When it became clear back in 2013 that the live-action rights to Ghost Rider had returned home to Disney/Marvel after two films released by Sony Pictures, fans wondered when the supernatural vengeance-seeker would next be seen on screen. A Marvel Studios film? Somewhere in the harder-edged world of Marvel Television’s Netflix shows like “Daredevil” or “Jessica Jones”?
The answer came this past July at Comic-Con International in San Diego, and it wasn’t necessarily the place people were expecting: “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” starting its fourth season tonight on ABC (with the new, later time slot of 10 p.m.). It also wasn’t necessarily the Ghost Rider fans thought they’d see. Instead of Johnny Blaze — Marvel’s first Ghost Rider, played by Nicolas Cage in the two maligned “Ghost Rider” films — or Danny Ketch, it’s Robbie Reyes, first introduced to Marvel Comics in 2014 by creators Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore.
A violent antihero driving a Dodge Charger with a flaming skull for a head may not seem like a natural fit for a show nominally rooted in the world of espionage, but for Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb, Ghost Rider is a prefect fit for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Speaking to CBR on Monday night at a premiere event in Los Angeles, Loeb said that Ghost Rider fits right in with the S.H.I.E.L.D. mission statement of locating and dealing with the strange and dangerous — and Robbie Reyes, played by Gabriel Luna, is about as strange and dangerous as they come.
CBR News: Jeph, last time we talked was literally minutes before the announcement that Ghost Rider was coming to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” so we didn’t get a chance to get into it. So: We know what a big of a deal it is for Marvel to bring a character as famous and important as Ghost Rider to live action, and figuring out the right way to do it and the right place to do it. What was the process of bringing Ghost Rider to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?” It doesn’t necessarily seem like the natural place for it, but that’s probably part of the fun.
Jeph Loeb: It is part of the fun. I think one of the things we always start out with is, “What’s the story behind the character?” In this particular case, the idea of Robbie Reyes and his story — if you go back to the very beginning, Peter Parker’s story is what makes Spider-Man interesting. Matt Murdock’s story is what makes Daredevil interesting. Robbie Reyes’ story is what makes Ghost Rider interesting. The idea of an older brother who’s trying to take care of a younger brother because he feels responsible for what happened to him, and a younger brother who thinks that he’s actually more responsible for the older brother, is a great place to begin.
It’s also a terrific venue that we haven’t really spent a lot of time in, to be able to set the show in East LA. Then there’s just badass coolery — the idea that he has a black car that’s got hellfire shooting out of it. I’m in! And I really have to give credit where credit’s due; our extraordinary visual effects people. When you get to see how Ghost Rider is finally presented — and you do get to see it in the first episode — you won’t believe that level of special effects can be achieved on television. It has nothing to do with budget, just the amount of time that it takes for that to happen; to have the lead time to be able to tell that story.
The addition of Ghost Rider to “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is clearly not a small thing — his name’s been added on the logo in the marketing for this season, even — how major of a presence is he in season four?
I think you’ll see that he never overshadows our cast, because our cast is really why people watch the show. It is funny that people say they don’t see it as a natural thing that they would go to — the truth of the matter is, S.H.I.E.L.D., from the very beginning, when they were asked what it is that they do, it is to look at the strange, the unusual, the weird in the Marvel Universe. To determine whether or not it’s dangerous, and if it is, take it down, bring it in, or somehow learn how to train it. That’s in the first episode — there is nothing weirder, stranger, more unreal or dangerous than Ghost Rider. In many ways, it lends itself right to what’s going on.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” season four debuts at 10 tonight on ABC.
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