Ghost Rider: Marvel’s Funniest Antihero NOT in The MCU?

Fans of Marvel’s Cosmic Ghost Rider might love Frank Castle’s Deadpool-style humor, but most casual readers probably don’t know that despite their terrifying, demonic exteriors, almost all incarnations of the Spirit of Vengeance have their lighthearted, wacky moments. Which has us wondering: how is Ghost Rider not already bringing comedy to the MCU?

While most fans will know the Rider as a grim and serious servant of Hell, the character has evolved to be much, much more–with the two Ghost Rider brothers to claim the role now getting their own comic book series. Comic readers know it’s a sign Marvel is recognizing the star on their hands: deadly, frequently hilarious, compassionate… and even downright raunchy. Here are just a few things to prove Ghost Rider could give Deadpool a run for his money if he ever joined the MCU as Marvel’s funniest antihero.

During Danny Ketch’s time as the Ghost Rider, the Spirit of Vengeance shows he has plenty of Christmas spirit. In the weirdly touching story “Ghost of Christmas Present” from Marvel Holiday Special 1991, a blind 4-year old boy is kidnapped by a gang but manages to escape. Terrified and cold, the boy runs through a graveyard pleading for Santa to help him, only to be found by Ghost Rider. As the Spirit of Vengeance brutally takes out the boy’s kidnappers, the blind boy interprets the situation very differently, hearing the clink of Ghost Rider’s chain as sleigh bells and the roar of his motorcycle as the rumbling of hungry reindeer. Choosing not to shatter the boy’s illusion, Ghost Rider takes the grateful child for a ride on his motorcycle (which the boy perceives as Santa’s sleigh) and delivers him safely home.

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Apparently, the experience put Ghost Rider in a very festive mood, because just a couple years later in Marvel Holiday Special 1993, he meets and accidentally frightens a meek office worker named Harvey Teabiscuit. Apologizing for scaring “the innocent blood out of an innocent face,” Ghost Rider offers to have a talk with Harvey’s abusive boss and “convinces” him to give Harvey a raise, a bonus, and a vacation. Touched, Harvey invites Ghost Rider to his house for a holiday drink. An offer that horrifies his domineering mother when Ghost Rider actually shows up singing Christmas carols.

The superpowers of the Ghost Rider are essentially limitless, given that the hellfire the Spirit of Vengeance manipulates can basically do anything a human host imagines. Because of that, it’s only natural that many Ghost Riders choose to use them in creative, sometimes self-indulgent ways. The Ghost Rider Alejandra Jones once used her powers to manifest a skull-shaped cloud of desert sand just so she could look cool riding through it. Jones also put her own spin on Linda Blair’s famous vomiting scene in The Exorcist when she began spewing hellfire locusts out of her mouth to consume everything in her path.

Even the original Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze, often depicted as a tortured soul, enjoys fooling around with his supernatural powers. The poorly-reviewed (yet downright hilarious) 2007 Ghost Rider movie starring Nicolas Cage shows Blaze’s Ghost Rider screaming “Yee-haw!” as he lassos a police helicopter with his unbreakable chain, yanks it toward him, and informs the horrified cop inside, “You’re pissing me off!” In another scene, Ghost Rider outraces a squad of police cars by driving his hell cycle over a lake – but takes time to flip them the bird before making his getaway.

The best examples of Ghost Riders using their powers in bizarre ways, however, are the rides they conjure with their hellfire. Although most Ghost Riders drive some sort of demonic motorcycle (or “hell cycle”), others create even crazier rides. The alien Wileaydus Autolycus, who roams the galaxy as the futuristic Spirit of Vengeance in the Guardians of the Galaxy comic of the 1990s, has a flaming spacecraft-cycle that can somehow soar through the vacuum of outer space (not unlike the motorcycle used by DC’s Lobo).

In the Marvel Secret Wars series Ghost Racers (which shows multiple Ghost Rider slaves racing against each other in a gladiator-style drag race) Western-themed Ghost Rider Carter Slade forgoes the vehicle route entirely and transforms into a flaming zombie centaur with Gatling guns attached to his horse half. But perhaps the weirdest hellfire-spawned ride belongs to a prehistoric cave man Ghost Rider (aka “Ghost”), who uses his powers to ride a giant flaming mastodon.

In the 2011 movie Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (also starring Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze) a boy asks Blaze a question that’s likely been on many readers’ minds since the Ghost Rider first appeared in 1972: “What is it like to pee when you’re on fire?” Blaze’s answer? “Oh, it’s awesome. It’s like a flamethrower.” A funny answer… soon followed up with a scene of Ghost Rider literally incinerating a desert by spraying it with his flaming urine – pausing briefly to break the fourth wall and grin at the audience. The scene proved so popular that years later, Frank Castle’s Cosmic Ghost Rider offered his own version when he pees flames over his former master Thanos’ corpse in Thanos Legacy #1.

Surprisingly, however, urinating hellfire is not Ghost Rider’s raunchiest deed. That moment comes in an infamous issue of Marvel Illustrated: Swimsuit Issue. A parody of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Marvel Illustrated began initially as an excuse to draw Marvel superheroines like Rogue and She Hulk in skimpy swimwear. Other issues, however, had male superheroes like the Punisher, Namor the Submariner, and even Captain America get in the act. When it comes time for Ghost Rider to strut his stuff, however, the Spirit of Vengeance chooses to give the “Full Ghosty,” posing as a stark-naked flaming skeleton, and granting Ghost Rider the dubious distinction of being the only Marvel superhero to engage in full frontal nudity.

With a planned Ghost Rider TV show starring Robbie Reyes’ version of the Spirit of Vengeance from Agents of Shield confirmed to be dead, fans may have to wait before Ghost Rider shows up in the MCU again. This does, however, offer producers a chance to build a new incarnation of Ghost Rider–possibly one that acknowledges Ghost Rider’s funny side. While movies like Ghost Rider and Spirit of Vengeance drew mixed reviews for their offbeat portrayal of the antihero, one can’t ignore that comedy–and even some occasional silliness–are an inescapable part of Ghost Rider’s character. Horror is at its most effective when counterbalanced with laughter, after all, and an ideal MCU depiction of Ghost Rider will find the right balance between these two extremes. Deadpool: you’re on notice.

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