ByTom Bacon, writer at Creators.co
I'm a film-and-TV fan who grew up with a deep love of superhero comics! Follow me on Twitter @TomABacon or on Facebook @tombaconsuperheroes!
Tom Bacon

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 has wasted no time diving into the supernatural - with the #MCU debut of a classic superhero, #GhostRider! Although the concept of 'Ghost Rider' was first created in 1972, Marvel Entertainment surprised us all by focusing in on the newest incarnation of the character, Robbie Reyes. A handful of episodes in, we now know exactly why #Marvel made this choice...

Here are three reasons!

1. Robbie Reyes Fits With the Themes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Our first glimpse of Robbie Reyes! Image: ABC
Our first glimpse of Robbie Reyes! Image: ABC

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.

An unforgettable moment! Image: ABC
An unforgettable moment! Image: ABC

Marvel hasn't just introduced us to Robbie Reyes's Ghost Rider. Instead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has focused relentlessly upon the wider Reyes family, with Lorenzo James Henrie playing Robbie's increasingly important younger brother, Gabe. José Zúñiga's Eli Morrow has been carefully reinvented to fit the show's plot. Still a deadly sociopath, he's no longer a ghost — but may well prove to be the most dangerous threat S.H.I.E.L.D. has ever faced.

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 and his supporting characters have been perfectly integrated into the themes and ideas that underpin the series.

2. There Are No Limits to the Character's Potential Plots!

Robbie Reyes is in the house! Image: Marvel Comics
Robbie Reyes is in the house! Image: Marvel Comics

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.

Image: Marvel Comics
Image: Marvel Comics

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

An iconic moment. Image: Marvel Studios
An iconic moment. Image: Marvel Studios

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.

See also:

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!

This brilliant poster for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Image: ABC
This brilliant poster for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! Image: ABC