'Agents of SHIELD's' Ghost Rider 101: Everything to Know About Robbie Reyes

Why did ABC's Marvel series choose Robbie Reyes instead of Johnny Blaze as the man behind the flaming skull?
Courtesy of Marvel

Agents of SHIELD made an interesting choice when it came time to pick which version of Ghost Rider would be introduced in season four.

At Comic-Con, producers revealed via teaser trailer that the ABC comic book series would be taking on Marvel's popular anti-hero when it returns this fall. But instead of making the man behind the flaming skull Johnny Blaze, the best-known version of Ghost Rider, Agents of SHIELD is introducing Robbie Reyes, played by Gabriel Luna (True Detective). Casual fans know all about Johnny Blaze, thanks to Nicolas Cage's two Ghost Rider live-action movies. And most of the Ghost Rider stories in the comic books are about Johnny Blaze, the stunt motorcyclist who sold his soul to who he thought was the devil. He is the original, ultimate version. But now it's time for a new live-action Ghost Rider.

So who is Robbie Reyes, the newest incarnation of Ghost Rider? Introduced to the Marvel Comics universe as recently as 2014 by Felipe Smith, Roberto "Robbie" Reyes is very different from his predecessors who took up the mantle before him. The Mexican-American high schooler doesn't even ride a motorcycle -- he prefers to drive his muscle car (think a Dodge Charger) around his hometown of East LA. Instead of his head changing into a flaming skull when Ghost Rider takes over his body, he wears a flaming helmet. He works at a garage, lives with and takes care of his developmentally disabled brother Gabe and wants to get him and his brother away from the gangs that run his city. 

Unlike other Ghost Riders who made deals with demons, Robbie was cursed with his Ghost Rider powers after he was gunned down by gang members and was brought back to life as a demonic being. He was bound with a spirit named Eli Morrow. Together, they take out the evil gang members to both make East LA safe and avenge Eli's death, since he says he was killed by gang members. But -- comic book spoiler alert -- it is later revealed that Eli is actually Robbie's uncle, a serial killer who was killed by the police. Eli is also to blame for Gabe's developmental issues, since he pushed Robbie's mother down the stairs when she was pregnant with Gabe. After Robbie finds out the truth about Eli, the only way he can keep Eli's bloodlust at bay and maintain control over his own body is by agreeing to kill, but only evil people who deserve it.

Why did Agents of SHIELD pick Robbie over Johnny? There are many obvious reasons. First, it allows the series, which already champions diversity and equality with its butt-kicking leads Chloe Bennet, Ming-Na Wen and Henry Simmons, to add even more diversity to the mix with the Mexican-American character. It also gives the show another way to show inclusion and representation with Robbie's brother. SHIELD can even cast a developmentally disabled actor to portray Gabe. The bond between Gabe and Robbie is a strong one, and the opportunity to show that family connection will lead to many juicy, emotional scenes, making for great TV. 

There is also a pre-existing connection to Robbie that has already been established on SHIELD. In the comics, Robbie has ties to Calvin Zabo aka Mister Hyde. Robbie was actually killed because in his car trunk, there was a briefcase of pills that Calvin wanted in order to turn into his alter-ego Mister Hyde. SHIELD viewers have already met Calvin Zabo/Hyde in Daisy's father (Kyle MacLachlan), so maybe he'll return for Robbie's origin story.

What do you think of SHIELD's choice in Robbie Reyes as Ghost Rider? Let us know in the comments section below.

Agents of SHIELD returns for season four on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at its new time, 10 p.m., on ABC.

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