Anyone browsing the newer solicitations of Marvel Comics might find themselves asking an important question: “Who is the Cosmic Ghost Rider?” It’s a question with a surprisingly complex answer that begins in an epic arc titled "Thanos Wins" and carries right into the mysterious character's series.
The short answer is the Cosmic Ghost Rider is a perished Punisher resurrected as a Ghost Rider and then made a Herald of Galactus before teaming up with King Thanos - but even that awesome description fails to capture the true majesty of the character. Like all great comic book concepts, the sum of Cosmic Ghost Rider is greater than his parts.
The Cosmic Ghost Rider has quickly become one of Marvel Comics’ most popular characters, but he got his start as a side character in the ongoing Thanos title. Cosmic Ghost Rider pops up during an arc called "Thanos Wins," in which the Mad Titan is transported to a far-flung future where he’s already terminated the vast majority of sentient life in the universe and crowned himself “King Thanos.”
As it turns out, the dystopian setting is perfect for the debut of Cosmic Ghost Rider, a character that personifies dark humor.
The Cosmic Ghost Rider is soon revealed to be none other than Frank Castle - the chastiser formerly known as the Punisher. It takes a while for his true backstory to be revealed, but when it does, it is an absolute doozy.
The origin of the character begins in the past of the "Thanos Wins" arc, as the Mad Titan is still waging his conflict against Earth’s heroes. During the fracas, Thanos hurls the Hulk into a building, and that building lands on top of the Punisher, eliminating him before he even gets to take a turn at Thanos.
Predictably, the Punisher goes to Hell when he passes, where he meets Mephisto - the Marvel Comics stand-in for Satan. Mephisto offers the recently expired Frank Castle a deal he’s offered countless individuals in the past: an opportunity for retribution in exchange for their soul.
Castle eagerly strikes the deal and becomes the newest edition of the Ghost Rider, becoming the other major Marvel hero with a skull motif. As is often the case with Mephisto, however, Castle will one day regret this bargain.
Like most Ghost Riders, Frank Castle is gifted a fiery motorcycle with which to enact retribution, but he returns to Earth to find a rather unpleasant surprise. While the Punisher was busy making a deal with the Devil, Thanos finished off the planet’s heroes and left it utterly bereft of life.
Frank has no choice but to roam the desolate globe on his chopper with only Mephisto to keep him company - and, of course, the spirit that's bonded to him.