In the upcoming season four of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Marvel will debuting a new screen version of Ghost Rider, the Spirit of Vengeance, played by Gabriel Luna. This plan has been met with interesting responses from fans. Some welcome the long-awaited (re)introduction of the beloved and iconic character while others feel that Marvel is going about it entirely the wrong way -- the criticism being that Ghost Rider doesn't really belong on Agents of S.HI.E.L.D and deserves a more fitting MCU introduction. But why?
Ghost Rider Doesn't Match Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D's Tone
Anyone who is a fan of Ghost Rider, whether the Johnny Blaze version or Danny Ketch or Robbie Reyes, knows the tone of the character is usually dark and gritty. This would fit better with the tone of the Netflix shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has gotten a lot better over the years, it's still pretty clear that the show is holding on to a more light-hearted and even campy tone.
Say what you will about the Marvel movies themselves, but Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have always been portrayed as light and colorful characters. They might have a dark storyline here and there in comic books, but even in comics they are mostly portrayed in a light tone. A similar thing can be said about the Netflix shows, as Daredevil, Jessica Jones and even the Punisher have always been portrayed as dark and gritty characters in the comics. So it makes sense that tone of the shows be exactly the same as their comic book counterparts.
With Ghost Rider joining the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Marvel is mixing different tones together and it could get messy. Marvel will either have to make Ghost Rider more light-hearted for the show; which doesn't fit the character, or change the tone of the entire show and make it more dark to fit the character of Ghost Rider. Both of these show no sign of working because we have yet to see how Ghost Rider operates in this world and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, while still good, took a while to find it's rhythm in the first season and even the beginning of the second season.
Why Is Marvel Introducing Ghost Rider on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D?
To be fair to Marvel, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is probably the most appropriate place to introduce the character of Robbie Reyes because his origins directly cross paths with Calvin Zabo. Calvin Zabo, more commonly known as Mr. Hyde in the comics, is Daisy Johnson's light-hearted but villainous father, portrayed by Kyle MacLachlan in the show's second season. So it would make sense that Robbie Reyes could actually fit in with this cast of characters more then anywhere else.
TVLine sat down with the showrunner, Jed Whedon, and asked about the potential return of Kyle MacLachlan as the fan favorite character to mirror Robbie Reyes origin from the comics. Whedon had this to say:
We can’t say much about what we’re going to do with [Robbie Reyes’] origin, but we are doing our own spin on it. We don’t want people who have read the comics to know exactly what’s coming.
When Jed was told that fans of the show would love to see Kyle MacLachlan reprise his role, he said:
So would we.
So even if you don't agree that Ghost Rider should be given his introduction on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, we might be seeing a fan favorite character return for a victory lap.
However, even Gabriel Luna admits that there is very little material to go on for Robbie Reyes on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
It's a pretty bad sign when even the actor portraying the character agrees that there isn't a whole lot of material on the character of Robbie Reyes to justify his introduction on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Hollywood Reporter sat down with Gabriel Luna and asked him various questions about what we can expect to see in his portrayal on Robbie Reyes and how he will fit in with this cast of characters. Gabriel had this to say:
Because there is so little material on him right now, a lot of the show is going to be expanding the Ghost Rider canon. That's really cool. It's all me. It's all on me
Gabriel Luna had no idea that the character of Robbie Reyes even existed until he was cast in the role:
I knew about Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, those were really my generation of the Ghost Rider. I in fact did not know that the Ghost Rider spirit of vengeance was now inhabiting Robbie Reyes now. When [Marvel TV head] Jeph [Loeb] and [Agents of SHIELD executive producers] Jed [Whedon] and Mo [Tancharoen] finally cracked the lid on what I'd be playing, I was shocked because when they called me they were very secretive as to what it was. When I finally found out what it was, I did my research and I looked into it, and that's when I discovered that there was this new incarnation of Ghost Rider
To be fair to the actor, Luna says as soon as he found out which version of Ghost Rider he'd be portraying, he went out and bought the entire Robbie Reyes run from his local Hollywood comic book store. He went on to say that after he read up on all of Robbie's adventures in the comic books, Luna began to feel a "kinship" to the character.
His little brother's name is Gabe. I have a little brother who I care for. And I did this show Matador where I also had a little brother, and the show came from Robert Rodriguez, who has the same name as Robbie and the same initials as Robbie. And when he came to direct our pilot and finale of Matador, he drove around in a black Dodge Charger. There are all these weird synchronicities that you can't ignore. I don't find it daunting as of now because I truly believe this was all meant to work out. I'm excited to bring him to life for the first time.
Hopefully Gabriel's excitement and determination helps with his studying to understand the character of Robbie Reyes while also trying to bring his own unique style to the role. Let's hope Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D doesn't go too much out there with their own spin on character that it becomes silly and hokey.
What Could Have Been A Better Way To Introduce Ghost Rider Into The MCU?
What should Marvel do with Ghost Rider? I think the answer is fairly obvious: Give him his own Netflix show or film series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is so much story and lore behind the character of Ghost Rider, no matter which identity you look at, that you would have to dedicate an entire series or movie to him to explore it all.
Making him appear for a cameo or supporting role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D would have been fine but only after defining the character in another medium. If they had announced Robbie Reyes was going to appear on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D after a release of his own movie or a season of his own show, then that would have been great. It would have given more connection of the characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There are still rumors that Marvel and Netflix plan on collaborating for a Ghost Rider series with Johnny Blaze running the show. I sincerely hope that they move forward with a project like that and let Ghost Rider get the justice he deserves after what Nicolas Cage did to him. For now, let's just pray that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D pulls a miracle and gives us one hell of a kick-ass Ghost Rider portrayal. And for the love of God, DO NOT MAKE ROBBIE REYES AND DAISY JOHNSON A THING!