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In Smith & Beyruth’s Ghost Rider, The Marvel U Returns to East LA

by  in Comic News Comment
In Smith & Beyruth’s Ghost Rider, The Marvel U Returns to East LA

The blood ties that bind a family mean that when a distant relation makes a poor choice or does something horrible, their actions can come back to haunt everyone related.

That’s literally what happened to East L.A. Teenager Robbie Reyes, the Marvel Universe’s current Ghost Rider. Robbie’s supernatural abilities stem from the infernal machinations of his deceased Satan worshipping, serial killer uncle, Eli Morrow, whose spirit Robbie permanently joined with at the end of his previous title, “All-New Ghost Rider” Over the course of the series, writer Felipe Smith and featuring art by Tradd Moore and Damion Scott showed how Morrow’s evil also touched Robbie’s younger brother, Gabe, who is confined to a wheelchair due to their uncle’s actions.

Recently, television viewers were introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s incarnation of Ghost Rider when Robbie debuted in the current season of ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” This November, his four-color incarnation will once again be behind the wheel of his signature Hellcharger when Smith and artist Danilo Beyruth kick off the ongoing “Ghost Rider.” In the new volume Robbie will continue to have his hands full as he tries to turn his uncle’s curse into a force for good, care for his younger brother, and deal with the Marvel heroes that are suddenly popping up on the street of L.A.

CBR News: Last time we saw Robbie Reyes in the Marvel Universe, it was right before “Secret Wars,” and he was coming to terms with the fact that he had bonded with the infernal power and soul of his serial killer/hitman uncle Eli Morrow. When you pick up with them in the in “Ghost Rider” #1 how are they getting along?

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EXCLUSIVE: David Lopez’s cover for “Ghost Rider” #1

Felipe Smith: Basically this new ongoing “Ghost Rider” series picks up right after the events of issue #12 of “All-New Ghost Rider.” So as you read issue #1, you’ll see how Eli and Robbie are dealing with their partnership.

I don’t want to give away too much, because that’s one of the main things you’re going to see; how Robbie and Eli work together. Obviously Robbie has a lot of intensely negative feelings towards his uncle. Eli is a despicable person whose whole motive in bringing Robbie back to life in “All-New Ghost Rider” was to have a vessel by which to continue carrying out his murders.

When a Spirit of Vengeance takes over a person, it becomes an extreme and often vicious force for good. Though at times its actions may seem questionable, ultimately, the Spirit always compels its host to avenge those who were wronged by righteously punishing the wicked and unrepentant.

Robbie’s dynamic with the Spirit of Eli is very different. Instead of being empowered and compelled by a spirit to do good, Robbie finds himself fighting intense murderous urges; the bloodlust of his serial killer Satanist uncle, Eli Morrow.

Robbie’s steadfast moral compass is what essentially determines whether he’s a force for good or evil. Although the Spirit of Eli endows him with supernatural powers, it also burdens Robbie with an incessant need to extinguish any life, good or bad.

Robbie’s powers come from a force virtually opposite to that of a Spirit of Vengeance, so he has to control himself, which I think makes Robbie a compelling character.

We understand what his struggle is and it is decidedly up to him to make these choices that are righteous, not a supernatural power that compels him to do something automatically.

Of course Eli has other things in store for Robbie. Once Robbie agrees to make this deal with him at the end of issue #12 Eli is practically rubbing his hands together in anticipation. So he’s obviously got something planned out. That’s part of what you’re going to see happen in this new ongoing series.

You mentioned he’s not a Spirit of Vengeance. So that means his power set is very different than some of the Ghost Riders we’ve seen in the past, correct?

EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Wada's cover for "Ghost Rider" #1

EXCLUSIVE: Kevin Wada’s cover for “Ghost Rider” #1

Yes, he doesn’t have the same powers other Spirits of Vengeance have. One of the most famous Ghost Rider powers is the Penance Stare. Robbie does not have a Penance Stare. That’s one very big difference.

In the second “All-New Ghost Rider” arc “Legend” drawn by Damion Scott and colored by Val Staples we saw Johnny Blaze use the Penance Stare to look into Robbie’s soul where he finds two souls instead of one. He then figures out that Robbie is actually a well-meaning person and there’s someone else in the driver’s seat. The label “bad guy”, isn’t nearly enough to describe the Spirit who possessed Robbie.

So, yeah Robbie’s powers are very different, which I think makes him a very interesting and necessary addition to Ghost Rider lore. We’re going to see more of his powers as this brand new series unfolds.

Has Robbie’s life changed at all since we last saw him? Is he still an auto mechanic? Is he still attending high school?

Yes, Robbie is still in high school and he’s still working at Canelo’s Auto and Body. The only big difference that we see right away is that he’s definitely going through some things after having merged with Eli for eternity.

On top of dealing with the curse of his uncle, Robbie also has the responsibility of looking after his younger brother, Gabe. What’s their dynamic like when you pick up with them? Is Robbie aware of his brother’s activities as Ghost Rider?

No, Gabe is not aware of his brother’s alter ego. One thing that Robbie’s powers have in common with other Ghost Riders is that they’re tied to bloodlines. In “Legend” Eli saw that Robbie wasn’t easily corruptible and figured out that maybe Gabe having a learning disability and being younger would make him easier to manipulate and he would be a better host than Robbie. So Eli tried to take him over, but that didn’t work because Robbie bound his soul with Eli’s by killing the Russian mob boss responsible for his uncle’s death and effectively avenging him.

We saw a lot of animosity between Robbie and Gabe when Eli tried to transfer into Gabe. He became different. He was more rebellious and didn’t listen to Robbie. So now that he’s no longer under Eli’s influence Gabe has gone back to being his old self, but he’s also taken interest in other things.

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One thing we notice about Gabe immediately in the new book is that because he idolizes his big brother he has an interest in anything that Robbie is into. So what we see in this new series is that Gabe is taking a big interest in cars himself. He’s learning about the inner workings of cars, and he’s spending more time with Robbie at the auto body shop. So that’s a new development that I’m pretty excited for people to read about.

“All-New Ghost Rider” had some elements of horror to it, but to me, it was almost more of a weird adventure book. So how does the tone and types of stories we’ll see in “Ghost Rider” compare to your previous series?

The tone of the book will be pretty much the same. The one difference that we’ll have in this series is that for the first time Robbie will be introduced to other heroes in the Marvel Universe. With the exception of Johnny Blaze, Robbie has no experience with any of the heroes of the Marvel Universe.

That will change. He’ll be meeting the Totally Awesome Hulk, Amadeus Cho. He’ll be meeting Wolverine, Laura Kinney. He’ll be meeting other heroes as well. So we’ll get to see how he deals with other super powered heroes who are around the same age as him, which I think will make for some interesting dynamics.

Amadeus Cho is a pretty cool character. He’s not only as strong as the Hulk he’s also the ninth smartest person in the Marvel Universe. So he’s got an intellect to go behind the brawn. That means he’s a different kind of Hulk. He’s a talker and always trying to make situations lighter with a joke, which is very different from the way Robbie behaves.

Robbie is not very trusting of others, and because he grew up with a lot of responsibility from an early age and his surroundings have always been dangerous he learned to be quiet and not share too much of his opinion or anything in general. He kind of keeps to himself. So these guys meeting is going to be an interesting dynamic.

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I also think Laura Kinney meeting Robbie will also be something significant. Because I feel like they have certain things in common in terms of their outlook at a young age. They’ve also been through some things and they tend to be characters with a darker side than maybe someone like Amadeus Cho. So those things should be pretty interesting.

It sounds like even though “Ghost Rider” takes place in East Los Angeles, the larger Marvel Universe will still be a vibrant part of the book.

Definitely. We won’t lose the tone or the feel of the original “All-New Ghost Rider” series because of the setting and the characters involved, but we will benefit from the introduction of other characters with different powers and dynamics. So it will be a lot of fun. I’m pretty excited for people to read the book.

There are quite a few characters I’d love to have team up with Robbie for different reasons. Mostly because of the character dynamics. During “Secret Wars” Robbie teamed up with Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. That was fun. I think people really enjoyed it. We got a really good response from that.

Back when we started “All-New Ghost Rider” I remember seeing fan art online of Ms. Marvel and Robbie together, but I didn’t know who Ms. Marvel was at the time. That prompted me to look the character up, and then I read all the issues of her series and I realized there was definitely something there because of who those characters are. They’re figuring out their identity and their powers. They’re also from opposite coasts and they have different temperaments.

So I thought that would definitely be a good combination and team up. Then thanks to “Secret Wars” I had the chance to do it. Luckily people enjoyed it too. So I’d definitely want another crossover story to happen with those characters at some point.

I really like the young characters in the Marvel Universe for many reasons. I think they’re a diverse new generation. You’ve got characters like Nova, Miles Morales Kamala Khan, Robbie and, Amadeus Cho. The cool thing about these characters is they have so many things to figure out. So it’s something you can actually play with a lot. You can use your personal experience to inform their own experience as characters. That’s always fun to do.

It’s also easy to keep things fun and exciting with a character that is young and is still figuring things out. I think a lot of times with characters that have been around for many decades you start wondering, “What story do we tell that is necessary right now that hasn’t been told yet?” You want to try and do something new, and these characters are all really open to that kind of thing.

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You talked about the established Marvel heroes we’ll see in “Ghost Rider,” but I understand we’ll be seeing some brand new characters as well, like the villain you and Tradd Moore are introducing in the back up story in “Ghost Rider” #1. What can you tell us about this character?

Her name is Pyston Nitro. The story Tradd and I came up with is pretty fun. I don’t want to give too much away. I think she’s a cool, fun character, and a good addition to Ghost Rider comics in general.

Artist Danilo Beyruth is perhaps best know to Marvel fans for his recent work on humor books like “Howard the Duck” and “Gwenpool,” so he might not be someone they’d initially think of for “Ghost Rider,” but his work does have plenty of kinetic action and emotion.

When you work with a new artist, you want to find out what they like to draw the most, because when you’re drawing stuff you’re invested in you’re putting in the extra time to make it look really good. So as a writer you want to figure out what your artist wants to do and then lean really hard into those things to pump up the story that you’re creating.

From working with Danilo I know that action is something that he likes. The action pages I’ve been getting from him are really good. They’re dynamic and powerful. That’s really exciting. Because this will be an action based series for sure.

His character moments are really good too, which is also important. When you’re telling a story you want a character’s motivations, personality, and who they are to come through in those quiet moments as well where they’re talking to someone else and sharing who they are. Those expressions are very important to storytelling.

So you want to have great action scenes that will keep the reader flipping pages, but you also want to inform them who a character is and why they’re doing what they are doing. I think Danilo is great at both of those. I can’t wait for people to check his work out.

Finally, Robbie Reyes has been a reoccurring character on the current season of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” How does it feel seeing your new Ghost Rider on the show along with other characters you created, like Gabe and Eli Morrow?

We created Robbie about three years ago, and he’s been in comics for a little over two years. So having him on TV is super exciting and it’s been really quick compared to how long it’s taken some other characters to be translated to a different medium.

I’m excited with what “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is doing with Robbie for many reasons. They’re definitely paying attention to the source material and drawing from our comic books, which is great and something that a lot of us have come not to expect because some times when a comic is adapted into a movie they make a lot of changes and it’s unrecognizable, but I feel “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has really kept the core of who Robbie is. They’ve kept visual elements as well that just really reflect the comic book.

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The car is perfect. It’s the same exact model I chose; the ’69 Dodge Charger RT. I actually got a chance to sit in it at the most recent San Diego Comic Con. I was also lucky enough to go to this year’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” premier screening and I had the opportunity to meet Gabriel Luna who plays Robbie. The way Gabriel plays him is very faithful to the comic. A lot of his mannerisms are straight out of our drawings in the comics, which I really appreciate.

There’s also a scene from the second issue of “All-New Ghost Rider” that was the character’s introduction on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” They shoot a missile at the Hell Charger and it flips, lands, and keeps rolling. Shot for shot that’s straight out of the comics. When I watched that scene and spotted the rocket launcher I was like, “No, I’m probably reading too much into this. That would be too great if they did it.” Then they went and did the whole scene and I lost it. At the premier I was like, “WOAH! They did it!”

There are some changes. Robbie and Gabe have been aged up a bit, so their dynamic is different, and their take on Eli Morrow is, of course, different. When you move a storyline from one medium to another sometimes you’ve got to change things a bit for them to make sense within that story. So many things are spot on, though. I’m not affiliated with the show in any way, so who knows what direction they’re going? The TV Robbie could become even more like the comic one.

I love it when people send me Tweets and fan art of Robbie. I’m really excited that people are taking such an interest in him and our series, and if you’ve become interested in Robbie because of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” I hope you’ll join us for the ride in November when “Ghost Rider” #1 comes out. It should be a fun series. We’ve got great art, fun stories, and characters that are already out there that people like.

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