With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 due to launch on September 20th, fans are eagerly anticipating the #MCU debut of a classic superhero — #GhostRider! Although the concept of 'Ghost Rider' was first created in 1972, Marvel Entertainment has surprised us all by using the newest incarnation of the character, Robbie Reyes. The vast majority of fans are excited, but others are sceptical, and some are pretty frustrated that they won't be seeing the classic Johnny Blaze character. Why has #Marvel made this choice?
Here are three reasons!
1. Robbie Reyes Fits With the Themes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jeph Loeb explained that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is about family.
"I know that it looks like a show about a bunch of spies that are running around on a big, giant plane that are saving the world every week, but it really is about a group of people who come together because they have no one else in their lives. When you watch the show from that point of view, you really understand that Coulson (Clark Gregg) is a father figure, and these people around him are people he needs to look after and make sure they're OK."
You can see this when you look at specific character arcs; for example, Chloe Bennett's Quake started out as an orphan, found a family in S.H.I.E.L.D., and ultimately chose S.H.I.E.L.D. over her biological family. Brett Dalton's Grant Ward betrayed the family, tearing them apart. Elizabeth Henstridge's Simmons and Iain De Caestecker's Fitz gave us a "will-they-won't-they" arc over 3 seasons (finally, we got an answer of 'they will'!). The recurring theme is that of family.
Where the other Ghost Riders have largely been solitary, Robbie Reyes's Ghost Rider is family-focused. In the comics, he's responsible for looking after his developmentally challenged brother, Gabe. The vengeance spirit that possesses him is actually a murderer called Eli Morrow — Robbie's uncle. The theme of family is central to this character.
Viewed from a thematic perspective, Marvel's decision makes perfect sense. Marvel hasn't just included Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on a whim. Instead, Robbie Reyes has specifically been chosen because he dovetails perfectly with the themes and ideas underpinning the series.
2. There Are No Limits to the Character's Potential Plots!
As both DC and Marvel have learned, when you use an iconic characters, there's a real sense of expectation around them. Fans run through a sort of 'mental checklist' in their heads, looking for major plots and key characteristics they want to see adapted. Every scene is tested against the fans' preconceived ideas of how the character should look and feel.
In using a lesser-known (and lesser-published) version of the character, Marvel avoids all that. To date, Robbie has only starred in one series (no surprise, another is due to launch, aiming to capitalize on all the attention the character's just got). His only major arc is really his origin story. He's had a few guest appearances, but that's about it. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can use the character in any way, and it will be fresh and original — without any complaints that the series isn't respecting the source material.
As Executive Producer Maurissa Tancharoen explained:
"People are familiar with Johnny Blaze. Robbie Reyes is a new iteration of the character. There's not a lot of material on the character so it gives us a lot of room to have our take on it."
I'm not really surprised Marvel found this to be an exciting opportunity.
3. Marvel Don't Do Repeats
We're used to the idea of superhero reboots, but Marvel actually try to repeat as little possible. Don't believe me? Marvel avoided repeating the Hulk's origin story, which had been told in 2003's Hulk; they also chose to skip Spider-Man's famous origin, introducing him as a superhero in Captain America: Civil War. I think it's safe to say that, given the choice, Marvel avoid repeats.
This meant we were never particularly likely to see Johnny Blaze's Ghost Rider on the big screen. Played by Nicolas Cage, Jonny Blaze has already been the star of two films, and 2007's Ghost Rider did a fair job of portraying his origin.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Marvel took another route entirely. I'll be watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 like a hawk, looking for anything to suggest that Ghost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance have actually been absorbed into the MCU's canon.
- Exploring Quake's Character Journey in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
- Everything You Need to Know About Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!
- Who is Robbie Reyes's Ghost Rider?
Although some fans still wish Marvel had chosen to use Johnny Blaze, the reality is that Robbie Reyes fits far better with the themes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He's a relatively unexplored character, giving Marvel a lot of freedom and flexibility, and his story has never been translated on to film or TV before. It's pretty clear Marvel has made a smart choice, and we'll soon see whether or not that's paid off...
Are you looking forward to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4? Let me know in the comments!