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Night Rider (Marvel Comics)

Phantom Rider

(Carter Slade) (Hamilton Slade, too) (Doug's take)


Power Level: ,
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

So there I was, in the 2nd grade, minding my own business, successfully underachieving. Then my teacher decided to go out and buy three comics for me and offered to give them to me at one a week for good grades. It worked.

The first one I chose was a Superman comic, Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen to be precise. I don’t even remember what the next was. The one I thought would be the least interesting was this comic called The Ghost Rider about a cowboy who dressed up like a ghost and scared villains.

But it fascinated me the most once I read it. It was just so off the wall and had gadgets that just fascinated me because they were so strange and “retro”.

(Ed. note: Doug is referring to the 1967 run of The Ghost Rider, which lasted for 7 issues. Back then Old West comic books were still popular.)

Signs of the times

The Ghost Rider was later reprinted as “The Night Rider” which led to such reprint goofs as an outlaw declaring, “Night Rider, huh? Well, here’s where I make a real ghost out of you.” There were also mistakes in the reprints where they slipped and called him the Ghost Rider.

Renaming him the Phantom Rider was, of course, done to avoid confusion with the fiery skull dude on the motorcycle who later became popular. The Ghost Rider was the first character I ever played in the Champions super hero role-playing game  although I called him the Phantom Rider. Then Marvel went and started calling him that.

Looking back on the stories of my childhood with adult and current day sensibilities, I would have made the main character a Native American as I have grown to dislike stories (such as The Last Samurai) where the main character should clearly be of another race but they make him white because they feel they need to in order to sell the story. But, in 1967, the hero being white was pretty standard.

(Ed. note: Doug’s profile covers two Phantom Riders – the original, Carter Slade, and his modern-day descendant Hamilton Slade. Writeups.org also has an older profile for Hamilton Slade, Jackson’s take on the Night Rider.)


Background

Carter Slade, the original Rider

  • Real Name: Carter Slade
  • Other Aliases: He Who Rides the Night Winds, He Who Rides the Midnight Winds, the Son of the Spirits, the Spectre of the Plains, the Avenging Ghost, the Spectral Horseman, the Galloping Ghost, the Phantom of the Plains, the Haunted Horseman, the Haunted, the Six-Gun Spectre, the Sagebrush Spook, the Ghost Rider, the Night Rider, the Phantom Rider.
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Jamie Jacobs (adopted son), Lincoln Slade (younger brother), Hamilton Slade (Great- great grandnephew, born long after Carter’s death)
  • Group Affiliation: Alleged to be an associate of several other Old West heroes though, except for one meeting with Gun-Hawk, no such stories took place in the original run. However, he is said to have met and worked with Kid Colt- Outlaw, the Rawhide Kid, the Two-Gun Kid, the Black Rider, the Apache Kid and just about everyone else who was ever heard of in the Old West. He also teamed up with Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider, when Blaze time traveled to his era. That story also showed that, even back in the Old West when Slade had no true supernatural powers, he was under the protection of the Manitou though he did not know it. So an extremely powerful being that did not belong in that time and place had no guarantee in a confrontation with Slade as he had powerful defenders.
  • Base Of Operations: Nevada, mostly in the region of Bison Bend.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 200 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Red-brown


Hamilton Slade, the modern Rider

  • Real Name: Hamilton Slade
  • Other Aliases: He Who Rides the Night Winds, He Who Rides the Midnight Winds, the Son of the Spirits, the Spectre of the Plains, the Avenging Ghost, the Spectral Horseman, the Galloping Ghost, the Phantom of the Plains, the Haunted Horseman, the Haunted, the Ghost Rider, the Night Rider, the Phantom Rider.
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Known Relatives: Carter Slade (Great, great grand uncle, deceased- sort of), Lincoln Slade (Great, great grandfather, deceased- sort of), Jaime Slade (daughter, possibly named after Jamie Jacobs)
  • Group Affiliation: the Rangers.
  • Base Of Operations: American Southwest.
  • Height: 6’1” Weight: 200 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Red-brown


Powers & Abilities

Original Rider

The original Phantom Rider had no powers. But with his access to the meteorite dust and its unique properties combined with his gadgetry, he created a costume that allowed him to be effectively invisible in dim lighting, a projector device that allowed him to fake being non-corporal and a number of other tricks.

Modern Rider

The present day Phantom Rider is Hamilton Slade. For a time, he was possessed by the spirit of Lincoln Slade who took total control leaving Hamilton with no memories of what happened during the possessions. Later, the spirit of Carter Slade merged with him and it seems to have been more of a partnership than a possession.

When the spirit of Carter merges with him (or, possibly, is always there but rises to the surface), the Phantom Rider costume appears and he gains a number of supernatural powers including intangibility, invisibility and a pair of supernatural guns.


History

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Carter Slade was a college graduate from Ohio who went out to the American West to become a school teacher, having been hired to teach in the newly founded town of Bison Bend, Nevada. We learn only a little about him, that he was a skilled boxer and polo player.

Nearing his destination on horseback, he encountered what appeared to be Indians attacking a farm house. Slade tried his best to fight them but there were too many. But before he was shot and left for dead, he discovered that the “Indians” were white rustlers trying to scare the settlers off.

After they left, a boy emerged from the cellar where his parents had told him to hide. His name was Jamie Jacobs. After finding the corpses of his parents, he found that a third body, that of Slade, was still alive. In his panic, he managed to lift Slade onto his horse and tried to get him to the town, 20 miles away.

But, before he could make it, Jamie collapsed from the heat of the plains and was found by a tribe of Indians.

Flaming Star

They took him to their Medicine Man, Flaming Star. He removed the bullet and, over the course of several days, nursed Slade back from the edge of death. He explained to Carter that, years earlier, he had gone on a vision quest, traveling into the mountains alone. There he had called upon the Great Spirit to send him a sign.

A meteorite crashed to the Earth very close to where he was and he heard a voice telling him to gather the dust from it and keep it until the day a champion would come to protect his people. Flaming Star believed that Carter Slade was that man.

Flaming Star then led Slade outside the village and showed him a herd of wild horses in the distance. Among them was a white stallion that nobody had ever been able to catch or ride. It was too swift and, even when boxed in from all sides, people realized it would fight until it died rather than be captured.

But where all others had failed, Slade was able to slowly walk up and touch it and it allowed him to climb onto its back. This was the proof the Great Spirit’s voice had told Flaming Star to look for years earlier and it convinced him beyond doubt that Slade was the one predicted to come.

The Son of the Spirits

Carter promised to use the gifts given to him to help the Indians and all good people. With Jamie’s parents being dead, Carter offered to adopt and raise Jamie and Jamie gladly agreed. [Needless to say, adoption was a far simpler process out in the wilderness in those days].

Carter discovered that when he treated anything white with the dust, it glowed, magnifying light. This only worked in a relatively dark environment, however. On the other hand, when he treated a black garment with the dust, it absorbed the light in the vicinity, creating a field of darkness. Again, the environment had to be reasonably dark to begin with.

Night Rider on white background by Ronnie Thunderbolts

Carter fashioned a white costume that completely covered him. But the real secret was the “Cloak of Darkness”. It was white on one side but black on the other side. He wore it with the white side facing outward and the black side toward him.

The Phantom Rider would wrap the cloak around his entire body, black side out, and become invisible by blending with the darkness. Or, he would wrap it around just his head and appear to be a glowing, headless body. Or he would wrap it around his body and seem to be a glowing head floating in the air.

Sometimes, he would wrap it around his body but leave his head and hands out so they appeared to be floating. We must assume his ability to somehow control the cloak even when his hands were visible and not touching it was part of his technical artistry.

Bison Bend

Upon arriving in Bison Bend, Carter found out that the school had been burned and a young woman, Natalie Brooks, had been kidnapped. The settlers now realized the Indians were fakes and told him that a rancher named Jason Bartholomew was behind it all as he wanted to drive the farmers out. But they could not prove he was behind it and they lacked the fire power to do anything against him.

Going to a cave where he had hidden the meteorite and scientific apparatus he had ordered, Carter Slade donned his costume. He called the white stallion to him, the so-called Ghost horse he called Banshee due to its strange, eerie whinny. By the time he reached Bartholomew’s ranch, the sun had set and dusk had fallen.

He put out the single lantern inside as the rancher argued with his men over their stupidity in bringing the woman there since now they would have to kill her. He appeared as a spectral wraith, his head seeming to float in the air. A shot was fired by a scarred man but it seemed to go right through him. He seemed to be transparent.

As the gang fled, a ghostly hand appeared without a body and punched the leader. He fled and turned himself in to the Federal Marshall as the Phantom Rider had ordered him to.

With Natalie rescued, Carter and Jamie began rebuilding Jamie’s parents’ home and they lived there while also rebuilding the school.

Ghosts and Spiders

The Phantom Rider then went up against a villain called the Tarantula for the first time. He was a masked marauder whose skills with a whip were superhuman. The Phantom Rider defeated him and his gang in their first encounter. But the Tarantula escaped and was destined to become the Rider’s worst enemy on many levels.

It was also during this story that the secret of the Rider’s ability to become “immaterial” was revealed. He used a lantern projector, albeit one rigged to be highly more advanced than a normal one. It required no background or screen to project the image onto and even the beam of light projecting the image and the lens of the projector gave off no visible light.

Thus the image seemed to appear from nowhere, hovering in the air. Whether this was some form of gadgetry or simply another aspect of the glowing dust is uncertain.

The Rider went on to fight a variety of costumed villains such as the Sting-Ray, whose only “shtick” was that he carried guns loaded with “stun bullets”, hence avoiding murder and hanging.

This was followed by a second encounter with the Tarantula. Only this time, the villain actually saved the Rider’s life by using his whip to snag the gun from the sheriff’s hand just as he was about to shoot the retreating Rider. It was more important to the Tarantula to first destroy the Rider’s reputation and then kill him.

Keeping up with the Brookses

During this time, the town sheriff, Ben Brooks, had grown more furious. People’s confidence in him as sheriff eroded because of his inability to capture or kill the Phantom Rider. Furthermore, a good many people felt the Rider was protecting them better than the law.

Meanwhile, Carter pined for the sheriff’s sister, Natalie. But his exploits as the Rider often made him absent. Worse, in the superhero tradition, since he always disappeared to change to his heroic identity, it gave the impression that, in his everyday identity, he was cowardly. So it was that Natalie fell in love with Clay Riley, a local man.

There’s no ghost like a fake ghost

As time went by, the Phantom Rider went up against an increasing number of opponents, some with actual super powers. He encountered Hurricane, a villain with super speed. But Hurricane threw himself over a cliff, thinking he was lunging for the Rider when it was really a projected image.

The Rider then encountered Gunhawk, a vigilante who had heard of such things as lantern projectors and who did not seem surprised by the special qualities of this one (or maybe they all worked like that in the Silver Age ).

Finally, he experienced his greatest triumph. He defeated and unmasked the Tarantula, only to discover he was Clay Riley. Knowing Sheriff Brooks would never believe him, he decided to take Riley to the U.S. Marshall’s office in the state capitol.

But Sheriff Brooks tracked him and wounded him from a distance. The Rider had to retreat. Brooks refused to believe Riley was the Tarantula. Further, Riley had suffered amnesia during his fight with the Rider. This drew Natalie to Clay even more and caused her to blame the Rider though he had saved her life in the past.

Fear the Reaper

All of this came to a head when a new villain appeared on the scene, a madman calling himself Reverend Reaper. His intention was to kidnap and kill all of the town’s leading citizens with the intention of taking over. He held them in a cave outside of town.

At this time, Carter’s brother, U.S. Marshall Lincoln Slade, visited. Along with the Phantom Rider, he helped defeat Reverend Reaper. However, Reaper intentionally caused a cave-in, killing himself and intending to kill Lincoln. But the Rider pushed Lincoln to safety and was struck by boulders. Lincoln found the Rider’s body and unmasked him, realizing it was Carter.

Lincoln did not want to take up the mantle of the Phantom Rider but Jamie, Carter’s adopted son, insisted that he would do so if Lincoln did not. When Lincoln refused, Jamie did go out as the Rider but he was killed in his first adventure. Lincoln then took up the mantle of the Rider.


History – subsequent Riders

That concludes the early run of the Phantom Rider in his original form. Other events followed though. Lincoln was never meant to become the Rider.

Though having no powers, the Rider really was inhabited by the Spirit of Vengeance. This drove Lincoln mad. When the Avengers traveled back in time, he kidnapped Mockingbird and tried to force her to love him in an attempt to retain his humanity. He ended up being killed.

The Spirit of Vengeance

There is a story told of how Carter Slade met Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider. The story may or may not be apocryphal.

To be sure, there are notable differences from the established continuity. The sheriff in the story seems to be a nameless character who is clearly not Ben Brooks. There is no mention at all of the existence of Natalie Brooks. Though Johnny stays in Carter’s home, Carter’s adoptive son, Jamie Jacobs, is not there nor is he even mentioned.

Thus, the story may be made up and not truly a part of the Phantom Rider’s continuity. But it seems to exist primarily to emphasize the point that there really was some underlying supernatural force behind the Phantom Rider and that the Ghost Rider recognized him as a kindred spirit. Though Carter Slade was a mortal human with no powers, somehow they were both the same, both spirits of vengeance.

Hamilton Slade

In the 1980’s, Carter’s descendant, Hamilton Slade, discovered the remains of his ancestor and was possessed by his spirit. He became an ethereal crime fighter possessing the powers the original faked through technology.

It was assumed he was possessed by the spirit of Carter but it was revealed to be Lincoln’s spirit, still mad and using Hamilton’s body to seek vengeance against Mockingbird.

Finally, the spirit of Carter Slade appeared and battled Lincoln, banishing him to the afterlife. Thereafter, Hamilton was occasionally possessed by the spirit of Carter, who continued to fight crime as the Phantom Rider.


Description

Carter Slade is a tall, strongly built man who is handsome and ruddy. He is usually dressed in a suit and tie, Old West style, and wears glasses, which he needs mostly for reading. As the Phantom Rider, he is dressed in mostly white with some black such as his gun belt. He carries twin six-shooters and wears a classic cowboy hat and boots as well as wearing a cape.


Personality

Carter Slade is quiet, almost timid. That was not his original personality. He is really outspoken and confident. But, once he took the mantle of the Phantom Rider, he began affecting a timid personality to throw people off track.

As the Phantom Rider, he projects an eerie, intimidating persona. He is not sure by the end whether it is an act or if it is becoming his real personality.


Quotes

“It is sheer folly to do battle with a ghost.”

“Now feel the fury of the Son of the Spirits.”

“I am wherever the greed and ambition of evil men threaten the lives of the innocent.”


DC Universe History

It was dust from a meteorite that granted Vandal Savage his immortality. Perhaps a small chunk of that meteorite broke off from the larger mass and was locked into orbit, descending many thousands of years later to be found by Flaming Star.

Or, perhaps, Flaming Star had a vision of the meteorite which had fallen so much earlier and he found a chunk of it that had broken off and landed on the North American continent. It may be that exposure to it granted Carter Slade immortality. It could be that it drove him mad for a time if you want to incorporate the things Lincoln Slade did and have them done by Carter.

As he went on, the Spirit of Vengeance granted him actual invisibility and intangibility. Of course, he had to suffer through the old age and death of his “son”, Jamie since Jamie would never have become the Rider in this version since Carter found out he was immortal in that cave in rather than dying.

A hundred years later, he may be pretending to be his own descendant, Hamilton Slade, fighting crime in the modern world of the DCU. This would allow for exploring his interactions with other DC supernatural characters.

Reincarnation

Another possibility comes from the fact that the Immortal Man (pre-Crisis) was also exposed to the meteorite Vandal Savage was. But he gained a different kind of immortality, a perpetual reincarnate who was reborn in other bodies.

This could be adopted to Carter and Lincoln with maybe an explanation that the potency of the dust was lessened (perhaps it’s a small quantity compared to the amount Savage and the Immortal man were exposed to or perhaps it loses potency over time) and that limits Carter and Lincoln to only temporary, not permanent, possession and only with a blood relative.

Thus the Phantom Rider’s history stays completely intact, instead of positing that Carter became immortal. It creates the possibility of story arcs where the Phantom Rider interacts with the Forgotten Heroes and/or Vandal Savage.

Old West

Nighthawk was a possible reincarnation of Hawkman/Khufu, partner of Cinnamon. He’s sort of the tangent point for the more classic Western and the more fantastic comic book parts of the DC West. Depending on how mystical/super hero-y someone wants his or her campaign to be, he could be a good way to bring in something different or keep the flow going while having a “guest star”.

Jonah Hex is an obvious crossover because every DC Western character either meets or has heard of Jonah Hex.

Another possibility is El Diablo (Lazarus Lane). Possessed by a minor Spirit of Vengeance, he’s a natural team up. Though if Phantom Rider is friend of foe might depend on presuming Phantom Rider is also host to a Spirit of Vengeance (and what happens when the American Civil War host of the Spectre shows up is probably not going to be fun for either of them)

Super-Chief, with his early brick  powers and longevity, appeared in Swamp Thing along with Bat Lash. Most of the DC Western heroes even though he is allegedly from the 15th century. But he is another likely meeting for the Phantom Rider.

There are plenty of DC Immortals to run into, not necessarily associated primarily with the Old West but they existed during the era. Ra’s ah Ghul, Vandal Savage, Immortal Man (Klarn Arg), the host of Dr. Fate, or the Phantom Stranger. Or time travelers such as Booster Gold or Waverider.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Phantom Rider (Carter Slade)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 05 Wil: 06 Min: 06 Occupation: Avenging Ghost/ School Teacher
Inf: 04 Aur: 04 Spi: 06 Resources {or Wealth}: 003
Init: 018 HP: 030

Skills:
Acrobatics*: 05, Animal Handling (Riding)*: 04, Charisma (Intimidation, Persuasion)*: 04, Detective (Clue Analysis)*: 05, Gadgetry*: 05, Martial Artist*: 05, Medicine (First Aid)*: 05, Military Science (Camouflage, Tracking)*: 05, Scientist*: 05, Thief (Stealth)*: 05, Weaponry (Firearms)*: 05

Advantages
Area Knowledge (Bison Bend region/ equivalent to a city though it is a two-street town but it includes the surrounding countryside), Buddy (Jamie Jacobs), Headquarters (Expansive), Lightning Reflexes, Pet (Banshee), Scholar (Teaching)

Drawbacks:
Arch Enemy (The Tarantula), Mistrust, Secret Identity

Equipment:

  • Lantern Projector [BODY 03, Illusion: 08 (Miscellaneous: Illusion is visual only and cannot do damage (FC -1), Can only create images of the Phantom Rider (FC -1), only works in dim light or less (FC -1)]
  • Cloak [BODY 04, Invisibility: 10 (Can make parts of the body invisible while other parts remain visible adding effective +5 levels to Intimidation. FC +1; Miscellaneous: only works in dim light or less (FC -1)]
  • Costume [BODY 01, Flash: 05 (Miscellaneous: only works in dim light or less (FC -1), while it can be used to blind people, he generally uses it only to produce a continual glow)]
  • Remington Revolvers (2) [BODY 03, Rec. STR 03, Projectile weapon: 04, Ammo: 06, R#04, Drawback: Long Reload]
  • Rope [BODY 04, Stretching: 02, Invisibility: 10 (Invisibility only works in dim light or less (FC -1)]

Pet:
His “Pet”, Banshee the “Ghost” Horse, is treated as a near-normal horse, generally with stats one level above a normal horse)


Design Notes

Wealth is comparative to the pay scale and cost of living of the Old West.

After waffling between going with Darkness or Invisibility, I decided on Invisibility since that better fits what he does.


Phantom Rider (Hamilton Slade)

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 04 Motivation: Seeking Justice
Int: 05 Wil: 08 Min: 08 Occupation: Avenging Ghost/ Archaeologist
Inf: 06 Aur: 06 Spi: 10 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 020 HP: 050

Powers:
Detect: 16, Dispersal: 20, Flash: 05, Invisibility: 10, Invulnerability: 10, Sealed Systems: 04

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Flash only works in dim light or less (FC -1)
  • While Flash can be used to blind people, he generally uses it only to produce a continual glow)
  • Invisibility can be partial, making parts invisible while other parts stay visible granting an effective +5 to Intimidation (FC +1)
  • Invisibility only works under “night conditions” of dim lighting or darker (FC -1)
  • Invulnerability includes Mental and Mystical Damage and possibly slows the aging process
  • Detect allows sensing of supernatural evil within an Area Effect radius of about 100 miles (FC +13)

Skills:
Acrobatics*: 05, Animal Handling (Riding)*: 04, Charisma (Intimidation, Persuasion)*: 04, Detective (Clue Analysis)*: 05, Martial Artist*: 05, Medicine (First Aid)*: 05, Military Science (Camouflage, Tracking)*: 05, Scientist*: 05, Thief (Stealth)*: 05, Weaponry (Firearms)*: 05

Advantages
Area Knowledge (American Southwest), Lightning Reflexes, Pet (Banshee), Scholar (Archaeology)

Drawbacks:
Alter Ego (Controllable), Secret Identity

Equipment:
Magical Remington Revolvers (x2) that appear to be normal guns but are not [BODY 06, Rec. STR 03, Magic Blast: 10, Bonus: Magic Blast can affect solid opponents even when the Rider is using his Dispersal power, Drawback: Magic Blast can only do Bashing damage and cannot cause knockback]


Design Notes

While his powers seem to only be used while wearing the white Phantom Rider costume, he can mystically summon the costume at will which effectively makes them more of a transformation than equipment.

Dispersal level is an estimate based on the fact that even the Hulk’s physical strikes at “normal” strength level could not affect him. In turn, this is an estimate of the Hulk’s normal strength level.

Alter Ego was Uncontrollable when he was possessed by Lincoln Slade but seems to be Controllable with Carter.


Banshee the Ghost Horse

Dex: 03 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Loyalty to the Phantom Rider
Int: 02 Wil: 02 Min: 03 Occupation: Ghost Horse
Inf: 01 Aur: 01 Spi: 02 Resources {or Wealth}: NA
Init: 008 HP: 010

Powers:
Air Walking: 08, Dispersal: 20, Invisibility: 10, Invulnerability: 10, Running: 06, Sealed Systems: 04, Self-Link (Spirit Travel): 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Air Walking only works while using the Dispersal power
  • Banshee has no control over his Dispersal or Invisibility powers as they activate when the Rider activates his and deactivate when the Rider becomes solid or visible (Banshee only becomes invisible when the Rider becomes fully, not partially, invisible)
  • Invulnerability includes Mental and Mystical damage
  • Spirit Travel reflects the fact that, when Hamilton takes on the appearance of the Phantom Rider, Banshee appears and then vanishes back to the afterlife when the spirit of Carter (or Lincoln) leaves Hamilton.

Notes:
Banshee is a male horse of pure white who is over a hundred years old and is a spirit in the modern world. His attributes are the same as they were back in the Old West but the only power he had back then was Running.

In the current world, even when using Dispersal, Banshee is somehow able to do damage to solid beings when he kicks with his hooves.

By Doug Mertaugh

Source of Character: Marvel Comics Ghost Rider original series, seven issues published in 1967 (later reprinted as the Night Rider series) and Western Gunfighters series, seven issues, published circa 1970. Although the concept of the Ghost/ Night/ Phantom Rider predated Marvel, the Marvel Comics version was created by Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas and Dick Ayers.

Helper(s): Vincent Paul Bartilucci, Chris Cottingham and Butch Rosenbaum (all especially for help with the DCU History), Marvel Wiki.

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