Yeah, so, I know I ended that Angel Breaker write-up suggesting I was going to cover some Ghost-Maker character next, but I have been reading some stuff over on Marvel Unlimited that seemed to be reviving the 2099 line. Quite frankly, I’m surprised I haven’t done more of these characters here. Yeah, I covered Ravage once upon a time, but why haven’t I done any of the others?
Regardless, I have been reading some of the new 2099 stuff, and it looks like the future Ghost Rider has been getting a nice showcase there. Ghost Rider 2099 was something of an odd man out, so sure, let’s cover that guy.
Here’s the thing: I rather liked the 2099 line when it started. Spider-Man 2099 was a fun title that played with the basic Spider-Man concept with a character that was obviously not Peter Parker in any way. Ravage 2099 was Stan Lee’s (brief) return to monthly comics before handing the character whose status quo changed every few issues anyway. Doom 2099 was something of a smart, political thriller with a strong side order of cyberpunk sensibilities. Heck, Punisher 2099 may have worked better as a concept than the Frank Castle version. X-Men 2099 showed the plight of mutants in the future, and about all they had in common with the present-day team was the name.
In fact, the line was popular enough to expand it to more futuristic versions of Marvel characters, and at some point, I did stop caring. Probably around the time Fantastic Four 2099 showed up with what looked like a time lost version of the original team. Regardless, the original line actually worked for me. I credit that mostly to what felt like some tight editorial work. All the 2099 books were under the same editorial umbrella, and a lot of the issues seemed to start when the editors changed. At least, that was my impression, and I’m trying to remember something that happened thirty or so years ago.
But I do recall pretty well that Ghost Rider 2099 was under a different editor, and that may be why even though other 2099 characters may have popped up in his book, he didn’t pop up in theirs. No, Ghost Rider 2099’s book was part of the Ghost Rider/Midnight Suns line that was going on at the time. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, Ghost Rider 2099 was and wasn’t part of the 2099 line.
So, who was he?
The character first appeared in Ghost Rider 2099 #1 by writer Len Kaminski and artist Chris Bachalo in May of 1994. This Ghost Rider was Kenshiro “Zero” Cochrane, a hacker in Transverse City in the future year of 2099. While doing his thing against the D/Monix corporation, he was shot with a poisoned dart and, before he died, he downloaded his consciousness to cyberspace. Once there, he met some Artificial Intelligences called the Ghostworks. These guys ask Zero to their guy in the flesh-and-blood world. Not really having any other options, he agreed. His consciousness is then downloaded to an advanced Cybertek robotic body. Basically, he was now a Terminator.
So, here’s a Ghost Rider who is basically a human consciousness in a robot body. Brash and rebellious by nature, his new body was obviously going to be incredibly durable and superstrong. His eyes shot lasers, his one hand could sprout claws, and his other popped what looked like a flaming chainsaw. Basically, he was one of those 90s cool guys. Heck, I’ll admit it: the first issue, showing this Ghost Rider cornering a guy to get information on who got his original body killed, asked by his target what he wanted, getting a full-page splash panel of a robotic, burning skull holding up a flaming chainsaw in front of him and shouting a single word–“VENGEANCE!”–was cool as hell final page when I saw it.
Then the next issue started and it was a couple pages of Zero slicing off the guy’s limbs, but he was a cyborg and the limbs were all robotic. Not following up that first issue would have even been better, just leaving stuff up to the imagination. Besides, Bachalo can draw interesting characters, but his action scenes back then left a lot to be desired.
Anyway, Zero did have a few other powers. A stealth system made him effectively invisible to human and electronic eyes. A holographic system allowed him to appear as anyone, even his original self. And he had a hoverbike. He did have some weaknesses, namely the need to recharge himself, and it turned out the Ghostworks prevented him from realizing he could solve his recharging problems with a “Mr. Fusion” unit (someone watched Back to the Future), and while he could tell friends he was now the Ghost Rider, he was blocked from even mentioning the Ghostworks.
Basically, Zero was a Ghost Rider without any supernatural element. Yeah, he looked like the classic Ghost Riders, but he wasn’t making deals with the devil. He was making deals with artificial intelligences that wanted to stay hidden. And he eventually licked those guys too.
So, what happened to him? Well, I skipped the end of the line, but he is back in the new 2099 line. With Spider-Man 2099’s return to his own time, there’s something of a relaunch in a series of Spider-Man team-ups that often feature future versions of present-day Marvel characters, but one that likewise shows a continuation of the original line. In this time, Zero is basically just a consciousness in cyberspace, controlling a section of the world where he shielded the downtrodden from the forces of corporate evil, appearing largely as a hologram of his old robotic body. He and Miguel O’Hara are allies, but not really friends in that they don’t seem to like each other very much.
Huh. There are a lot of 2099 characters. Some of them new. I may have a few more columns like this in the near future.