The Western Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967). Cover art by Dick Ayers.
|First appearance||Tim Holt #11 (1949)|
|Created by||Gary Friedrich
|Alter ego||Carter Slade|
|Notable aliases||Galloping Ghost, Ghost Rider, Haunted Horseman, He Who Rides the Night Winds, Night Rider|
|Abilities||Excellent horsemanship and sharpshooting skills
Costume provides phosphorescent glowing effect
Phantom Rider is the name of several fictional characters, Old West heroic gunfighters appearing in comic books in the Marvel Comics universe. The character name was originally called Ghost Rider, and was changed following the introduction of Marvel's motorcycle-riding character.
Marvel's first Ghost Rider look was based on the Magazine Enterprises character Ghost Rider (Rex Fury), created by writer Ray Krank and artist Dick Ayers for editor Vincent Sullivan in Tim Holt #11 (1949). The character appeared in horror-themed Western stories through the run of Tim Holt, Red Mask, and A-1 Comics up until the institution of the Comics Code.
After the trademark to the character's name and motif lapsed, Marvel Comics debuted its own near-identical, horror-free version of the character in Ghost Rider #1 (cover-dated Feb. 1967), by writers Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich and original Ghost Rider artist Ayers. (Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend inspired the comics,that was popular at the time.
The song was also the inspiration for the Magazine Enterprises' horror-Western comic-book character the Ghost Rider. After the trademark to the character's name and motif lapsed, Marvel Comics debuted its own near-identical, non-horror version of the character in Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967), drawn by Ayers. This character was renamed the Night Rider when Marvel debuted its demonic motorcyclist character Ghost Rider.
After this series ended with issue #7 (Nov. 1967), the character went on to appear in new stories in the omnibus title Western Gunfighters (1970 series) and in new backup stories in the otherwise reprint title The Original Ghost Rider Rides Again.
With the introduction of Marvel's supernatural Ghost Rider in the 1970s, Marvel renamed its Western Ghost Rider — first, to the unfortunate Night Rider (a term previously used in the Southern United States to refer to members of the Ku Klux Klan) in a 1974-1975 reprint series, and then to Phantom Rider. At least five men have been the Phantom Rider, one of whom is active in the modern day.
The Magazine Enterprises library of characters, including its version of Ghost Rider, was reprinted by AC Comics in the 1980s. While the copyrights have lapsed due to non-renewal, AC renamed the Ghost Rider as the Haunted Horseman, due to Marvel having maintained the Ghost Rider trademark.
Carter Slade, the first to wear the mask, debuted in Ghost Rider #1 (Feb. 1967). He battled evil while dressed in a phosphorescent white costume, complete with a full-face mask, cape, and the requisite white hat. Slade received his outfit and his white horse from Flaming Star, a Native American medicine man.
He was never called the Phantom Rider in these original appearances. In Marvel continuity, it was not until after Slade's death that the name Phantom Rider was given to the character, and reprints now retroactively use that name for Slade.
Eventually, the modern era Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze found himself transported into the 19th century where he met and teamed up with Carter Slade. Carter was badly wounded and Blaze took him to Flaming Star to be healed and then dealt with Carter's enemies. Carter recovered and Johnny returned to the present.
Carter Slade's spirit however returned and possessed his descendant Hamilton Slade to make him a new Phantom Rider and rode out to rescue Johnny Blaze from certain doom.
Carter Slade's brother and U.S. Marshal, Lincoln Slade, became the third Phantom Rider. Lincoln was driven mad by his powers. When the West Coast Avengers were sent through time on one of their adventures, Lincoln fell in love with one of their members, Mockingbird. Lincoln kidnapped the Avenger and fled to a secret location. He then drugged Mockingbird and hypnotized her into being his pliant lover; since he had effectively removed her ability to give or deny consent, his sexual activities with her qualified as rape. Once the effects of the drugs wore off, Mockingbird, enraged, fought and defeated him. In the course of the battle he was knocked over a cliff. As he clung to the cliffside, he first pleaded with Mockingbird to help him, then attempted to reassert his hypnotic authority and ordered her to help him. Hating him for his violation of her, Mockingbird allowed him to fall to his death. Years later, Lincoln's restless spirit possessed his descendant, Hamilton Slade, to seek "vengeance" against Mockingbird.
In the miniseries Blaze of Glory, the African American gunslinger Reno Jones used the Ghost Rider identity briefly in a battle with the Klan-affiliated mercenaries called the Nightriders. Jones had been half of the team called the Gunhawks, along with his former friend, Kid Cassidy, whom Jones had believed dead. Cassidy was revealed to be alive and the leader of the Nightriders; he was killed, and Jones retired.
In present-day continuity, Lincoln Slade's distant descendant Hamilton Slade was an archaeologist who found the burial site of his legendary ancestor, in issue #56 of the supernatural-motorcyclist series Ghost Rider. As he explored the site, he found a large burial urn and from it appeared the ghostly garb of his ancestors Carter and Lincoln Slade. Possessed by the spirits of his ancestors, he became the new version of the Phantom Rider, and rode off to rescue Johnny Blaze the current Ghost Rider from one of his foes. However, he would have no memory of his adventures as the Rider and eventually Lincoln's ghost would takeover more frequently and haunt Mockingbird for his death. An exorcism released the spirits of Carter and Lincoln from Hamilton and Lincoln was defeated and banished while Hamilton agreed to have Carter possess him, only now Hamilton was in control and retained memory of his adventures as the Rider. Hamilton attempted a similar exorcism to save his daughter Jaime from the returning spirit of Lincoln Slade. He was killed by Crossfire as the exorcism was being completed.
J. T. Slade
Nick Fury recruits Carter Slade's grandson, James Taylor James (also known as J. T. Slade), introduced in The Mighty Avengers #13, to be part of Fury's team against the "Secret Invasion" of the shape-shifting alien Skrulls. He has superhuman reflexes and the ability to cause a chain to ignite in flame and cause massive damage. The character roll call at the beginning of Secret Invasion #4 (Sept. 2008) refers to J. T. as "Hellfire". Hellfire goes on to make numerous appearances in the ongoing series, Secret Warriors. In Secret Warriors #16, he is revealed to be a HYDRA double agent. Nick Fury allows Hellfire to fall to his death as a result of the character's double dealings.
In the 2010 series Hawkeye & Mockingbird, it is revealed that Hamilton Slade had a daughter called Jaime Slade. While she was examining an urn belonging to the Slade family estate, Lincoln Slade's spirit possessed her, transforming Jaime into the new Phantom Rider. Claiming to be both "the spirit and the heir", the Phantom Rider teamed up with Crossfire to battle the heroes Hawkeye and Mockingbird. Jaime's father, Hamilton Slade, attempted an exorcism which would rid his daughter of the possessing spirit. Hamilton was successful, but was killed by Crossfire as the exorcism had been completed. Jaime regained her senses to see Mockingbird stand over her father's dead body and believed the Avenger was responsible. Despite having Lincoln's spirit vanquished from her, Jaime transformed back into the Phantom Rider and attacked Mockingbird. She was defeated and taken into custody.
In other media
In the 2007 film Ghost Rider, actor Sam Elliott plays Carter Slade, also known as the Caretaker, though they are not the same characters in the comic book series. In the movie version of the story, Slade is Johnny's predecessor, who 150 years ago refused to deliver a contract of hellbound souls to Mephistopheles. In the modern day, Slade awaits the arrival of the next Ghost Rider so he can be freed of his curse. Bearing little resemblance to the actual Phantom Rider, this version is instead a skeleton in a cowboy outfit riding a skeletal horse.
The video game Marvel: Ultimate Alliance has a Phantom Rider costume (labeled "Western") as one of the alternate outfits for the Ghost Rider character. While wearing this alternate costume, Ghost Rider retains his original move set, but when paired with other such characters in specific alternate costumes (e.g. Iron Man wearing the War Machine costume), the team is referred to as "Alternate Identities".
- "Dick Ayers: A Life in the 'Gowanus'". Alter Ego 3 (10) (interview part 1 of 2). Autumn 2001. Archived from the original on May 31, 2010. Co-creator Dick Ayers recalled that editor Vin Sullivan "describe[d] what he wanted in the Ghost Rider" and told Ayers to see the 1949 Disney animated feature The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, one segment of which adapted Washington Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", featuring the Headless Horseman. "[A]nd then he told me to play the Vaughn Monroe record "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky". And then he started talking about what he wanted the guy wearing."
- Ghost Rider vol. 2, #50
- Ghost Rider vol. 2, #56
- Western Gunfighters #7 (Jan. 1972)
- Western Gunfighters #7 (Jan. 1972)
- West Coast Avengers vol. 2, #18-23 (Aug. 1987)
- Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1
- Blaze of Glory: The Last Ride of the Western Heroes #3-4
- Ghost Rider #56
- West Coast Avengers #31
- West Coast Avengers #41
- Hawkeye & Mockingbird #4-5
- Secret Invasion #3
- Secret Warriors #16
- Secret Warriors #22
- Hawkeye & Mockingbird #1-5
- International Hero: Magazine Enterprises' Ghost Rider
- Don Markstein's Toonopedia: The Ghost Rider (Magazine Enterprises)
- Phantom Rider (Carter Slade) at the Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe