Nicolas Cage — actor and comic book reader. His name is even taken from Marvel Comics’ Luke Cage, a hero for hire. In the past he’s been slated to play Superman, which would’ve been … bad. Cage has neither the body nor the mentality to convincingly pull off that icon. That was years ago, though. Now he’s got a project he feels somewhat closer to in his own strange way — Ghost Rider.

Ghost Rider is a hero with a flaming skull who rides on a motorcycle and shoots flames out his hands. I first discovered his comic book around the same time I was reading “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” and it’s no wonder the ’70s Marvel book appealed to me. The character just looked so damn cool. His books have been failed attempts as of late, though, but the concept is still sound. That said, it’s too bad Cage is playing him.

I like Cage as an actor, but I can’t envision him as Ghost Rider because he always seems like Cage playing a role. I never lose myself in his performances and forget the man behind them. To make the Ghost Rider character work, you have to believe in him and the concept. The movie should be all about the character. It shouldn’t be about Cage, but that’s exactly how it sounds like it’s going to be. After all, Cage has said that this character is closer to his true nature than any other character he’s ever played.

Ghost Rider is fairly obscure, and was never extremely popular (until the ‘90s, but that was a different version of the character). Cage probably did like him back in the ‘70s and may have felt that he and the stuntman turned skeleton shared some personality traits, but I have to wonder if the decision to play him was really based on the fact that he would get to wear leather, ride around on a motorcycle and have a flaming skull. What actor wouldn’t think that was cool?

Unfortunately, cool does not make a film. The right person in the right role does, and Cage is not the right person for Ghost Rider. If he had to play any hero or villain, I’d actually put him in the role of King Rad from “Brat Pack.” I may actually buy that. Ghost Rider, however, should be portrayed by a relative unknown — an average guy who is overwhelmed by what’s been thrust upon him. He should be someone you believe could make a deal with the devil and live to regret it. That’s not Cage.

What’s done is done, though, and Cage will be burning onto screens far too soon. Some people will love it. Some will hate it. Others, like myself, will ignore it and see something else. It’s still a shame, though. You’d think a guy with an obvious love for comic books would be able to pick a character he’s better suited to play. But then again, he did name himself after a man who wore a yellow silk shirt and was known to occasionally proclaim, “Sweet Momma Christmas!” I guess there is no accounting for taste.

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