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Punisher Iron Man 3

by Brett White

Ever since Marvel reacquired he film rights for characters like the Punisher, Daredevil, Blade and Ghost Rider, fans of the street-level heroes have been clamoring for their big screen return and integration into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. But could Marvel have planted the seeds for their return already?

Screen Crush tweeted the above screen cap from "Iron Man 3," pointing out the somewhat familiar skull painted behind the kneeling Ben Kingsley. I gotta admit, I'm not personally convinced this is an intentional Punisher reference, as one could call pretty much any stylized skull an homage to Frank Castle. But there are a few other Marvel Easter Eggs that I'm surprised have gone unnoticed. Check them out after the jump!

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Ghost Rider

by Brett White

Marvel Studios may have retained the film rights to Ghost Rider following his two Columbia Pictures movies, but that doesn't mean the spirit of vengeance's legal woes are over. Deadline reports that a federal appeals court overturned the 2011 ruling that landed in Marvel's favor regarding the character's ownership. Now if creator Gary Friedrich wants to take Marvel back to court in the hopes of wresting control of the character, he's free to do so.

Friedrich had a hand in creating two different versions of Ghost Rider, the most popular being Johnny Blaze, who debuted in 1972's "Marvel Spotlight" #5. Nicolas Cage brought Johnny Blaze to life in two Ghost Rider films: 2007's "Ghost Rider" and 2012's "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance."

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Mephisto
By Ryan Rigley

Last week, we got a glimpse at Nicolas Cage as the Ghost Rider, pre-digital effects, by way of deleted "Spirit of Vengeance" footage. In said deleted footage, Cage can be seen sporting some black and white skull makeup, covered with orange neon lights, and holy hell does it look terrifying. Not as terrifying, however, as the devil himself, played by "Easy Rider" actor Peter Fonda back in 2007's "Ghost Rider."

Fonda's take on Mephistopheles, or Mephisto for short, is a more realistic version of Marvel's perennial force of evil, choosing to remain in his human form for most of the film. But how does Fonda's Mephisto compare to the Mephisto of the Marvel universe that we all love to hate? Click past the jump to find out!

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by Ryan Rigley

With the release of "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" today (February 17), fanboys across the country are hell-bent for some hellfire. And they're sure to get more than their money's worth, what with that whole pissing fire thing from the trailer. It's plain to see that this newest Ghost Rider movie will without a doubt be better than its widely-panned predecessor. One of the main reasons being its antagonist.

This time around, ol' flamehead will be up against the biggest bad guy of them all: the Devil. Yes, it doesn't get much more evil than that. (Though Johnny Whitworth's Blackout comes close!) But far be it from us to not speculate about potential villains for the sequel. Here's a list of which evil demons we think Nic Cage should beat up next.

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"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is here to set the weekend box office ablaze, once again putting Nicolas Cage back in the saddle as cursed motorcyclist Johnny Blaze. In "Vengeance," Cage's Blaze lives in isolation somewhere in Eastern Europe, hoping to keep the dark demon inside him at bay. But when a mysterious warrior comes calling for his services to stop the Devil from doing great evil, Blaze finds that some demons can't be bottled away forever.

Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor take the image and powers of Ghost Rider, the madness of Cage, and blend them together with their own undeniably unique style. The result is exactly what you would expect from such ingredients: pure chaos. It's not chaos that everyone will enjoy, no, but I will say that I loved every minute of my ride with the "Spirit of Vengeance."

Here are five reasons to check out the new "Ghost Rider" this weekend.

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BlackoutWord emerged late last year that Johnny Whitworth had joined the cast of "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" as a minion of the Devil, though nothing further was revealed at the time. Now we learn that he won't just be any old agent of the underworld; no, Whitworth is set to play the villainous human/demon hybrid Blackout.

The actor himself revealed the news in an interview with AMC Theatres. It might take a true "Ghost Rider" die-hard to work this out, but based on Whitworth's description, it sounds like some changes are being made to the character so it better fits with the movie's plot.

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The premiere of "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is more than a year away, but we've heard repeatedly -- particularly from star Nicolas Cage -- that this sequel is going to be different from the original. "Crank" writer/directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are a big reason for that, not just for their particular style but also for their approach, as Taylor made clear in a recent interview.

"We basically completely re-envisioned the whole start of the character, and actually had to re-engineer the origin of the Ghost Rider," he told Movieline during a chat at South By Southwest this week.

He continued, "The whole mythology behind the Ghost Rider that existed in the comic books never really made sense to me, so we sort of had to re-engineer the entire back-story of the Ghost Rider into something new." Read More...

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"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is moving right along, with plenty of time to tighten things up and apply a layer of digitally-rendered, flaming skull-heads before its February 2012 release.

The first movie was hardly a critical sensation, but it has its share of fans. Nicolas Cage is back for the sequel, "Crank" directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are at the helm, and there will definitely be a bigger taste of the supernatural in the story.

That's what Cage has been saying, most recently in an interview with Digital Spy, where he promised the film is "not going to be like any comic book movie you've ever seen. We keep stressing that Ghost Rider is the most supernatural superhero of all and that's going to really come out in this movie." Read More...

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The first "Ghost Rider" movie wasn't awesome, but it didn't need to be. Dress Nic Cage in a leather jacket and give him a badass motorcycle, a chain-whip, and a flaming skull for a head and you've got my $10 ticket, simple as that. My attitude toward the coming sequel, "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is the same, for all of the reasons I just laid out.

If you share that feeling about all things Nic Cage, then you have reason to be excited today. A bunch of images from the in-production sequel's set popped up on the Marvel Films Facebook fan page, including looks at Cage in his aforementioned gear (as well as, in one case, a top hat). Read More...

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Nicolas CageThe "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" news has been pounding the online community fast and furiously, thanks largely to the fact that directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are currently hard at work on the comic book adaptation's Romanian production set.

But it's leading man Nicolas Cage who is at the center of attention today, as the "Ghost Rider" star took some time out from his busy shooting schedule to discuss his goals, ideas and work on the superhero sequel during an interview with Collider.

"I have high hopes for it," Cage said of the sequel. "I’m very confident that something special is going to come out of this experience. You can just feel it on the set." Read More...

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