Ghost Rider is an especially unique antihero in Marvel Comics lore, not because of his immense power or link to the supernatural, but because of the history and legacy that goes with the moniker. ‘Ghost Rider’ isn’t a person or even just simply a title, but an essence that passes through countless people, granting them power beyond their comprehension.
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Overall, there are 25 Ghost Riders in Marvel Comics. Some are characters who aren’t actually Ghost Riders, but who have powers that greatly resemble the proper Spirit of Vengeance, either through another demonic entity or even technology. Some are ‘mashup’ characters scattered throughout Marvel Comics, which are basically ‘what if this hero/villain was a Ghost Rider?’. These characters are fun, and some are extremely powerful, but on principle, they don’t hold a candle to the legacy Ghost Riders, those who have a deeper connection to the wider lore surrounding the Spirit of Vengeance while also exhibiting immense power in their own right. With that established, here are all 25 versions of Ghost Rider, ranked.
25 Phantom Rider
Carter Slade aka Phantom Rider (originally Ghost Rider) was technically the first version of Ghost Rider to appear in Marvel Comics who made his debut in 1966’s Ghost Rider #1 by Dick Ayers, Gary Friedrich, and Roy Thomas. However, this version of the character isn’t anything like the current Ghost Rider, which is why Marvel changed his name to Phantom Rider, effectively stripping him of his ‘Ghost Rider’ title. This character doesn’t have a link to hellfire or any other power normally associated with a Ghost Rider, but instead is simply dressed all in white, and fights 19th century crime with nothing more than his spirit revolver. A legacy character, to be sure, but one who’s been left behind by the wider Ghost Rider canon, both in terms of power and relatability to the modern character.
24 Deputy Kowalski
Debuting in 2008’s Ghost Rider #21 by Jason Aaron and Roland Boschi, Deputy Kowalkski is a Ghost Rider villain who only attained a fraction of the demonic antihero’s power after he shot Ghost Rider with a mystical shotgun that was supposed to kill him. While Kowalksi used this tiny fragment of Ghost Rider’s power to become a major thorn in the Spirit of Vengeance’s side, he simply doesn’t hold up against the vast majority of the other Ghost Riders on this list.
Also not technically a proper Ghost Rider, Vengeance aka Michael Badillino at least made a name for himself as a villain-turned-antihero who went through the same process of gaining demonic hell-powers as the classic Ghost Rider. Debuting as Vengeance in Ghost Rider/Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance #9 by Howard Mackie and Adam Kubert, Michael lost his entire family after Ghost Rider (who was being controlled by Mephisto) blasted Michael’s father with hellfire, causing the man to go insane and murder his wife and children, leaving only Michael alive. This drove Michael to seek vengeance against Ghost Rider, sparking him to make a deal with Mephisto to become the demonic embodiment of Vengeance. Again, not an actual Ghost Rider, but a very cool character who’s comparable in both power and aesthetic.
22 Ghost Rider 2099
This reimagining/revamping of the Ghost Rider comic book title is one of the coolest in Marvel Comics history, making its debut in Ghost Rider 2099 #1 by Len Kaminski and Chris Bachalo. It’s just that, Ghost Rider 2099 doesn’t have anything to do with demons, hell, or the Spirit of Vengeance. Ghost Rider 2099 is more akin to a T-X Terminator than a demonic antihero, as this version of the character is a super-advanced android with the downloaded consciousness of Zero Cochrane controlling it, and more than likely wouldn’t stand a chance against almost every other version of Ghost Rider that is powered by mysticism and hellfire.
21 Shark Rider
The first proper Spirit of Vengeance on this list, Shark Rider is a version of Ghost Rider who first appeared merely in a vision in 2009’s Ghost Rider #31 by Jason Aaron, Tan Eng Huat, and Roland Boschi. This is a Ghost Rider who rides a shark. That is all. Cool visually, but readers know nothing about them other than the fact that they are a Spirit of Vengeance of the past – not a ‘phantom rider’ or a cyborg – and they may be Atlantean, due to the fact that they’re riding a shark. Though everything they’ve ever done, or any level of power they’ve ever exhibited, can only be presumed.
20 Spirit of Vengeance (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Guardians of the Galaxy #12 by Jim Valentino introduced Whileaydus Autolycus aka Ghost Rider, an alien zealot whose people were all but wiped out by the Universal Church of Truth. This caused Autolycus to commit his life to exterminating this universal cult from the cosmos, doing so as the Ghost Rider of the 31st century. This Ghost Rider is a really cool addition to Marvel lore, but he’s just too much of a mystery to be considered more powerful than other Ghost Riders on this list – including and especially the upcoming wave of ‘mashup Ghost Riders’.
19 Speed Demon
Speed Demon aka Blaze Allen is an Amalgam Universe character who first appeared in Speed Demon #1 by Howard Mackie, James Felder, and Salvador Larroca. Speed Demon rewrote Etrigan’s story to make him a Spirit of Vengeance who possessed the Flash, turning this amalgamated DC/Marvel character into the resident ‘Ghost Rider’ of the Amalgam Universe. A Fun ‘mashup’ character, but overall, Speed Demon is simply the first in a long line of similar ‘mashups’ who really don’t add anything to the wider Ghost Rider mythos, making them hard to judge against more established Spirits of Vengeance (though incredibly entertaining to read about nonetheless).
18 Iron Ghost
Appearing in Uncanny X-Force #12 by Rick Remender and Mark Brooks, Iron Ghost was little more than an aesthetically badass cameo who existed within the Age of Apocalypse universe of Earth-295. Presumably having all the same powers as a regular Ghost Rider with the added benefit of hellfire-imbued Iron Man armor, Iron Ghost is seemingly a force to be reckoned with. But, like many others on this list, he’s just too untested to be a real contender.
17 Ghost Goblin
Ghost Goblin, on the other hand, is an absolute terror who gave the Avengers a run for their money in Avengers #52 by Jason Aaron and Juan Frigeri. This Ghost Rider was from a universe where the Spirit of Vengeance latched itself onto the Green Goblin, and was actually corrupted by the insanity of the classic Spider-Man villain. This allowed Green Goblin to use his hell-powers for evil on a multiversal scale, making Ghost Goblin one of the strongest Ghost Rider ‘mashups’ on this list (not to mention the one with probably the coolest Ghost Rider vehicle).
16 Ghost Spider
First appearing as Ghost Spider in Incredible Hulk Annual #1 by John Layman and Al Barrionuevo, this is a version of the Spirit of Vengeance from Earth-11638 that attached itself to Spider-Man, after Peter Parker died, went to hell, and was brought back through the multiversal technology developed by himself and his Uncle Ben. With the fusion of these power sets, Ghost Spider is quite literally both unstoppable and untouchable, with the added benefit of having technology at his disposal that grants him access to the wider multiverse.
15 Red Hulk/Venom/Ghost Rider
Originating as a team called the Circle of Four that debuted in Venom #13 by Rick Remender and Tony Moore, this monstrous amalgamation of Red Hulk, Venom, and Ghost Rider was created to take on Blackheart and his legion of demons. This monstrous creature’s existence in Marvel lore was tragically short-lived, but when heroes who are that strong all merge into one, their power-level certainly goes without saying, even if they haven’t been as tested as others. More of a treat for fans than an established character, this ‘Ghost Rider’ was definitely fun to see in action, and undeniably powerful.
14 Ghost Hammer
Another amalgam-Ghost Rider similar to the one from Circle of Four – but arguably more powerful – is Ghost Hammer, who is Thor, Black Panther, Iron Man, and Ghost Rider combined. Debuting in Secret Warps: Arachknight Annual #1 by Al Ewing and Carlos Gómez, this Ghost Rider is a demon, a god, a tech genius, and a king all rolled into one. A product of Warp World, and created to be the ultimate cosmic warrior, Ghost Hammer is almost incalculably powerful. But, like most of the other ‘mashup’ Ghost Riders on this list, their existence feels cheap and unearned, which is why Ghost Hammer isn’t featured as prominently as other, more established Ghost Riders on this list.
13 Cosmic Ghost Rider
The last of the ‘mashup Ghost Riders’, Frank Castle aka Cosmic Ghost Rider (who first appeared in Thanos Wins part 1 by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw) is much more fleshed-out than the previous ones, who felt more like “What If?” gags than established characters. Cosmic Ghost Rider has a rich history in Marvel Comics lore, whose strength has been tested against the likes of Cable, Thanos, and even Galactus. This version of Frank Castle is powered by the Spirit of Vengeance and the Power Cosmic, though his insanity is a major downside, and even the addition of the Power Cosmic means little to a more committed Ghost Rider (especially those who are more skilled in magic).
12 Ghost Rider 1,000,000 BC
And now, it’s time to dig into the proper Ghost Riders of Marvel lore, beginning literally with the first ever Ghost Rider in Marvel Comics continuity (and unlike Carter Slade, this one actually gets to keep that title). Debuting in Jason Aaron’s Marvel Legacy #1, this Ghost Rider is revealed to be the first human ever imbued with the power of the Spirit of Vengeance in the year 1,000,000 BC. Not only did this Ghost Rider have a badass, primal appearance, but he also proved his mettle by killing the previously mentioned Ghost Goblin along with his multiversal partner-in-crime, Berserker Wolverine (which is just one of his many impressive accomplishments).
Caleb (of Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #1 by Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain) is a former slave who purchased his and his wife’s freedom before the Civil War. Tragically, he and his family were murdered soon after they made a life for themselves. Two years later, Caleb returned from the grave as Ghost Rider, seeking vengeance upon those who wronged him, as well as those who commit atrocious acts of evil everywhere. Quiet, focused, and deadly, nothing flashy about this one, which is why he stands out as being such a great Ghost Rider, one who arguably embodies the essence of the Spirit of Vengeance better than anyone else on this list.
10 Naomi Kale
Debuting in Ghost Rider Vol. 2 #78 by J.M. DeMatteis and Bob Budiansky, Naomi Kale is the mother of Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch who became Ghost Rider for only a short time to fight Mephisto before being killed by the demon king. She was the descendant of Noble Kale and the keeper of the Medallion of Power – which is the artifact that made Danny Ketch a Ghost Rider. While not as cosmically powerful as some, or as ridiculously strong as the previous ‘mashup’ ones, Naomi’s significance in Ghost Rider lore trumps those shortcomings, and her heroic final stand against Mephisto is absolutely legendary.
9 Chief Hellhawk
Chief Hellhawk of the Lakota Tribe (who first appeared in Ghost Rider #33 by Jason Aaron and Tony Moore) is one of the earliest-known Ghost Riders. His life is widely a mystery, with one of the few times he appears in Marvel Comics canon being the issue depicting his death by the hand of the Spirit of Corruption. However, the reason he sits so prominently on this list is because of his canonical rivalry with another, far more powerful Ghost Rider: Noble Kale – elevating Chief Hellhawk’s standing by association.
8 Noble Kale
There are few Ghost Riders who are tied more directly to both the demonic essence of Zarathos and its influence on the mortals it possesses, and to the Ghost Rider legacy as fans know it today. Noble Kale (debuting in Ghost Rider Vol. 3 #1 by Howard Mackie and Javier Saltares) is the patriarch of practically every modern Ghost Rider, as he’s the ancestor of Naomi Kale, Johnny Blaze, and Danny Ketch, and is the reason all of them were destined to become Ghost Riders to begin with. Not only that, but Noble was an incredibly powerful and ultra badass Ghost Rider in his own right. Noble killed witch hunters (as well as some real witches) during the 17th Century, and engaged in fierce battles with a rival Ghost Rider, Chief Hellhawk, and even Mephisto himself. Plus, he effectively attained immortality, as his soul wasn’t allowed to enter heaven or hell when he died, and instead passed through the firstborn child of every generation of his family. Kale beat death, spawned a family of Ghost Riders through his very essence, and proved his mettle during his own time as Ghost Rider.
7 Alejandra Jones
Alejandra Jones is the personal mentee of Johnny Blaze himself, and who only became a Ghost Rider in the first place after Blaze gave up the curse, leaving her to be chosen as the next Ghost Rider. After Johnny reclaimed the Spirit of Vengeance, he then trained this new Ghost Rider in how to control this power and use it for good, despite the overwhelming evil that now resides in her soul. While she met her end in Absolute Carnage: Symbiote of Vengeance #1 by Ed Brisson Juan Frigeri, Ghost Riders tend to not stay dead for very long, especially ones who were mentored by arguably the most iconic Ghost Rider of all time.
6 Robbie Reyes
Another legacy Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes redefined the character in more ways than one. He not only became perhaps the most popular Ghost Rider of all time, but also one of the strongest Avengers recruits in recent memory. While not technically a Spirit of Vengeance upon his debut in All-New Ghost Rider #1 by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore (as he was possessed by the spirit of his satanic uncle), Johnny Blaze himself said that Robbie was as much a Ghost Rider as he was, only for Robbie to later become something far more.