This July, writer Daniel Way and artist Mark Texeira will be leaving behind a fiery trail of retribution as they return the Spirit of Vengeance, Ghost Rider, to the Marvel Universe in a new ongoing monthly series. We caught up with Way to discuss the new “Ghost Rider” series.
Marvel has wanted to get “Ghost Rider” back on the road for a long time, they just weren’t sure if there would be any interest, but the recent “Ghost Rider” mini-series showed that fans were clamoring for more adventures of the Spirit of Vengeance. “When Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain did their thing and it blew up, [editor] Axel Alonso, who’s been pushing for a series the whole time, to his credit didn’t say, ‘I told you so,'” Way told CBR News. “He basically said, ‘Okay, can we do an ongoing?’ I got involved because we had talked quite a few times about at least doing a mini-series. When Axel knew he had a green light to put a series together he was like, ‘Okay, what kind of ideas do you have?’ I took it from there.”
Way’s ideas build upon the story foundation Garth Ennis laid in the most recent “Ghost Rider” mini-series. “It’s not a direct follow up,” Way explained. “Essentially we take the things that happed in Garth’s story and use that as the status quo, which is Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, is trapped in hell.
“My first question was, ‘If he’s trapped in hell when did he die?'” Way continued. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh yeah he would have to be dead.’ I don’t think anyone is interested in reading the continuing adventures of a dead guy stuck in hell. So, we’ve got to spring him out of there. The first order of business is to get Ghost Rider out of hell.”
Ghost Rider’s escape from the infernal realm doesn’t solve his problems– it only creates more. “He’s not the only thing that gets out of hell,” Way said “The other things that get out hell, that’s his fault. It falls on him to track them down.”
Ghost Rider’s pursuit of the escapees from hell will take him to many different locales. “This new series will be a lot like the series from the ’90s, except for one big thing– the ’90s Ghost Rider basically stayed in New York. Our Ghost Rider goes wherever the road leads him. He’s on the trail of vengeance wherever it may lead.”
Ghost Rider’s prey will do whatever they can to avoid capture by the Spirit of Vengeance because it literally is a fate worse than death. “When you compare what the Punisher and Ghost Rider would do to a bad guy, what the Punisher would do would seem like a blessing. You get to die at the end,” Way explained. “Now you might go to hell, but Ghost Rider is going to drive you there. He’s going to work you over then he’s going to deliver you and probably pick out your spot. So, there will be a lot of torment and hurting. Once a target has been identified, there’s no pulling back. He does them in the worst possible way.
“At the same time, I don’t want it to be, ‘You snatched that lady’s purse and cut her with a knife. I’m going to deal some vengeance on you. No it’s going to be equal and opposite forces. He cleans up Heaven, Hell or whatever the job requires.”
When Ghost Rider finally arrives on the scene, the target he’s after and the people that stand in the way of him and his quarry won’t be greeting the fiery headed wraith with pithy, defiant one-liners. “When Ghost Rider shows up, people should be shitting their pants because you can’t just have him rolling down the street with a flaming skull on a flaming motorcycle,” Way said. “If he does that, people are going to look and it’s not like anybody is going to say, ‘What is that?’ It’s going to be, ‘Oh my God! That’s a demon! It’s Hell on Earth!’ That’s pretty much what we thought it would look like and there it is. There is much to be feared from Ghost Rider.
“I’m not going to limit his time as Ghost Rider because that would suck,” Way continued. “But when Ghost Rider shows up on the scene, the impact will be immediate. He doesn’t stroll up to someone and have a conversation. People are going to run. The only person that would stop and talk to him would be something that at least thinks it’s as bad-ass as Ghost Rider is and that’s bad-ass. If you can stand toe-to-toe with that thing, you’ve got some balls.”
The opponents that stand toe-to-toe with the Spirit of Vengeance will be subject to a number of nasty supernatural abilities that Ghost Rider has at his command. “I don’t want it to be like this is his patented kung-fu grip. Essentially, he can do a lot,” Way said. “It all stems from the same source. I want to keep the chain because it just rocks.”
One of the abilities possessed by the ’90s incarnation of Ghost Rider was the Penance Stare, which made its victims feel all the guilt and misery they had caused. Way feels that Ghost Rider doesn’t really need that ability. “Staring someone down is a pretty hardcore thing to do if you got a regular head,” Way stated. “He’s on fire and he doesn’t even have eyeballs. If he’s looking right at you, you’re fucked. You try to make good with Jesus then and there.”
Ghost Rider might not posses a penance stare, but his existence is defined by penance and Way plans to explore that. “I don’t want to reveal too much, but Ghost Rider is the Spirit of Vengeance. When he goes after someone he’s looking for, he’s looking for penance. He takes his pound of flesh,” Way explained. “Well, why? Why doesn’t he just waste them like the Punisher? They’ve got it coming and he can do it. Why does he extract that penance? That’s going to be a question that’s posed and eventually answered.”
Another aspect of Ghost Rider that Way will be exploring and developing is how Johnny Blaze became Ghost Rider. “We’re going to be going back to his original origin and building upon it; showing that not everything is as it seems,” Way stated. “I think his origin happened in one panel. There was trouble and he whipped out a satanic bible from under the bed and boom! Satan showed up and he cut a deal. We’re going to show that there are very few coincidences. There was a lot of planning involved in getting Johnny Blaze to become the Ghost Rider. The big question is who did the planning?’
In addition to exploring the origin of Johnny Blaze, Way also has plans to explore the origin of the Spirit of Vengeance. These plans spring from the upcoming Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain mini-series: “Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears,” which tells the tale of a Spirit of Vengeance that operated during the American Civil War. “There has always been a Ghost Rider,” Way explained. “At any one time there has always been a Ghost Rider operating on Earth. So, this also explains why suddenly Johnny Blaze is gone and Dan Ketch is Ghost Rider and now that Johnny Blaze is back . . .”
Way does plan on addressing the whereabouts and circumstances of Dan Ketch, but not right away. “I don’t want to approach that character until I can do it perfectly,” he said. “I would like to bring that character in because I think he’s interesting. He was coming from a much different place than Johnny Blaze was but I have to time him just right here. I don’t want to blow any opportunities.”
Another story opportunity Way will be taking advantage of is that “Ghost Rider” will be part of the Marvel Universe. “He has this overarching mission, but it’s going to be unavoidable that he gets tangled up in the problems of the Marvel World. He will be meeting up with some of the superheroes. We really haven’t plotted out what characters he will interact with yet simply because that takes awhile.”
Way also would also love for Ghost Rider to interact and possibly butt heads with many of Marvel’s horror characters. “Those characters would fit nicely in there,” he stated. “I would like to touch on those characters. I think Morbius is an interesting character simply because he’s not the gothic vampire. He didn’t come about that way. He had a Marvel style vampire origin so he’s not some kind of hellish demon, but that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass from Ghost Rider.”
Mark Texeira will be illustrating Way’s scripts for “Ghost Rider,” which the writer is psyched about, since it was Texeira’s art on the ’90s “Ghost Rider” series that sparked his interest in the character. “I didn’t read a whole lot of comic books when I was younger,” Way said. “I would see the covers by Mark Texeira and I was like, ‘Man that’s just cool!’ I would pick up these books and it was strictly for the art. Now I don’t want to dump on the writing, but I just loved the way it looked. I loved the whole concept of this Ghost Rider. I could tell that I was really down for it when I got all these older Ghost Rider comics, when he’s corny looking. The stories are corny, but not all of them are corny. There’s one where he races Death. That was awesome. I’m reading it and a couple of pages in the whole this is goofy, this is funny thing was gone. I was like, ‘Go Ghost Rider! Beat his ass!’ I was on board. That’s when you know whether it’s the packaging or the concept. Ghost Rider is something that I definitely wanted to get down with.”