Ghost Hero image

Who is Ghost? A guide to Ant-Man and the Wasp's new villain

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Jul 2, 2018, 11:00 AM EDT

Later this week, Ant-Man and the Wasp will take viewers back into the Quantum Realm and reunite Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly's titular heroes. The sequel to 2015's Ant-Man is also the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Ghost, as played by Hannah John-Kamen. In the comics, Ghost is a super-hacker and tech creator with an innate connection to machines and the ability to become intangible at will.

John-Kamen's incarnation of the Ghost, Ava, is a gender-flipped version of that Marvel comics character. Judging from the trailers for the film, Ava's abilities may be linked to the Pym Particles that power the size-changing suits designed by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and worn by Ant-Man and the Wasp.

In the comics, Ghost has no name — or at least no name that he's provided. His past is largely a blank slate, and in recent comics history he's become even more enigmatic. Some might even argue that Ghost is an antihero because of his desire to destroy all corporations, but his willingness to maim and even murder means he could never truly be heroic.

Ghost vs Iron Man

As originally conceived by David Michelinie and Bob Layton in 1987, Ghost was a spy and an industrial saboteur who crossed paths with Tony Stark/Iron Man and quickly became the armored Avenger's nemesis.

Within that first storyline, readers caught a glimpse of the man behind Ghost's mask. He was far less interested in money than in bringing down Stark's financial empire. In fact, he was so anti-corporation that he even planned to implicate his employers at Roxxon once he finished the job.

Ghost Unmasked

Why is Ghost so fanatical about eliminating the corporate world? Jeff Parker and artist Kevin Walker devoted an issue of Thunderbolts to Ghost's backstory in 2010. Ghost was presented as a somewhat unreliable narrator, and it was up to the reader to decide whether to believe the story he told.

The short version of Ghost's backstory was that he was once a programmer and engineer at a company called Omnisapient Systems. At this job, he developed his "ghost" technology, which made objects intangible. The invention would have made Omnisapient billions of dollars and revolutionized technology.

Ghost Origin 1

However, Ghost had no social life to speak of until he befriended his co-worker Shana. Ghost and Shana soon formed a romantic relationship and he was more closely tied to the company than ever before. Unfortunately, Shana died in a "freak accident" that was designed to hide her murder. In his despair over Shana's death, Ghost used his newly built tech to discover the truth: Shana was bribed by the company to become his lover and keep him happy while he worked. Shana was killed when she attempted to blackmail her bosses. Ghost was nearly murdered, as well, but his intangibility suit helped him survive and kill his former coworkers before he found his new calling — aka murder and corporate takedowns.

Ghost Thunderbolts 1

After all that, Ghost had a character-developing stint on Green Goblin/Norman Osborn's second team of Thunderbolts. The Thunderbolts of this era included Black Widow in disguise as her younger Russian counterpart, Yelena Belova, as well as the third Ant-Man, Eric O'Grady, a low-level villain known as Headsman, and Paladin, a mercenary who frequently teamed up with the Wasp during the '80s. Ghost seemingly knew all of their secrets while undermining Osborn's Dark Reign from within. When Black Widow's true identity was exposed, Headsman and Paladin saved her life and turned against their corrupt teammates. In turn, Ghost saved their lives and hid the evidence of their betrayal from Osborn.

Ghost Thunderbolts 2

Because Ghost played a role in Osborn's eventual fall, he was offered a place on Luke Cage's Thunderbolts. Cage's team was once again based on the idea of giving villains a chance to find redemption while working alongside heroes. During this time, Ghost surprised his teammate Moonstone by sharing his origin story. However, Ghost was intentionally ambiguous about whether he had truly been forthcoming about his past (again: unreliable narrator).

Ghost Origin 2

Now that Ghost is getting a live-action counterpart, it's possible Marvel will give the character a comeback in the comic book universe. If history is any indication, we may even get a new Ghost who resembles John-Kamen's iteration. Marvel does seem to love making its comics reflect the MCU. Either way, we expect Ghost to once again become a player in the wider Marvel landscape. She may even become the breakout character of Ant-Man and the Wasp, which hits theaters on Friday, July 6.