Marvel Comics has revealed the origin of its newest Ghost Rider, Frank Castle. This particular iteration of the Spirit of Vengeance is a key character in the current story arc in the comic book series Thanos. Frank Castle's wise-cracking, cosmic Ghost Rider of the future has been around less than a year and already he's set to headline his own title this summer.
Fans were introduced to the cosmic Ghost Rider in Thanos #13 when the Spirit of Vengeance dragged Thanos to the future to meet an older version of himself. As it turns out, "King Thanos" is now the ruler of the universe. Thanos learns that at some point in his life, he'll finally succeed in defeating the heroes of Earth (and everywhere else!). His older counterpart even has the Hulk—a fellow immortal—as a pet on a leash. In this series, we learn more about Mad Titan's dark past, including what Thanos' real birth name might have been. We also get to see plenty of interaction between Thanos and the cosmic Ghost Rider, who reveals himself to be Frank Castle, better known as The Punisher.
The latest issue of the series, Thanos #16, shines the spotlight on Castle and reveals how the character became a galactic Spirit of Vengeance. According to Castle, he was among the heroes engaged in a battle with the Mad Titan and the Black Order. The Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and many others were slain in the fight. Instead of dying by Thanos' hand like the rest, the Punisher was killed by falling debris. Castle labels himself a mere "footnote" in comparison to the other fallen heroes and in his dying breaths, he wished for a chance to get revenge on Thanos, and after receiving an audience with Mephisto, he was given more than he bargained for. He became the new host of the Spirit of Vengeance.
Unfortunately, everyone was already dead and Thanos had left Earth, leaving the new Ghost Rider with no one to kill at this point. Years later, Galactus came to Earth looking for help in his own battle with Thanos. In exchange for the powers of a Herald of Galactus, Castle promised him that Galactus could devour the Earth. After Galactus was defeated, Castle realized there was no way he could defeat Thanos so he decided to join him instead. Alongside Thanos, Castle knew he would have plenty of opportunities to punish the souls of the wicked.
Though this isn't the first Ghost Rider to roam the spaceways, this is the first version of the Punisher to have a sarcastic sense of humor, which helps make him a unique character for Marvel. With this version of character about to star in his own limited series, it could be that Frank Castle's Ghost Rider could eventually leave the future timeline and find a place in the mainstream Marvel Universe as a part of Marvel's "Fresh Start" initiative.
Thanos #16 is on sale now from Marvel.