Monday, November 07, 2016

Real Name: Johnny Blaze
First Appearance: Marvel Spotlight #5 (August, 1972)
Fight Club Ranking: #97

Featured Fights:
- vs TRAPSTER: Marvel Team-Up #58 (Jun 1977)
- vs AVENGERS: Avengers #214 (Dec 1981)
- vs GHOST RIDER: Ghost Rider #29 (Jan 2009)

The way I see it, Marvel Entertainment has a real bittersweet problem on its hands. They have a pretty good Ghost Rider show trapped in the body of a pretty terrible Agents of SHIELD show!

The addition of all-new Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes has been a bright spark in an otherwise abysmal run of TV; now in its fourth season. The visual alone has been a rare incentive to sit through weeks of meandering! Alas; as they stretch their plots across an entire season, and clumsily dangle Ghost Rider at every commercial break, the novelty begins to wear increasingly thin!

Fortunately for the show they still have another ace in the hole! In recent weeks, eagle-eyed (or very bored) fans have spotted one or two background elements alluding to another Ghost Rider. Carnival posters and motorcycles have built up to this week's flaming backstory cameo by: Johnny Blaze!

You can always count on the image of the Ghost Rider to provide an instant thrill. Flaming skulls and motorcycles are cool! The details of the story - a little less pleasing...

Gone is the unique Robbie Reyes origin we praised in comic books. Instead, gang violence strikes like happenstance, throwing Reyes from the driver's seat of a late night cruise with his younger brother. As he flies through the air, Reyes fears for his brother's life, praying to 'anyone who would listen' to ensure his safety. The arrival of a motorcycle signals the now crippled boy's rescue from the overturned car. The price paid by Robbie Reyes is resurrection at the hands of the Ghost Rider.

It's worth noting it's never explicitly stated that this is Johnny Blaze - a get-out-of-jail should they ever decide to do more with the character(s).

Much of the brief scene is obscured by scenery as it's told from different perspectives: an exercise in killing time (and interest). The flaming skull of the motorcyclist is only on screen for a few seconds. Perhaps it's Dan Ketch - perhaps it doesn't really matter.

You don't get the overwhelming sense the character is coming back in any meaningful way. Even with the bad taste of the Nicholas Cage movies still in people's mouths, the "real" Ghost Rider has to be considered a viable property for something bigger than this. A rousing ride of the Ghost Riders in the season finale might be a possibility. Another cameo by a CG visage alleviating the pressure of casting Marvel Entertainment's version of this important character.

It would be great if all of this was building to the launch of something better. Ghost Rider would be at home on the streets of Netflix, especially once  Iron Fist escalates the martial mysticism found in early episodes of Daredevil. Not that they've got the magic touch to do everything right. Cinema is still an obvious outlet for the character, whose Hell stained world could benefit from bigger budgets, even if Agents of SHIELD is proof positive of how well the character can be made for TV.

So far ABC has only shown interest in some of the least remarkable extensions of the Marvel Universe. Agent Carter, while sweet and earnest, put the blandness of Agents of SHIELD in a period dress and called it a day. Mockingbird should've remained incorporated into other projects. Ditching bland secret agents for a Ghost Rider series with Reyes, Blaze and characters like cop turned skullhead Michael Badilino (aka; Vengeance), would be a breath of fresh air. I'm not sure if ABC, Disney and America is ready to put Hell in prime time, but stranger things are happening.

It's been fun to see the flaming wheels in motion. That's enough to make Johnny Blaze our Hero of the Week! The dark magic of the character is an extension of Marvel's Doctor Strange - now in theatres! You can find plenty more mystic mayhem with him in November updates on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, and by diving into the records of the Issue Index!

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