In the short amount of time that Gabriel Luna spent appearing on Agents of SHIELD as Robbie Reyes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first live-action Ghost Rider, he quickly became one of the series’ most fascinating characters for multiple reasons. In addition to stepping into the story as a formidable counterbalance to the rest of its established heroes, Robbie Reyes also brought magic to Agents of SHIELD at a time when the MCU was just beginning to broach the topic of the supernatural.
After initially being introduced as a near-villain, Agents of SHIELD’s Ghost Rider went on to join the winning team briefly before exiting in its fourth season after helping to take down Aida. Back when Agents of SHIELD was still airing, the MCU was a drastically different place, spread across Marvel Studios’ films as well as episodic series that lived on Netflix, Hulu, and ABC. Ghost Rider’s presence on the ABC series — and the character’s popularity a whole — left open the possibility that he might make the jump to a solo series in due time that would continue Reyes’ story and further flesh out his chunk of the MCU. But before any of that had a chance to come to fruition, things at Marvel Studios changed drastically following the Hollywood giant’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox in 2019. Along with the return of the cinematic rights to characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, the corporate merger heralded the dissolution of the studio’s old television arm headed up by Jeph Loeb.
Since then, Marvel’s brought much of the production for its series like WandaVision and the rest of the Disney+ bunch in-house, and the futures of characters from the old Marvel Television era have been in question. Though the studio’s recently played coy about whether it’s interested in bringing any of them back, that wasn’t always the case according to Luna. In a recent interview with Comicbook about the cinematic histories of multiple Ghost Riders, Luna reiterated how, when he first signed on to play Robbie Reyes, the idea was always to have the character’s story continue in a spinoff series. Marvel was so prepared to move forward with the spinoff, Luna said, that the studio quickly moved to invoke the “hold clause” on his contract — paying him to be available and ready to begin production the moment everything lined up.
“A year goes by and we were still trying to find the right showrunner and meanwhile they’re picking up my hold again, so every six months, they would give me my fee to keep them in first position,” Luna said. “And I just really loved that character. I really loved the people I was working with, so I elected to grant them that, always with the promise that we’d get there. We’d get this show across the finish line.”
Right up until the ink dried on the Disney/Fox deal, Luna and the rest of the Ghost Rider crew were in full-production mode, and believed that the project would likely pan out. Luna, who said that he’d return the money Marvel gave him if it meant Ghost Rider could actually exist, said that the series that might-have-been would have followed Robbie to Los Angeles as he encountered — shocker — a host of otherworldly villains like Lilith, the big bad of 2K Games’ Marvel’s Midnight Suns (where Reyes also happens to appear).
“I remember when I was pitching stuff, I had a really awesome idea that would have kept Robbie in LA and that would have pitted us against classic Ghost Rider villains,” Luna said, referring to Lilith. “And I think it 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.”
Though Helstrom (RIP) never came anywhere even near to crossing over with any of Marvel’s other live-action shows, the idea of an MCU Robbie Reyes crossing paths with Daimon and Ana makes a fair amount of sense, especially when you recall how expressly magical all of Hulu’s early Marvel shows became towards the end. In its final season, Hulu’s Runaways brought Morgan le Fay into the picture as a big bad who nearly managed to conquer the world because the team fighting her had so little experience in the ways of magic. Along with her own innate powers, Morgan possessing a copy of the Darkhold was one of the things that made her formidable in the show. The Darkhold’s presence in Runaways was also something that suggested the possibility of there being more in the pipeline for a bigger, televised story involving magical characters — especially since the book had last been seen on Agents of SHIELD in Robbie Reyes’ possession as he left Earth for hell in the show’s season four finale.
More recently, the Darkhold ended up in Wanda Maximoff’s hands at the end of WandaVision, and it seems like the tome will likely factor into how the Scarlet Witch becomes, you know, an issue in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The chances of it somehow landing back with Robbie Reyes seem slim. Still, though, Luna looks back at the unrealized Ghost Rider as “a great opportunity missed for a character that was truly beloved and, for a Mexican-American superhero to be prominently displayed, ‘American’ being the operative word.”