Carter Slade was born and raised in Ohio in the mid-19th century, along with his brother Lincoln. Eventually Carter decided to move out west to the new territories, in order to become a schoolteacher at the new settlement of Bison Bend in Montana. However, when he had nearly arrived he came upon a group of what appeared to be Indians slaughtering helpless homesteaders. Though he was untrained in using a gun, he had been a boxing champion in college and, at any rate, could not allow such an atrocity to go unchallenged.
Riding into the fray he discovered the attackers were not Indians but rather white men dressed up to appear as Indians. They were cattle herders upset at settlers coming in and taking what they regarded as their land, despite the government's role in placing settlers. Though he fought bravely, Carter was eventually defeated, shot multiple times and slowly dying from his injuries. It was then that Jamie Jacobs, the teenage son of the settlers who had been murdered, emerged from his hiding place and found him. Surmising what had happened, Jamie managed to get Carter onto a horse and set out to find help. However, he was travelling in the wrong direction and after many long hours collapsed to the ground.
However, a group of friendly Indians had been watching and took Jacobs and Slade to their medicine man, Flaming Star. Flaming Star had, many years before, seen a shooting star fall from the sky, bringing with it a bounty of phosphorescent dust. Flaming Star took this as a sign from the Great Spirit, and learned that a champion would one day be sent to him, to fight injustice using the glowing dust and a special cape he had prepared.
Flaming Star prayed, chanted and prepared potions and herbs for three days, but was about to give up on Carter when suddenly Carter's fever broke and he awoke, seemingly fully restored to health. It was then that Flaming Star realized Carter Slade was the champion sent to him to fight injustice. He gave Carter the cloak he had fashioned, which was reversible and had a pitch-black lining to complement the bright, white outer side. He also gave Carter all of the phosphorescent dust and led him to an untameable white horse that Carter managed to secure, and which he named Banshee for its distinctive neigh.
Carter then created an entire costume to complement the cloak and horse, and christened himself the Ghost Rider, though later others began calling him other names, such as the Night Rider and the Phantom Rider. His first act as the Phantom Rider was to bring the men responsible for killing Jamie Jacobs's parents to justice, a group of cattle herders led by a man named Jason Bartholomew. He then set about helping the folk of Bison Bend erect a schoolhouse and took Jamie under his wing as his ward/adopted son.
Over the next decade Carter Slade rode the West fighting evil with Bison Bend as his base of operations, fighting and defeating a number of would-be criminals, including the Sting-Ray, who formerly had fought the Rawhide Kid under the name Scorpion. In time, Carter began to fall in love with a young woman by the name of Natalie Brooks, sister of the sheriff, Ben Brooks. However, any relationship between them was complicated by the fact that Ben Brooks irrationally believed the Phantom Rider to be an evil man, bent on taking over the territory. Additionally, Natalie was engaged to be married to a man named Clay Riley, whom Slade would eventually find out was the criminal known as the Tarantula.
As the Tarantula, Riley dressed in purplish-black and used an eight-headed bullwhip as his weapon of choice. He and the Rider clashed multiple times, eventually leading to a confrontation that would change Carter's life. Carter had decided to visit Ben Brooks in the form of the Phantom Rider to try and convince him he was in error in believing the Rider to be evil. However, at the same time the Tarantula set fire to several local buildings, and in the chaos Natalie ran into her brother's home to warn him of what had happened. Ben Brooks tried to use the distraction as a chance to shoot and kill the Rider but Natalie, whose life had been saved several times by Slade in the guise of the Phantom Rider, jumped in between the two men. Sheriff Brooks instinctively fired his gun at the motion and shot Natalie, severing her spinal cord. She was eventually stabilized but unless she received emergency surgery in Denver it was determined she would never walk again.
Ben Brooks and Clay Riley then set out with Natalie in tow, unknowingly being followed by Carter Slade. En route, Carter was attacked and knocked unconscious by a deluded old man who lived in the mountains. This man also found Brooks and Riley and was about to kill them when he saw Natalie. In his madness he mistook her for his wife, who had died over ten years ago, and kidnapped her. In his absence, Carter switched to his Phantom Rider outfit and was able to thwart the crazy man. However, in the struggle one of the beams of the man's old home began to cave in. He threw himself under it and saved Natalie from death, still believing her to be his long-dead wife. Riley, despite the Phantom Rider's benevolent actions in the struggle, seemed poised to attack when the Rider lifted Natalie up and left with her. Slade then took her to his stagecoach and set out for Denver to take Natalie for her surgery.
He was stopped again by an encounter with Hurricane, an outlaw possessing super-speed granted to him by an Indian's special potion. Hurricane discovered Slade's secret identity and was poised to slay both him and Natalie. Carter was bound and thrown from a cliff but fortuitously the rope snagged a cliff ledge on the way down and Carter made his way back up, this time as the Phantom Rider. He defeated the Hurricane by using his special lantern projector to project an image of himself out in empty air to give the illusion of being a real ghost. Hurricane charged the apparition and fell headlong off the cliff, seemingly to his death.
On reaching Denver Natalie underwent surgery and regained the ability to walk. While there, Riley again donned the garb of the Tarantula in order to commit more crimes to help pay for the surgery and the trip when he was stopped by Slade as the Phantom Rider. The two fought hard, eventually tumbling over a cliff-side into a body of water below. Riley had been unmasked by the Rider earlier, and he had intended to bring him to justice. However, the fall injured both men, and gave Riley amnesia. Ben Brooks came upon them both and shot the Rider in the shoulder, but Slade managed to escape when Brooks went to check on Riley. All parties then returned to Bison Bend.
At some undisclosed point before his death, Slade also helped stop a band of owlhoots from robbing a train. Slade used his "lariat of the night" -- a rope painted black so as to be invisible at night and grant the illusion of levitation -- to suspend the ringleader in mid-air when he attempted to escape his own execution for the crime. The sheer fright of the Rider's spook act caused his heart to fail and he died; however, those watching mistakenly believed the Rider had hung him. Slade himself believed this, too, and decided to end his career as the Phantom Rider. Ben Brooks also had become increasingly suspicious of similarities between Slade's appearances in certain places the same time as the Phantom Rider was known to be around, and was on the verge of discovering this when Jamie Jacobs and a boy saved from the train robbery used trickery and lantern projection to make three different Phantom Riders appear in the presence of Brooks and Slade both. Jacobs then told Carter it wasn't his fault the criminal had died and he again donned the garb of the Phantom Rider.
Around this same time Slade, who also had archaeological interests, traveled to Mexico to investigate the so-called Temple of Quetzlcoatl. He was assisted by two brothers, Paco and Enrique Montoya, the former of which was actually El Aguila, and a known band of mercenaries led by a man named El Cojo. The mercenaries turned on Slade and the brothers and attempted to kill them, inadvertently setting off booby traps within the temple and triggering a volcanic eruption. Fighting together, Slade as the Phantom Rider and Paco Montoya as El Aguila, the mercenaries met their end and the temple was buried forever.
On returning to Montana, Slade discovered a bounty had been placed on his alter-ego's head by Sheriff Brooks, and the bounty hunter known as Gunhawk, whom the Rider had previously saved from being killed by a no-name outlaw, had come to town to claim the bounty. In the ensuing firefight, however, Gunhawk and the Rider wound up fighting together against a group of would-be bank robbers and the Rider again saved Gunhawk's life by shooting a robber Gunhawk had dangerously turned his back on. Gunhawk left town with a parting shot to Sheriff Brooks that the Phantom Rider was clearly being unfairly accused/attacked by Brooks.
Slade's final adventure as a living being began when his brother, U.S. Marshal Lincoln Slade, came to town. Slade was investigating a series of disappearances that had struck Bison Bend, wherein every notable man in the town save Carter and the new preacher, Reverend Reaper, had gone missing. Lincoln felt the Reverend would be the next target and so kept an eye on him. It turned out that the Reverend was in fact the leader of the gang, and Lincoln followed him to his hideout, where Sheriff Brooks and the other men of Bison Bend were bound. Lincoln Slade began fighting the Reaper's gang when Carter, as the Phantom Rider, showed up and joined in. They managed to free Brooks and the others and had defeated all of the gang except for the Reaper himself. In a last-ditch attempt to save himself Reverend Reaper shot out a wooden crossbeam holding the cave ceiling up, causing tons of rock and earth to begin sliding towards Lincoln Slade. The Phantom Rider then hurled himself at his brother to save him, succeeding in doing so but wound up crushed by the avalanche himself.
Lincoln heard a voice coming from the rubble and pulled the Rider free. When the Rider asked him to remove his mask, he saw it was his own brother, Carter. Carter said goodbye and then died. Lincoln took his brother's body, stripped the costume from it, and returned it to Bison Bend, where he was buried. Jamie Jacobs attempted to take over as the Phantom Rider but was killed in his first outing, and although initially hesitant, Lincoln Slade decided to don the costume as the new Phantom Rider.
However, Lincoln slowly began going crazy and when the West Coast Avengers time-traveled back to the Old West he kidnapped and drugged the Avenger Mockingbird, wife of Hawkeye. Mockingbird eventually broke out of his influence and in a battle atop a mountain allowed Lincoln Slade to fall to his death when she could have saved him. This series of events eventually wound up affecting Carter Slade, even in death.
Lincoln's spirit took over his great-great-grandson Hamilton's body on occasions when evil loomed near, but his spirit was still crazed and when he became aware of Mockingbird's presence in the present he began using Hamilton to harass her. After nearly beating the poor man to death -- Hamilton had no recollection of anything Lincoln did using his body -- she discovered he was not to blame. Unbeknownst to any of them, when Carter Slade's spirit became aware of what Lincoln was doing to Hamilton, who was also Carter's great-great-grandnephew, his spirit also took residence within Hamilton to try and drive off Lincoln's negative influence. Eventually the demonologist Damian Hellstrom used his powers to drive both spirits from Hamilton's body. Carter's spirit subdued Lincoln's, and Hellstrom was about to banish both to a nether-dimension for eternity when Hamilton interceded on behalf of his great-great-uncle and willed Carter to enter his body just before the moment of banishment, transforming Hamilton into the present-day Phantom Rider. However, Carter's spirit, being benevolent, did not use or control Hamilton; instead, Carter merely granted Hamilton the powers of the Phantom Rider and guided/assisted him.
Carter Slade's spirit continues to work in tandem with his great-great-grandnephew Hamilton to fight evil as the present-day Phantom Rider.
After dying and truly becoming a spirit, Carter Slade gained the ability to become intangible, to shoot ethereal energy from his spirit guns, and other ghostly powers, which he grants to his descendant Hamilton when he enters his body.
In life, Carter Slade was a skilled horseman, a champion boxer in college and became an excellent marksman with his revolvers. Additionally, he was fairly skilled in jumping and other acrobatics necessary to both fighting crime and pulling off his ghostly deception to confuse foes.
Normal human male with regular exercise.
Carter Slade employed a number of tricks to make himself appear to be a true spirit. By using a lantern projector and throwing his voice he could make himself appear to be hovering, wraith-like, in the air. Opponents would often try and shoot this apparition and, unable to harm it, flee in terror.
His costume and horse were both treated with a phosphorescent substance that caused them to glow in the dark, and he also employed a lariat dark as night, which allowed him to appear to be either levitating himself or others.
Additionally, his cloak was reversible and was pitch black on the inside. Thus, in the dark of night he could wrap parts of himself in the cloak, dark side out, and make parts of his body seem to disappear. Frequently he would make himself appear headless, or remove all but his head and hands.
- Originally the Phantom Riders were the Ghost Riders, but the name was changed when Marvel introduced the Zarathos-possessed, hellfire-tossing Ghost Riders in the early 70s. However, Marvel has not been very consistent in their naming of this family of superheroes. Although re-named Night Rider in the 70s and later Phantom Rider, authors often used whichever name they preferred. In one issue of West Coast Avengers all three names are used. And in the recent Marvel Universe handbook on Western heroes entitled Marvel Westerns: Outlaw Files, all three names are used.
- The white-clad, cowboy Ghost Rider was not a Marvel character originally. In 1949 artist Dick Ayers, then working for Magazine Enterprises, co-created the character of the Ghost Rider. In this incarnation he was Federal Marshal Rex Fury, assisted by his sidekick Sing Song. Renowned for its artwork and many Frank Frazetta covers, this series was very popular and branched into horror many times. All told, this Ghost Rider, who appeared identical to the Carter/Lincoln/Hamilton Slade Ghost/Night/Phantom Riders, appeared in more than 200 stories before the Comics Code shut him down in the mid-50s. The character was revived when Ayers began working for Marvel in the 60s, but the secret identity was changed to that of Carter Slade, schoolteacher.
- This character appears in TSR, Inc.'s RPG adventure The Weird, Weird West, and is a playable character at certain points of the plot. In the plot, he had forged an alliance with Kid Colt, Two-Gun Kid and Rawhide Kid due to a time crisis that had eventually left 1871 Dodge City raided by Tyrannosaurus Rex. The western heroes had met time traveler Albert Einstein and decided to help him find a solution to the crisis, protecting him from "Faro" John Hobart's desperado gang while he worked. An initial fight with the player character's time traveling heroes eventually led to an alliance where the western heroes helped them to forge an alliance with three warring generals (Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte and Genghis Khan) against a common alien threat.
- Some have speculated that the Shooting Star with the Great Spirit maybe one of many aspects of the Spirit of Justice which is in direct relation with the Ghost Rider.
It is unknown if the Phantom Riders have anything to do with the Ghost Riders. There are some "Western Ghost Rider" statues floating around depicting a hellfire-type character in a Western-style outfit, all in black.
- The Phantom Rider is also called Ghost Rider but only by bystanders who can be easily mistaken.
- Slade's family seems to have nothing to do with the Spirits of Vengeance. The only relation they have is that once, in a time-travel adventure, Johnny Blaze and Carter Slade shared an adventure, and Hamilton Slade's first adventure while possessed by Lincoln Slade's spirit was to save Johnny Blaze from Moondark. Otherwise, no connection.
- A Phantom Rider appeared briefly in Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire Vol 1 6 among hundreds of Ghost Riders from different times.
- 36 Appearances of Carter Slade (Earth-616)
- 1 Minor Appearances of Carter Slade (Earth-616)
- Media Carter Slade (Earth-616) was Mentioned in
- 13 Images featuring Carter Slade (Earth-616)
- Quotations by or about Carter Slade (Earth-616)
- Character Gallery: Carter Slade (Earth-616)
- Characters killed by Phantom Rider
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- Ghost Rider Vol 1 nos. 1-7, February 1967-November 1967
- Western Gunfighters Vol 1 nos. 1-7, August 1970-January 1972
- Ghost Rider Vol 2 no. 50, November 1980
- The Original Ghost Rider Vol 2 nos. 3-20, September 1992-February 1994
- West Coast Avengers Vol 2 no. 41, February 1989
- Marvel Westerns: Outlaw Files Vol 1 no. 1, Summer 2006