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Best ghost superheroes from DC, Marvel, and beyond

ghost superheroes
(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Halloween is known as the night when the dead roam the earth - but some restless spirits haunt comic books year round.

As we prepare to get spooky, we're looking at the legacy of ghost superheroes in comic books (BoOoO-ks?) - and yes, we're sticking to superheroes and adventurers, so classic comic characters like Casper don't count, despite definitely being ghosts, and with superheroes who are specifically ghosts or who have been called ghosts (sorry "Ghost who walks" fans - despite his name, the Phantom is 100% alive).

So without further ado, here are the greatest ghost superheroes of all time!

10. The Haunted Tank

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: DC)

The Haunted Tank is a World War II tank that is haunted by the ghost of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart who was sent back to Earth by Alexander the Great to watch over his descendant Jeb Stuart and his M3 Stuart tank (which flies a Confederate flag instead of a 'Union' flag in honor of its namesake, Jeb's Confederate ghost grampa).

Yes, you read all that right. 

It's a real head-scratcher, and we'll leave it at that.

9. Ralph & Sue Dibny

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: DC)

To be honest, this entry might make us tear up a little.

Though Ralph Dibny is best known as the stretchy superhero Elongated Man and his wife Sue as his constant companion, even in his stints on the Justice League, through a series of dire tragedies Sue died, Ralph became a destitute alcoholic, and then died fighting the demon Neron.

But as is sometimes the way of things, the pair returned as ghostly detectives in a later story. Of course, this change was short-lived - it didn't last through 2011's 'New 52' reboot - but seeing Ralph and Sue reunited even in the afterlife was a brief respite for readers shocked by their deaths.

8. The Secret

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: DC)

When she was rescued from DEO captivity by Young Justice, the intangible, mist-like Greta Hayes appeared to be a metahuman - but her true origin proved to be much more tragic.

As it turns out, Greta is a ghost - a tortured spirit trapped between life and death following her murder at the hands of the villain Harm - her own brother.

But Secret made the best of it ( she disappeared from continuity), hanging out with DC's teen heroes for a time.

7. Doctor Mirage

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: Valiant Comics)

Valiant's Doctor Mirage is a tale of lovers separated by death but who still manage to become a superhero team through their shared mystical abilities.

Though which of them is dead and which is alive varies by incarnation, the current Doctor Mirage is Shan Fong, who uses her paranormal ability to speak to the dead to search for her husband Hwen's spirit - and then fight crime when they're reunited.

Doctor Mirage slightly borrows a concept from Marvel's Brother Voodoo - a powerful sorcerer who has a fluctuating relationship with his brother's ghost.

6. Johann Krauss

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

The B.P.R.D. may skirt the line of superheroes and special agents, but Johann Kraus is all ghost.

A German-born psychic, Kraus is a fully-formed ectoplasm apparition which inhabits a special containment suit, necessary since his human body was destroyed in a magical accident.

Johann once got a cloned body - but it led him to lapse in his work with the B.P.R.D., eventually resulting in his death (again) and return to the containment suit.

He eventually died (permanently) fighting the Ogdru Jahad.

5. Ghost

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

This entry seems self-explanatory just based on name alone… But since we love a Ghost story (or two)…

Dark Horse's Ghost is Elisa Cameron, and initially, she was not actually a ghost (in fact, she was never technically a ghost at all, but we'll get to that). She was initially a vigilante with "nanomite" technology that allowed her to become intangible – but later, following the loss of her memories, she believed she actually was the spirit of a dead woman destined to investigate her own murder.

Ghost even crossed over with Hellboy, featuring its own cast of paranormal heroes (including previous entry Johan Kraus).

Then of course there's Marvel's Ghost, who's not undead, but a tech-powered intangible corporate spy.

4. Ghost Rider

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Technically Ghost Rider is a Spirit of Vengeance, but since it's right there in his name – and he's still a dead guy who comes back to life in a haunting visage – we'll take the mulligan.

Ghost Rider is actually more of a title for many heroes, anti-heroes, and even villains throughout the history of the Marvel Universe, but Johnny Blaze, the first modern Ghost Rider, and Danny Ketch, his successor, are the most well known.

Pretty much across the board, Ghost Riders are dead folks who were granted resurrection in exchange for serving as the host for the "Spirit of Vengeance," a skull-faced entity sent to earth to punish the wicked.

In recent years, the Robbie Reyes and alt-future Frank Castle versions of the character have been in the spotlight, but Johnny and Danny took center stage again in a recent volume of Ghost Rider.

3. Gentleman Ghost

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: DC)

DC's Gentleman Ghost is definitely more of a supervillain than a superhero, but he's such an iconic aspect of this supernatural comic book trope it just wouldn't be a complete list without him.

'Gentleman' Jim Craddock was an old west outlaw who ran afoul of two cowboy vigilantes named Cinammon and Nighthawk – who just so happened to be one life cycle of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who have died and been reborn over and over again since ancient Egypt. After Nighthawk killed Craddock, he became a ghost, doomed to wander the Earth, eventually even fighting Hawkman and Hawkgirl themselves in the '40s.

Though he's primarily been a Hawkman and JSA villain, Gentleman Ghost has also often clashed with Batman. Weirdly enough, Gentleman Ghost was co-created by writer Robert Kanigher (alongside Joe Kubert), who also co-created the Haunted Tank, seen elsewhere on this list.

2. Deadman

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: DC)

Boston Brand might just be the prototypical ghostly superhero (if not for our first entry on this list … more on that soon).

A circus performer who was murdered by a mysterious assassin named the Hook, Boston Brand was returned to Earth as a spirit by a fictional god named Rama Kushna.

Using his newfound power to possess the bodies of the living, Brand (as Deadman) solved his own murder and has teamed up with Batman and other DC heroes on numerous occasions, even serving on an incarnation of Justice League Dark.

1. The Spectre

ghost superheroes

(Image credit: DC)

Like his Marvel Comics counterpart Ghost Rider, DC's Spectre is the ghostly embodiment of vengeance and karmic justice – though he predates the modern Ghost Rider by a few decades.

The original Spectre (in real world terms – the character is ancient) is a dead detective named Jim Corrigan who is granted the power of the Spectre, returning to Earth as a ghost to wreak horrific divine justice on those who do wrong. Debuting in the Golden Age, the Corrigan version of the character was a founding member of the Justice Society.

Corrigan appeared in the 'New 52' era as a once again living Gotham City detective - and in 2019, Corrigan returned as the Spectre in a Detective Comics tale.

George Marston

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.