Marvel TV have a few special heroes debuting at the moment, with Ghost Rider appearing on Agents of SHIELD and Luke Cage's solo series on Netflix. Both heroes aren't too well known in the mainstream, unless you count those god-awful Nicholas Cage movies. So here is some essential reading material, and some merch you might want to get your hands on.
Agents of SHIELD season 4 isn't set to debut in the UK until sometime next year (urgh), but since it's being broadcast in the US you're going to see a lot more Ghost Rider out in the world. So it pays to be prepared.
All New Ghost Rider
The TV Ghost Rider isn't the original, or even the one that came after that. It's the mechanic/drag racer Robbie Reyes, the third hero to bear the title. He's not been around too long, so you can read up on his adventures pretty easily in Marvel's All New Ghost Rider. Unfortunately only the first 10 parts of the 12-issue series are available in trade paperback. You'll have to buy the final two separately. [Buy #1-5 here | Buy #6-10 here | Buy #11 here | Buy #12 here]
Ghost Racers, £12
Ghost Rider wasn't absent for the universe-busting Secret Wars event, with a tie-in comic surrounding the hero. Or heroes, as the case may be, because a bunch of iterations of Ghost Rider have starring roles. That includes the three everyone has met before, plus a bunch of new ones. The story? All the Ghost Riders are enslaved and forced to race for entertainment, with the winner earning some temporary freedom. The downside is that the losers have a pretty horrible time as consequence. [Buy it here]
Essential Ghost Rider Vol 1, £41
Ghost Rider as we know him has been around since the '70s, and if you want to really get into the character you have to go back to the beginning. This volume collects the early tales of Johnny Blaze, including his origin story and the first 20 issues of his solo series. It's not quite the character that's appearing on TV, but there are a lot of similarities and this will help you understand them all. [Buy it here]
Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch Vol 1, from £8.07
In the '90s Marvel felt it was time to mix things up and replace Johnny Blaze as Ghost Rider. That brought in Danny Ketch as the second hero bonded to the Spirit of Vengeance, who was slightly different that his predecessor. Most notable, Ketch was the first character to wield the Penance Stare - a supernatural ability that forces people to relive their crimes a thousand times over. The best place to begin, naturally, is Ketch's debut series. [Buy it here]
Spirits of Vengeance: Rise of the Midnight Sons, £26
This one features both classic Ghost Riders, showing Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch teaming up with other supernaturally-powered heroes (like Doctor Strange, Blade, and Morbius) in order to take on the demon queen Lilith and her army. Midnight Sons is probably the best supernatural team-up Marvel has produced, so this is a must-read. [Buy it here]
Ghost Rider The Lego Set, £16
No shopping list would be complete without a Lego set, right? And naturally there is one featuring Ghost Rider. It doesn't say which one, but does it matter? Probably not. The set comes with Ghost Rider and his flaming chains, a fiery-looking bike, Spider-Man, and the Hobgoblin. [Buy it here]
Marvel Masterworks: Luke Cage: Hero for Hire Volume 1, £15/£63
The TV series looks to be covering the origin of the Harlem-based hero, but you can read about it for yourself in Luke Cage's earliest books. Long story short he was experimented on after being unjustly imprisoned, escaped, then set up the 'Hero for Hire' business so he could help people and pay the bills. Obviously he still wants revenge on the people who framed him, and used him as their own personal guinea pig. [Buy it here]
Marvel also released Avengers Origins: Luke Cage back in 2012, which tells most of the same story in a modern setting. It's not expensive, so it might be worth picking up as well.
Power Man & Iron Fist: Epic Collection, £21
Luke Cage and Danny Rand have been very close friend for a long time, sharing more page-time together than some heroes get solo. That all began back in the '70s, when Marvel thrust the kung fu-powered hero into the ongoing Power Man series. Naturally the two worked well together as heroes for hire, and they've been teamed up ever since. This will also give you a headstart for Netflix's Iron Fist series, which is due to be released sometime next year. [Buy it here]
New Avengers (2005) Vol 1, £11
Luke Cage ended up in charge of his own Avengers team back in 2005, shortly after Scarlet Witch went made and killed a bunch of people (including Vision and Hawkeye). In the aftermath Cage ended up putting together a team of pseudo Avengers (basically any on-members who were around at the time) to quell a riot at The Raft prison, and the rest is history. So you'll see plenty of Cage working alongside Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms Marvel (Carol Danvers), and The Thing. [Buy it here]
If you're made of money, you can also buy the entire run as one 1,208-page hardcover omnibus.
Power Man and Iron Fist: The Boys are Back in Town, £13.50
Both Luke Cage/Power Man and Iron Fist abandoned their street-level territory when they joined the Avengers, but Marvel's latest ongoing series has seen them going back to the basics as heroes for hire. Naturally it's not all drug dealers and petty thugs, but it's a good read - if you don't mind the 'unique' art style. [Pre-order it here]