HeroesCon - To Hell and Back: A Look At "Ghost Rider"

He's a ghost who rides the highways of America; the phantom on the road with the flaming skull. What makes Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider such a great character? And why is he such a hard one to sell to editors for an ongoing series? The "Ghost Rider" creative team of Daniel Way, Mark Texeira and Javier Saltares tackled these questions as the Heroes Convention got set to wrap up Day One.

"Everyone has that image they relate to," said Javier Saltares. "He's the phantom on the road, the guy with a flaming skull."   But while Ghost Rider may have fans, the creative team explained that it was a hard sell getting people at Marvel to back a new book.

"[Marvel editor] Axel Alonso has been trying to get a Ghost Rider book going for years now," said writer Daniel Way. "No one at Marvel would do it. He got Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain to do the ["Road To Damnation"] miniseries and it blew up out of the gate. Now suddenly the higher ups at Marvel were coming down and saying, 'You know, this Ghost Rider, there's money here.' Axel said, 'well I could put something together' and told me to get ready."

A fan in the audience asked if the team had a chance to read the "Ghost Rider: Finale" book Marvel put out and if it affected their book at all. "I wasn't aware of it, actually," said Way. "I read all of the old stuff, all of it, so I was alright, Then we're doing the book and get sent the script [to 'Finale']. I asked, what is this, and they said, 'we wanted you to go through this and see if anything would clash with your series.' Will anything clash? Everything clashed."

"I think it had a lot to do with the movie coming out," said Javier Saltares, who with Texiera was the art team on "Finale" back in 1998. He remembers turning in his work and then. "They pulled it out from us. It happened that fast."  

For anyone not familiar with the current series, Johnny Blaze breaks out of Hell with an unexpected guest. The devil has followed Ghost Rider to Earth. Now Ghost Rider has to track down Satan, who has broken up into 666 pieces, and drag him back to Hell. For Johnny Blaze, it might not be fun, but the devil's having a blast.

"The devil is having the time of his life," said Way. "He's never been to Earth. He was an angel and then went to Hell. Now he's twirling his mustache and always trying to one up himself."  

But once the current story arc is finished, the road, so to speak, is wide open. A fan in the crowd asked if, with all the new team based books put out by Marvel, fans might see the Rider join one. As far as the Initiative goes, Way said you can forget that. "No one's going to track down Ghost Rider and make him sign a piece of paper," declared Way. "But Marvel wants to bring Ghost Rider in. Axel's words were that they want to make him part of the tapestry."

Another fan asked if that meant Ghost Rider would be taking part in a crossover with the New Avengers to deal with the Skrull threat. "It's always a possibility," said Way, "but at this point, there's no outlines for it."

Fans also were curious to get the creators' take on the Ghost Rider movie. "I like how they explained the use of the chain," said Mark Texeira.

Javier Saltares said, "I think it's just a movie where you put your brain on hold and enjoy the ride." All three added that the visual effects were awesome, but parts of the story could have been improved.

"Marvel sees success and they follow success, " said Mark Texeira, answering a fan's question about how long the new series could run. "I'm sure to Marvel it's a curiosity-- aside from the burning skull-as towhat keeps Ghost Rider going. There's not a lot of 'Born To Be Wild' editors."

As the panel wrapped up, Daniel Way summed things up with some words from Metallica. "James Hatfield of Metallica has a quote that says, 'Our fans don't like anybody but us.' I've got e-mails back from people saying that 'I was a fan of Ghost Rider in the 90s and this is what brought me back [to comics]."

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