Hamilton Slade was an archaeologist associated with the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. He became interested in his ancestors Lincoln and Carter Slade, his great-great-grandfather and great-great-uncle, respectively, after finding out about their exploits in the Old West as the costumed hero known variously as the Ghost Rider, the Night Rider or the Phantom Rider. Discovering the burial place of Lincoln Slade, where he had been laid to rest by Indians of the tribe that first befriended Carter Slade, Hamilton also found the costume of the Ghost/Night/Phantom Rider. Lincoln's spirit possessed Hamilton's body, transforming him into the form of his deceased relatives' costumed appearance, and also granting him the spirit form of their horse, Banshee. Thus possessed, Hamilton/Lincoln journeyed to the aid of Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. Ghost Rider, who was being menaced by a soul-stealing occultist named Moondark. Blaze had once saved Lincoln's brother Carter's life when Carter was the original Phantom Rider, and so now Hamilton/Lincoln repaid that debt.
In this form Hamilton was unaware of anything going on and the spirit of Lincoln Slade was in full control of his actions and behavior. Unlike his exploits in life, where the "supernatural" abilities of the Rider had been accomplished using trickery, in this form Hamilton/Lincoln possessed genuine supernatural powers, including a form of ethereal/energy six-gun. In this way, the spirit of Lincoln Slade would possess his descendant whenever he sensed evil afoot or where justice was needed.
At one time Rick Jones and a band of his compatriots known as the Teen Brigade were being threatened by The Corruptor, who was turning the Hulk, normally Jones' ally, against them. Jones attempted to contact the Avengers but the distress signal went awry and instead summoned forth a number of super-powered persons from the Western U.S., where Jones and the others currently were located. Among those so summoned were Bonita Espirita, known as Firebird, the Texas Twister, Shooting Star, the current incarnation of Red Wolf, and Hamilton Slade in his form as the possessed Phantom Rider. After successfully ending the threat, these five formed a loosely affiliated band of heroes known as the Rangers.
Later, it was revealed that Shooting Star was an evil alien when she twisted the Rangers' wills and forced them to fight the West Coast Avengers. It was probably at this time that Lincoln Slade's spirit became aware of Mockingbird, who had allowed him to fall to his death during a time-travel adventure in the Old West. Lincoln Slade subsequently began possessing Hamilton's body more frequently to harass and attack Mockingbird. Becoming aware that the Avengers' code included no killing, he began trying to break up Mockingbird and her husband Hawkeye by having the truth about his fate revealed to Hawkeye.
Eventually, Mockingbird became suspicious that a current descendant of Lincoln's could be the source of the harassment and so she sought out Hamilton, who had no recollection of his exploits when possessed by Lincoln's spirit. At an archaeological dig, she assaulted and nearly killed Hamilton before being stopped by Moon Knight. Later, Mockingbird realized Hamilton was the victim of Lincoln's spirit and she sought the aid of Damian Hellstrom in exorcising Lincoln's spirit from Hamilton and ending his tormenting behavior forever. On performing the ceremony, the onlookers were shocked to see two spirits rise from Hamilton - that of Lincoln, as expected, but also that of Carter Slade, his great-great-uncle, the original Ghost/Night/Phantom Rider, whom Lincoln had taken over for when the former met an untimely death.
Carter's spirit had recognized the madness that afflicted Lincoln, even in death, and was battling Lincoln's spirit for dominance within Hamilton as he knew that possessing poor Hamilton and leaving him with no memory of events was wrong. Carter's spirit eventually subdued Lincoln's and when Damian Hellstrom was prepared to banish Lincoln's spirit forever Carter agreed to go with him, to forever end his brother's menace. However, knowing that Carter's spirit was a force for good and did not deserve banishment, Hamilton Slade, at the exact moment of banishment, willed Carter's spirit to enter his body, transforming him again into the Phantom Rider.
Hamilton was now again possessed of supernatural powers but this time, Carter's benevolent spirit merely guided him and lent him his power. Hamilton remained in full control of his mind and actions. Since then, Hamilton has had other adventures, including saving a group of schoolchildren and their teacher from an attack by D'Spayre when they came to visit the University of California at Los Angeles, where Hamilton was temporarily working on the study of fossil mastodons. He has also recently compiled a thorough catalogue/scrapbook of the heroes of the Old West, providing annotation, correspondence, and commentary from persons such as Hawkeye and Iron Man. He also included a statement to be passed on to his heir whenever he should die, informing him of their family's peculiar past and letting him know not to be surprised if he or Carter should come calling one day.
Using his costume, Hamilton Slade can become intangible. While in this state he can also appear to fly, levitate or 'walk on air.' While possessed by Lincoln Slade Hamilton was not in control of his own actions, however under the benevolent direction of Carter Slade Hamilton receives advice and information from Carter but can fully control himself.
Hamilton Slade is a skilled horse rider and has some experience with non-automatic firearms.
Normal human male with regular exercise.
Slade's costume gives him a ghostly appearance, especially when he becomes intangible. It also hosts the spirits of previous Phantom Riders.
Hamilton can call upon the spirit of the horse Banshee, which was Carter's horse.
Hamilton carries special six-shooters that never run out of ammo. The bullets fired can become intangible to pass through objects or hit beings that are normally intangible.
- 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.
- 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 #6 among hundreds of Ghost Riders from different times.
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