass Biker
- Badass Longcoat: Danny Ketch dons one as Ghost Rider once he gets out from under Zadkiel's thumb.
- Badass Normal: Johnny Blaze after he gets rid of the spirit of Zarathos. He later becomes a Badass Abnormal due to some Cyborging.
- Badass Preacher: Sister Sara.
- Bat Family Crossover: Back in the 90s, there were four series that were launched by an arc called Rise of the Midnight Sons (Not surprisingly, Ghost Rider got two of the issues in that arc). The names of these series were Spirits of Vengeance, Morbius, Nightstalkers and Darkhold. There was also a comic that came out called Midnight Sons Unlimited, which came out once every four months. The two crossovers that happened between all of these series were Midnight Massacre and Siege of Darkness. Siege of Darkness is an interesting case since it also had two issues of Doctor Strange and four issues of Marvel Comics Presents in it. It ended in the fourth issue of Midnight Sons Unlimited, which led into Vengeance becoming the new Ghost Rider for four issues. Whew.
- Blessed with Suck: Snowblind, a drug dealer granted super powers, which among super human strength, generating blinding light and resistance to psychic powers, allowed him to see. Unfortunately, to use some of his powers he had to use them all, and being able to see made him prey to Ghost Rider's Penance stare. Something he'd never have to worry about if he stayed blind and no, "psychic power resistance" did not help. Being a drug dealer is bad enough but he's worked for both Deathwatch and Blackheart, pretty much ensuring he will run into a Ghost Rider.
- Body Horror: Skinbender's specialty.
- Bounty Hunter: Ghost Riders are sometimes forced to work as these for hell, including Blaze once. Hoss serves as one for Hell full time and Ruth does for heaven. The three have worked together when they surprisingly found they had the same targets like Kazann.
- Breeding Cult:Project Blackheart collected and paired up the most evil human beings it could find in hopes they would produce an antichrist after enough generations. Anton Satan is supposedly the closest they got to their goal before Zadkiel destroyed it.
- Call It Karma: The Penance Stare. If you look into GR's eyes while he's within an arm's reach of you, he can force you to experience every iota of pain you ever inflicted on others without cause in your entire life. Your average hood just realizes he should go home and rethink his life. A Complete Monster will be reduced to a vegetable - unless they don't have a soul. The latter means GR just slaughters them with his bare hands.
- Notable exception is a religious fanatic in service of Zadakiel, who has no supernatural means to protect himself from Penance Stare, yet remained unaffected - his fanaticism was so strong even experiencing every single atrocity he ever committed couldn't make him realize he is anything but God's holy warrior.
- Casting a Shadow: Blackout, so named because his power involves suppressing sources of light and creating darkness. Some things are too much for him to handle though, like Ghost Rider's hellfire body.
- Celestial Paragons and Archangels:Uri-El, a pretty good guy, was the first of these we were introduced to. Others like Malachi and Zadkiel turned evil. Ruth is completely detached from the people she's supposed to be defending but hasn't gone far enough out of line to be demoted yet. The black hosts are mostly good and even save the Ghost Rider once when he was in trouble but some of them remain loyal to their superiors, even after they have Fallen Angel.
- Chain Pain: In the original comics, a magical flaming chain manifests when Johnny Blaze or Dan Ketch transform into Ghost Rider.
- Chekhov's Gunman: One of Deathwatch's ninja Mooks in the third issue of 90s Ghost Rider.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: There was a decent enough reason in the story for Dan Ketch ended up bonded to a different spirit of vengeance but the real reason was so that the readers would have an easier time telling him and Blaze apart during the heaven arc.
- Cool Bike: One of the most triumphant examples. It's interesting to note that Johnny and Danny's bikes are of wildly different designs, yet are actually fairly on par when it comes to looking cool - Johnny's is of the Harley mold popular in the time the character was created, while Danny's is much more modern and in general much bulkier.
- A witch helped Blaze create his(in an attempt to lure him to Mephisto) while Danny's changed with him.
- Creator Provincialism: Played mostly straight until the recent series where the new caretaker tells Johnny that every country has its own version of Ghost Rider. That is, until Danny went and took them all.
- Crossover: Ghost Rider usually keeps to his own corner of the Marvel Universe, but Danny has been known as a member of "the New Fantastic Four", a brief replacement for the real FF made up of Marvel's most popular heroes: himself, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Hulk. Recently there's a crossover with Alejandra, Venom (the Flash Thompson version), Red Hulk, and X-23 in an obvious New FF tribute.
- Will finally be joining Capcom vs. Whatever in the Updated Rerelease of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Similarly to Doctor Strange, some of Ghost Rider's enemies popped up in the series long before hand. Blackheart appeared in three titles and an In Name Only Palette Swap version of Mephitso appeared in one of the games.
- Cyborg: Plenty of those in the 90s issues.
- In Marvel 2099 timeline, this includes a cybernetic version of the Ghost Rider itself!
- Damsel in Distress: Roxanne Simpson's role in the earlier issues.
- Dark Is Not Evil
- Deal with the Devil: Many, most are done with Mephisto but there are no shortage of evil people and things trying to manipulate whoever they can contact.
- Death Glare/Eye Beams: The Penance Stare (depending on how it's depicted), which inflicts its victims with all the pain that they have inflicted on the innocent. Unlike most Death Glares, it can kill if the target has caused enough pain and suffering on others. Those who live are sometimes demoralized enough to wish they had. In the 90's Fantastic Four cartoon, Ghost Rider floored Galactus with it.
- And yet, in another story, trying to use the Penance Stare on Venom caused it to backfire, because... well, apparently just because of Venom's alien costume. Go figure.
- Death Seeker: Suicide and Death Ninja.
- Demon Lords and Archdevils:Many of the villains belong in this category, Ba'al, Lucifer, Mephisto, Blackheart and Lilith being some of the more notable ones. Nightmare may or may not be one of these but apparently has raped one and is an enemy of the Ghost Riders.
- Demonic Possession: All manners of it. John Blaze and Zarathos were a case where the "demon" wanted out of the human as much as the human wanted it out while Mephisto sat back and laughed.
- Everyone Hates Hades: Pluto is a villain in Marvel and part of the shared universe Ghost Rider lives in. It was only a matter of time before they clashed. Nobel Kale also fought the furies a couple times, but in that case they weren't portrayed as malicious villains so much as being really bad at their jobs.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Centurious' flunkie Carver is always accompanied by his cyborg monkey.
- Evil Albino: Blackout and a lot of his lilin family. Their mother Lilith too.
- Evil Tastes Good: Deathwatch was a crime lord, who instead of eating food, fed upon other people's misery. His favorite was the pain of death.
- Fad Super: Early on Ghost Rider was heavily associated with motorcycle stunt riding, popular back in 1972 when he was created, and also an early forerunner of the horror comics fad Marvel was into at the time.
- Fiery Redhead: Sister Sara.
- Flaming Skulls
- For Science!: The crime lord Anton Hellgate tried to experiment on Ghost Rider and Vengeance for this reason. In the end it got him killed by Vengeance, twice.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Eli and his son Quinn.
- God Is Good: Ultimately, as well as loving and patient.
- Good Is Not Nice: The spirits of vengeance who star obviously, especially Zarathos. Also applies to Ruth.
- Green Lantern Corps: After the Heaven retcon. It makes sense when you think about it.
- Hellfire: Ghost Rider exacts his vengeance on evil with this.
- Henshin Hero: All the Ghost Riders have a normal human form and can only access their powers when transformed into a Spirit of Vengeance.
- Heroic Dolphins: Ghost Rider was saved from a killer shark by dolphins.
- Hero with Bad Publicity:Possibly every Ghost Rider, but Dan Ketch had the worst publicity considering he was one of the nicer Ghost Riders.
- Hollywood Satanism: The comic does at least does mention that not all satanists fit the Hollywood stereotype, but you'll hardly ever see the harmless variety and if you do, they will be quickly killed off by or converted into the Hollywood type. Satan a contested title in Marvel world anyway, there have been brief periods where a good person held the title.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Water Wizard's powers were worthless against Ghost Rider, who didn't even pay him attention in most encounters. It took an ill fated deal with the Evil Sorcerer Moondark before he finally realized his time and resources were better spent doing something besides bothering Ghost Rider. Too bad his more practical activities got Ghost Rider's attention and motivated the spirit of vengeance to punish him for real.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting: Initially John Blaze would only, but always, become a Ghost Rider at night. Later his changes became more random and unpredictable before gaining some measure of control. Dan Ketch would always and only become a Ghost Rider when innocent blood was split around him until Caretaker helped him get over the limitation.
- Johnny McCoolname: Johnny Blaze. "John Blaze" is a slang term meaning "cool", but became such long after the character's creation.
- Like a Badass Out of Hell:Continually subverted, Asmodeus kicks the Blaze/Zarathos Ghost Rider out his realm because Ghost Rider was enjoying kicking his ass. Mephisto and Lucifer used the escape for their realms to further their own goals(in different ways). Nobel Kale also gets kicked out of hell because the demons found him to be too benevolent when he took over.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body
- Muscles Are Meaningless: Ghost Rider is mostly hellfire, clothing and bones yet has great strength and toughness.
- My Horse Is a Motorbike
- Name's the Same: Initially, in the late 40s, there was a western comic book character called Ghost Rider, who later had his own Marvel published magazine in the 60s. After the introduction of the modern Ghost Rider in the 70s, the character was renamed Night Rider and then Phantom Rider - though this was after a few clumsy attempts to integrate him into the Ghost Rider mythos properly.
- Blackheart the demon, the Blackheart project started by the evil monks or the kid who calls himself Blackheart? Anton Satan or Anton Hellgate? Best not confuse Lucifer, Lilith or Ba'al with characters from other marvel series either.
- Nigh Invulnerable: Ghost Rider fairly early on was portrayed as extremely difficult to kill, though it took Johnny Blaze at least some time to realize this. Bullets harmlessly pass through his skeletal form, superhuman punches just end up smashing against his unbreakable bones, and he has no organs, blood, or skin to make bruise and bleed, giving him effectively limitless combat stamina, so while he CAN be tossed around and beaten up, it just doesn't really do any long-term damage. However mystically-based attacks can and do hurt him. Unfortunately most of his enemies are as mystically oriented as himself.
- Ninja: Deathwatch employs them to get his lost chemical weapons back but the Dan Ketch Ghost Rider makes short work of them. The Kingpin and Lady Bullseye use magic to summon the John Blaze Ghost Rider and send to Japan hoping he will hinder the Hand Ninjas for them. Unfortunately they send him into a binding spell.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: A leather-clad skeleton on fire who rode a motorcycle made of flames. And that was just the first incarnation of the character.
- Our Spirits Are Different: All the Ghost Riders except for John Blaze/Zarathos are vengeance spirits with human hosts. Zarathos manipulated the spirits of vengeance into helping him against his rival, Mephisto. Mephisto forced Zarathos to live like a Ghost Rider when the spirits wised up and deserted him. He eventually comes to like it though.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Nigh Terror had the ability to see a person's memories by drinking their blood.
- Painful Transformation: Complete with Transformation Trauma.
- Phlebotinum Rebel
- Playing with Fire
- Polly Wants a Microphone:Mister Eleven, a talking crow. There have been talking crows in real life but it was still suspicious, as it was trying to take advantage of Dan Ketch's depression. It ended up leading him to Zadkiel.
- Post Modern Magic: Ghost Riders have triumphed over things such as enchanted drills designed to penetrate spirit barriers, demonic truck driving human traffickers and Well Intentioned Extremists trying to rid the Earth of sin by blasting it with hellfire from a space station.
- In some cases, anything The Ghost Rider utilizes is warped by his essence into something befitting his power. This extends from what he rides to what he weaponizes.
- Prophetic Name: Johnny Blaze.
- Redheaded Hero: Johnny Blaze.
- Retcon: A pretty bad case. First Blaze gets a whole new bunch of relatives he didn't know he had, then even the origin of the Ghost Riders is completely changed. And let's not get even started on whether it was Satan, Mephisto, or Lucifer, or all of them, who was behind everything.
- Scissors Cuts Rock: The Ghost Rider manages to defeat water-based powers with his fiery abilities since he can both make fire hot enough to evaporate water and hell fire, which doesn't need air. Some opponents have used some unnatural water sources to counter him though. Such as when Water Wizard got his powers enhanced by an evil sorcerer.
- Secret Legacy: It was kept secret from John Blaze and Dan Ketch specifically because their mother didn't want any of her kids taking up the mantel, which happened anyway, despite her efforts.
- Serial Killer: Icebox Bob, an undead serial killer.
- Shotguns Are Just Better: Blaze has a hellfire shotgun.
- Shovel Strike: Specialty of the Caretaker.
- Skull for a Head: One that's on fire, no less.
- Spikes of Villainy: Vengeance and Buttview.
- Story-Breaker Power: Ghost Riders are not the most crossover friendly guys. First Blaze "only" lifted between 5-25 tons and "only" shot hellfire, summoned an uncannily fast wall climbing motorcycle and generated hellfire which undead and Physical Gods could shake off(good luck to anything else). Then Ketch had the penance, extending chain and undead killing fire. By Reborn Again a host-less spirit was breaking apart the streets of New York by accidentally cracking its chain too hard. Blaze later pulled a train without noticing, without even using the full power of the Ghost Rider.
- Strong as They Need to Be:Originally, the idea for the Dan Ketch Ghost Rider was to become more powerful than the Blaze version he replaced. This happened and all was good. Then Blaze Rider came back and was for some reason, just as strong as the powered up Danny.
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: He can't drown and water can't put out hellfire.
- Tank Goodness:Subverted. Ghost Rider's motor cycle splits it in half without even slowing down.
- Terror Hero: Type 4 and 5.
- Talking Is a Free Action
- The Drifter: Naomi, Blaze and Dan have all become one when the burden of being a Ghost Rider got a little depressing.
- The Order: The Blood, ancient defenders of the Earth who at one point fought alongside the spirits of vengeance. One of their modern descendents is the Caretaker.
- The Syndicate: Like many gang related villains, Deathwatch wanted to be the Kingpin of Crime. Ghost Rider kept getting in his way of course.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: The Dan Ketch version only.
- Vapor Trail
- Variable-Length Chain: Dan Ketch's weapon of choice as a Ghost Rider.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Because the Penance Stare's ability to cause pain is so powerful, it has several of these. If the victim has more than two eyes, or are blind, Ghost Rider can't use it on them. It won't hurt people who do not have souls and if they can't actually feel pain it is worthless. It also will not work on lords of hell. And if the target has a penance stare too, he'll get it right back. It also backfires or is completely ineffective against the insane and those who are bonded with a symbiote. Ghost Rider's strong enough to beat most targets regardless but these at least make him do more than look at an opponent disapprovingly to beat him.