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Before Disney incorporated Marvel’s TV offerings into the Marvel Cinematic Universe umbrella, Marvel storytelling on television was a fascinating mixed bag.
Marvel shows existed siloed off in their own continuities and on different networks like Agents of SHIELD on ABC, Runaways on Hulu, and Daredevil and all his Defender friends on Netflix. Right before the Marvel Television imprint was shuttered in favor of Marvel Entertainment, however, we very nearly got one last creative swing.
In a sprawling feature about the history of Marvel Comics character Ghost Rider, ComicBook.com unveils some new details about the now-canceled Agents of SHIELD spinoff featuring Robbie Reyes a.k.a. Ghost Rider.
“We were in full pre-production at that point now that Disney owned Fox and we had the Hulu relationship, that all would work out,” Reyes actor Gabriel Luna told the site. “I was doing everything in my power to make sure my mind and body were all prepared for a few-month-long engagement trying to get our show up.”
The character known as Ghost Rider has two comic book iterations. The first is deceased motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze, who sold his soul to Mephisto to return to Earth to unleash Hellfire on his enemies. Blaze was played by Nicolas Cage in two pre-MCU era Ghost Rider films. The next, however, is East L.A. street racer Robbie Reyes.
Reyes was played by Gabriel Luna in the first arc of Agents of SHIELD season 4 and again in that season’s finale. The character was so well-received that it very nearly led to a spinoff. According to Luna, right after Reyes premiered in Agents of SHIELD season 4, Marvel executed a “hold clause” on his contract, essentially paying him to stay put so they could pursue more Ghost Rider opportunities.
The Ghost Rider TV show would have aired on Hulu like fellow Marvel properties Runaways and Cloak and Dagger. The first season would have featured classic villains from the character’s canon, including Lilith, Marvel’s Mother of Demons. Lilith is a mythical figure in the Marvel universe. A powerful shade who has been around since the dawn of humanity, her path frequently intersects the comics’ more spooky characters like Ghost Rider.
What’s even more interesting, however, is that Ghost Rider would have been the entry point into another Defenders-style storytelling universe featuring four shows.
“I think [Lilith] would have led up to her being the big bad of what we were initially trying to start, which was this four-show, very Defenders-esque thing that was going to happen,” Luna said.
Ghost Rider and Daimon Helstrom (the latter of which eventually received one little-seen season of Helstrom on Hulu) would have been two of the four characters featured on this supernatural Defenders-style teamup but it’s unknown who the other two would have been. One compelling option could have been the Midnight Sons, a group of Marvel’s supernatural superheroes featuring Ghost Rider, Helstrom, Morbius, Jennifer Kale, and Werewolf by Night (who is now rumored to be getting his own Disney+ Halloween special).
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe swallowed up Marvel Television, four-character Defenders-style series were kind of all the rage for the imprint. After Netflix’s initial success with the Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist team-up, Marvel commissioned “The Offenders” for Hulu. This would have featured M.O.D.O.K., Hit Monkey, Howard the Duck, and Tigra & Dazzler. This project too was ultimately scrapped though the series M.O.D.O.K. and Hit Monkey (arriving Nov. 17) were eventually released as standalones.
Ultimately though, the Disney+ era featuring big time characters like Wanda Maximoff, Loki, and Sam Wilson put an end to these more insular TV projects. It also probably didn’t help Robbie Reyes’ chances that animating his Ghost Rider’s flaming skull was prohibitively expensive, with those VFX shots alone reportedly costing half an Agents of SHIELD episode budget.
The end of Marvel Television doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Ghost Rider in the MCU though. After all, the character is often associated with Doctor Strange and we hear he has a Multiverse of Madness on the way …