NYCC: Smith Ignites An "All-New Ghost Rider" For Marvel

If there's one character that's gotten the short end of the stick in recent years for ongoing series at Marvel Comics, it's Ghost Rider. Although the character had a new incarnation following "Fear Itself" in 2011, the series ended after only 10 issues. Now, writer Felipe Smith and artist Tradd Moore hope to bring the concept of Ghost Rider into All-New Marvel NOW! with the aptly titled "All-New Ghost Rider."

"All-New Ghost Rider" introduces Robbie Reyes, a high school senior that's young and inexperienced, but whose surrounding make him a perfect fit as the next vessel for the Spirit of Vengeance.

CBR News spoke with Smith about the upcoming series, how his experience as an American creator who worked on Japanese manga helps him approach his storytelling, the unique character of Robbie Reyes, why Mr. Hyde is the perfect villain for the series and more.

CBR News: Felipe, tell us a bit about "All-New Ghost Rider." What's the premise here and how does it bring Ghost Rider back to the Marvel Universe?
Felipe Smith: Our All-New Ghost Rider, as the title suggests, is an absolutely new character: Robbie Reyes. Robbie's an East Los Angeles high school senior with a short fuse and a passion for electronic music and absolutely anything powered by an engine.

In comparison to previous Ghost Riders, he's young and inexperienced in life; but his harsh inner city upbringing, overall distrust for most people, and serious contempt for his violent surroundings make him the perfect host for a Spirit of Vengeance.
The circumstances by which Robbie becomes our blazing anti-hero differ from those of his predecessors, and his vehicle of choice is the automobile; so in more than one way, this is the story of a different brand of Ghost Rider.
One of the things you're known for is your work in Japanese manga. What unique aspect of storytelling do you think you bring to the table for "All-New Ghost Rider," given your unique experience being an American writer/artist in the Japanese comics industry?
I'm not sure any aspect of my storytelling is truly unique! [Laughs] But being able to create a Marvel protagonist and scenario from the ground up is definitely a unique opportunity.

In terms of bringing to the table something valuable from my experience creating comics in Japan; I guess I would say that I bring "careful attention to character."
While living in Japan, I published a monthly series called "Peepo Choo," which I wrote and drew monthly for 1 year and a half until it ended on its third volume. I learned a lot about storytelling, story pacing, character design and an audience's perception and interpretation of a creator's work. I also learned that there are some significant differences between a Japanese audience and an American one. 
But the most significant thing I learned is something that I believe any comic book audience can appreciate: Regardless of theme, plot or underlying message, the protagonist is the most important part of a comic book.

Character is key. The reader may not necessarily identify with your character, but he should understand it, believe it, and be genuinely interested in how it reacts to the predicament, action or hilarity it's placed into. My efforts are focused on making Robbie Reyes, and the characters he encounters, interesting, believable and entertaining in their own distinct way.

 Speaking of your background, what was the path you took from manga to writing "All-New Ghost Rider?"
The path I took was a sudden, quick one. My editor, Mark Paniccia, whom I'd worked with almost 10 years ago, (wow, maybe it wasn't such a quick path after all) called me up, pitched me the idea for the series and asked me if I'd like to write it. My answer was, "Yes."
From the solicitation, it doesn't look like this Ghost Rider is Danny Ketch or Johnny Blaze -- what was it like developing a new take on one of Marvel's classic heroes for the modern age?
It's great! I think Robbie Reyes is an interesting character. He's a quiet, understandably troubled lead who's thrown into over-the-top, many times morally compromising situations; but thanks to his solid principles, he manages to keep things together. Or does he? You've got to read!

The major villain of "All-New Ghost Rider" is Mr. Hyde. What do you think makes him a compelling villain for Ghost Rider? Why choose him over any number of more supernatural Marvel villains?
Mr. Hyde is the perfect villain for the story I set out to tell for quite a few reasons, the most significant is that he shares many qualities with our hero, Robbie. They're both distrustful of most and have bitter sentiments for their peers: in Robbie's case, his gang-affiliated schoolmates, in Hyde's case, the number of east coast super villains who've double-crossed him endlessly, resulting in his Rykers Island incarceration.

Both Mr. Hyde and Robbie feel disdain for their surroundings (jail, and a violence-prone, gang infested neighborhood, respectively) and have a violent, mean streak; Hyde's caused by the consumption of a transformation potion, Robbie's triggered by possession by a demonic spirit. They both hate to lose, and will do anything not to.

Is it odd that the bad guy is so similar to the good guy? Nope! The most formidable rivals tend to be very similar; it is this similarity that makes them worthy opponents. You are your own worst enemy, and who better to battle a homicidal, growth hormone transformation potion-chugging maniac than the dejected, malcontent product of a violent urban environment who's been possessed by a blood-thirsty satanic spirit? Nobody! [Laughs]

 You're working with Tradd Moore on this series. As an artist yourself, what's your collaborative process been like with Tradd, and why do you think he's a good fit for the story you're trying to tell?

Tradd's artwork is dynamic, expressive and vigorously spirited; which is right up my alley! When I found out I'd be paired up with him on this fiery, vengeance-seeking race, I read all 12 issues of the Luther Strode saga to see what Tradd was all about, and I liked what I saw!

His rendering of action and violence is gory and completely over-the-top yet carefully spiced with sight gags and humor to remind you that this is a comic and that you're allowed to laugh at the insanity. His character moments are very good too. I especially like the facial expressions and body language Tradd can give an anti-hero. Solid.
In terms of the collaborative process, I try my best to be the writer, and not smother him with too many of my drawings (sorry, Tradd!) Many times I can't help but draw what I see in my head while scripting the story, and I'll occasionally e-mail Tradd some character sketches or outfit designs. Tradd has been really helpful by looking at these and working off of them, which I greatly appreciate; but I also want to make sure he really has a chance to let loose what's on his mind visually. It's important that an artist feel free to bring the ruckus to that comic book page, without feeling too much constraint. That's the ideal situation, anyway.

While I do give Tradd pretty specific visual examples, here and there, of the way I'd like certain things to look; when it comes to action, I'd really like him to let loose and do his thing. My scripting tends to be a little looser for the action; just describing the events, and for the most part, letting him work the paneling as he sees fit. I'm really glad to have the chance to collaborate with him.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for a series about a new Ghost Rider? What creative hurdles have you had to get through while developing the series?
I guess the biggest challenge for this series is making Robbie Reyes a Ghost Rider that stands out as more than just a new version and has lasting appeal. He's very different from those who came before him, in character, attitude, and, most clearly, age; his relationship with his Spirit of Vengeance is also quite distinctive, so he may stand a chance. [Laughs]
In terms of hurdles we've encountered, so far we've just been furiously speeding straight ahead; roaring engines ablaze! Working with this creative team has been amazing so far.
What's been the biggest surprise for you so far while working on "All-New Ghost Rider?"

 I guess the only surprise has been how quickly this project has moved forward, which is a great, very welcome surprise that gives me some confidence!

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