With characters like Doctor Strange and specials like Werewolf by Night, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken great leaps in the world of monsters and the supernatural. With Blade confirmed to make his debut in the MCU, it's also promised that the supernatural heroes of the universe will have a focal point for fans and characters to latch on to. But before even Doctor Strange cast his first spell, Marvel movies had already tested the waters of the supernatural.
1998's Blade may have been the first instance of a Marvel hero reaching the big screen with great success, but it was Ghost Rider that pushed the limits in 2007. Where Blade fought vampires, a creature that's become cinema gold over the decades, Ghost Rider pushed the envelope as the character and his enemies were unlike anything ever seen before. But the history of the character was far more muddled than what the movie had shown, and this was greatly evident in Johnny Blaze's mentor, Carter Slade. Should the MCU finally bring Ghost Rider into the canon, it would greatly benefit the franchise to maintain its biggest change to Carter Slade.
Carter Slade Has Endured a Unique Evolution
In the comics, Carter Slade traveled to the West to be a teacher. Though he wasn't prepared for the brutality of the Wild West, he couldn't let injustice go unpunished. As a result, this led him to be caught up in a conspiracy where white men disguised as Native Americans tried to sow chaos with other innocents. However, Slade was unprepared for the battle and was gunned down. Thankfully, a young boy tried to get Carter some help, leading the two to a Native American who nursed him to health and gave him a glowing outfit to use to protect innocents. As the Ghost Rider, he used his glowing disguise to safeguard the innocents of the West. Eventually, he changed his identity to the Phantom Rider, which helped create a separation between Carter Slade and Johnny Blaze.
Slade's legacy lived on after his death, and his spirit would travel and inhabit or guide his ancestors. But in the Ghost Rider movie, Slade was a cemetery caretaker revealed to have been the last Ghost Rider before Johnny took the contract of San Venganza and outran the Devil. As a result, he lived a nearly immortal life and saved one last transformation for a final trip with Johnny to San Venganza. Where the comic Carter Slade had a white horse, the movie version had a black horse that transformed into a flaming skeleton. While the core values of Slade remained, the movie version was far more in line with Johnny Blaze's legacy.
Ghost Rider Improved Carter Slade Using Johnny Blaze
Aside from the origin being altered, many other aspects of Slade were changed and improved that helped enhance the on-screen presence that Sam Elliott brought to life. The biggest change was making Slade a Ghost Rider, and this proved to give the character a larger sense of regret. Rather than being a hero that stood to protect people out of the goodness of his heart, Ghost Rider had Slade become a man who made many mistakes in his life. But rather than switch gears and be a hero, Slade lived with regret for his past, and taking the contract was his one decent act. However, it also opened Slade up to an isolated life where he spent decades contemplating his actions in a self-imposed state of penance.
Tying Slade's origin to Johnny Blaze through Ghost Rider allowed both characters to form a true bond as teacher and student. While Slade didn't do much in terms of helping him control the rider within, he kept him on an even keel by helping him through the hangover effects of changing back to human form. Slade also held nothing back when it came to helping Blaze understand the life he would now live as a servant of Mephisto with no way of escape. Even still, this didn't stop Blaze from impacting Slade and creating a powerful relationship.
Carter Slade was someone who didn't want to bring attention to himself, especially because he hid the key to absolute power with the contract of San Venganza. As a result, acts of heroism weren't in the cards, and it had served him well. Even still, Blaze proved to Slade that there were still good people in the world that made bad choices for the right reasons. This gave Slade a push to be a hero and help Blaze, transforming one last time. But it's possible that the big ride sequence across the desert wouldn't have happened without Blaze impacting Slade and vice versa.
The MCU Needs Carter Slade to Return as Ghost Rider
With Blade, Werewolf by Night and Moon Knight representing just a taste of the scarier side of the MCU coming to fruition, Ghost Rider feels like an inevitability now more than ever. But to bring the character to life, it's important to maintain the key aspects of Blaze's origin and the legacy of Ghost Rider. Therefore, it's key to witness the history of Ghost Riders that existed long before Blaze, and that's why maintaining Slade's history as a rider will be a necessity.
Slade's history as Ghost Rider, whether explored in a flashback or Special Presentation, would be crucial to the overall effect of the curse that would impact Johnny Blaze. Fans could see how far back the curse has gone and show that Blaze, Danny Ketch and Robbie Reyes weren't the only heroic riders to take the role. Through Slade, the history of the character in the MCU could be explored, and while Ghost Rider wasn't the most beloved Marvel movie to be released before the MCU, it showed the limitless possibility of Slade. As a result, introducing a history of Ghost Rider could honor the past movie and help enhance a new live-action iteration of the character.