Ghost Rider In Animation - A Retrospective

The Ghost Riderís history in animation is a brief collection of appearances and a hell of a lot of if, buts and maybes. The character has been a favourite in small circles since his initial appearance and has been the star of a string of revamps, reboots and mini series. There have been several people who have become The Ghost Rider in the comic series but I arenít knowledgeable enough to name them all, so if you wish to read about the character as he appears in the comics, I would point you towards his Wikipedia entry.

Ghost Rider made a host of cameos in Marvel animation before actually having a full-blown appearance, as he appeared randomly in a vision in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends and later in X-Men in a video projection of Gambitís memory.

The character was originally planned to appear in Spider-Man: The Animated Series on FOX according to producer John Semper, but as Marvel was attempting to give Ghost Rider his own cartoon on a rival network UPN and FOX scrapped the idea because they didnít want to promote a character who might eventually appear on another network. Hereís what Mr. Semper had to say to DRG4ís Spider-Man: The Animated Series Site;

DRG4: Were there any whole episodes you guys wrote but decided to can? John Semper: One outline comes to mind involving Mysterio and Dormammu. Wanted to introduce Ghost Rider, but Fox was afraid Marvel was going to use him in a UPN show and didn't want to give him the exposure. So that was cut. Pissed me off, too.

He made his first full-fledged appearance in Fantastic Four in an episode entitled When Calls Galactus. The episode in question sees Terrax blackmail The Fantastic Four into defeating a severely weakened Galactus for him. The episode is without a doubt the finest the show ever did and helps erase painful memories of The Silver Surfer And The Coming Of Galactus. With Galactus once again threatening to feed from Earth, The FF, Frankie Raye and The Mighty Thor prove to be more than a match for their combined power before Ghost Rider makes his appearance, after being summoned to make Galactus pay for the blood he has shed. He appears in the episode for a couple of minutes, but it was a damn cool appearance. Defeating the Giant with the Penance Stare, which basically makes itís victims come face to face with every guilty thought theyíve ever had. As you can imagine, Galactus has had more than his fair share of torment as he kills fullly inhabited planets for his dinner. He leaves Galactus and lets everyone else decide his giantís fate.

Despite only appearing for a few minutes, I thought Ghost Rider was really, really cool and I wanted to see more of him. My wish was granted in 1996 with UPNís The Incredible Hulk cartoon. UPN was contemplating their own Ghost Rider series at this time and just as Hulk had appeared in back door pilots in both Iron Man and Fantastic Four, it was Ghost Riderís turn.

Richard Grieco once again returned to voice the Rider, and I thought he did a spectacular job. They added a slight booming effect to his voice and it just clicked. He sounded scary but had a slight bad ass vibe to it too. The Fantastic Four model was tweaked ever so slightly and looked great with Hulkís superior animation. I think a lot of Ghost Riderís appeal in the comics come from his visual and it actually translates really well into animation. The image of a flaming skull just looks great Ė I hope the CG in the upcoming Ghost Rider movie doesnít suck because it has the potential to look incredible.

The story of Innocent Blood sees The Ghost Rider hunting down The Hulk for the innocent blood that was shed was a small village began heckling the stranger Bruce Banner and he destroyed the village after he transformed into The Hulk. The show itself featured Banner on the run searching for his cure whilst he avoided The Leaderís childish plans to make The Hulkís strength his own. He would usually run into a guest star along the way and after his latest attempt at a cure failed, he would continue to run until he could find a suitable place to conduct his next experiment.

It doesn't quite develop Ghost Rider as much as I'd have liked it to, but in the majority of the episodes the guest stars took a backseat to the plot, which is an acceptable sacrafice. It was almost fascinating watching Banner's weekly struggle for a cure whilst being hunted by the military. It's a shame that we only got one proper season and another eight episodes of juvenile rubbish because of the network, I'd have loved to see a proper conclusion to the show's story.

With the military hunting Banner in this episode as well Hulk certainly had his hands full! The episode itself is a little better than the average Hulk episode but doesnít quite rank as my favourite, but Iíd probably place it in at number three, behind Helping Hand, Iron Fist and Darkness And Light Part 3. The ending of the episode features a very cool fight between The Hulk and Ghost Rider. The episode is a hell of a lot of fun despite how miserable the central character always is. This show was dark and wasn't afraid to get into the nitty gritty with it's characters, Bruce Banner spent most of his time tortured in metamorphosis and fleeing from his obsessive would be Father-In-Law hellbent on his demise. I don't know how well GR would've fit in Spider-Man, Iron Man or a full fledged appearance on FF but he fit in perfectly with Hulk's show, even if we didn't get a full origin story.

The back door pilot wasnít picked up. Itís not known how far they got along with it, or if they even started production on a Ghost Rider show at all. Whilst I admit Iím not the biggest Ghost Rider fan - I admit to knowing little about him beyond these animated appearances, I wonder how well a Ghost Rider artoon wouldíve worked. Ghost Rider was given little backstory in either appearance Ė probably because of his ties with hell which was and probably always will be a strict no-no on Saturday morning cartoons.

Iím curious as to whether or not Marvel will try and get the character his own cartoon if the movie is successful enough. Ghost Rider is the prime example of a character that doesnít fit on Saturday morning (after The Punisher, of course) but itís a proven fact Ė Ghost Rider sells toys. The number of Marvel Legend Ghost Rider variants proves it.

As for you Ghost Rider fans who want to see the character get his own show, youíd really better hope the movie doesnít suck and pulls back it's rather large budget, or flame-head will be joining Daredevil on the dreaded 'if only' list.