The things that haunt the dark corners of the Marvel Universe should be vary afraid because Ghost Rider is back and he's coming for them. Now that the Spirit of Vengeance is back on Earth, it seems like the Marvel Universe will be a safer place, but that may not be the case. The most recent issue of "Ghost Rider," issue #4, contained some startling revelations about the Rider's new mission. CBR News spoke with "Ghost Rider" writer Daniel Way about these bombshells and what readers can expect in upcoming issues of the series.
In the opening issues of "Ghost Rider," Johnny Blaze as Ghost Rider escaped from Hell, but was unwittingly duped into bringing the infernal being known as Lucifer along with him. In issue #4, readers learned that Lucifer's manipulations of Johnny and Ghost Rider could have dire consequences for Earth. "Lucifer has never existed on the mortal plane." Way told CBR News. "We're talking about the one actual being, Lucifer. He's always existed on the immortal plane. He's never been here; at least not all of him. There's been cases of possession or he appears in a vision or as an apparition, but what we're dealing with here is an actual celestial being on Earth."
When Lucifer arrived on Earth, it wasn't as a whole being – he's now a legion composed of members of the recently deceased. "It's kind of like he doesn't fit. So, when he crossed over he shattered into many pieces, 666 of them," Way explained. "What's going on here is the stage is being set for a very uphill battle. Every one of these pieces that Ghost Rider nullifies, the power, that essence of Lucifer, it stays here on this plane and it pulls together with the other ones. Each time one 'dies,' for lack of a better term, the others grow stronger. So with each success this will become a harder and harder battle to fight. The end of this particular game is that there will be 665 that go down and the one that is left will be Lucifer in one form here on the mortal plane, which nobody wants."
In issue #4, Ghost Rider vows to destroy each of Lucifer's forms and when he's consolidated his power into one being, the Spirit of Vengeance promised to drag him back to hell. Some readers might be wondering why the Rider doesn't drag each individual form back to hell. "Because then it would just start all over again," Way said. "He already got out once. Ghost Rider can't just drag him back into hell. He's got to bring him down to a level where he's no longer a threat and then put him in hell. He just can't pop him back in there because that maintains the status quo."
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Ghost Rider may have to follow some rules in order to confront Lucifer and his various forms, but the fallen angel also has to abide by certain rules as he carries out his master plan on Earth. "The other side of the coin is couldn't Lucifer just leave a body? Like, 'Oh no! He's dragging me into hell. I better get out!'" Way stated. "I decided to go the other route. I wouldn't allow Lucifer to kill himself because of old Catholic Doctrine. He didn't do all this just to go back to hell."
Ghost Rider's choice of tactics for confronting Lucifer doesn't sit well with some of the champions tasked with policing the supernatural evil on Earth. "I see Dr. Strange as kind of this mystical cop," Way explained. "He's very informed. As far as he's concerned, what really kind of makes sense is that it's much better to have 666 minor Lucifers on Earth as opposed to one full blown pissed off fallen angel. So, Dr. Strange, he basically wants Ghost Rider to stop, but unfortunately that's just not what Ghost Rider does. He literally can not stop. The only thing that's ever held Ghost Rider back has been Johnny Blaze and as this series progresses, eventually we'll kind of be dealing with two different characters – either he's going to Johnny Blaze or he's going to be Ghost Rider."
As the difficulty of his mission escalates, Johnny Blaze will find his ability to control a powerful, primal being like the Spirit of Vengeance slipping. "Johnny Blaze is kind of like; remember riding on a go-cart as a kid and they've got a governor on the throttle? That's kind of what Johnny Blaze is to Ghost Rider. This was actually seeded in the very first issue. When Johnny Blaze has any amount of control, Ghost Rider's power is limited by Johnny's imagination. He assumes that this can't happen or that can't be done. He assumed that Hell looked exactly like it did. He assumed that he could never leave, so he never could. The further he steps back, the more power Ghost Rider has, but it also makes it harder to control him because Ghost Rider doesn't have a built in fail safe mechanism. He goes for broke."
In "Ghost Rider" #4, readers saw that when Johnny Blaze steps back, the Spirit of Vengeance has access to powers that seemed to be only available to other Ghost Riders like Dan Ketch. "Ghost Rider is more of a force," Way explained. "It's just a matter of focusing that force into I guess what would be called a power. Something like the Penance Stare; my editors were like, 'We don't know how people are going to react to that because that was a Danny Ketch thing.' My point of view was that it's not a Danny Ketch thing it's a Ghost Rider thing. Johnny Blaze has no powers. Danny Ketch has no powers. Ghost Rider was the power. It was the same Ghost Rider. It's always been the same Ghost Rider. There's always been one. Garth Ennis is writing the Ghost Rider in the Old West and there were several throughout the series in the '90s. There is always a Ghost Rider, at any given time we have one.
"Power wise maybe Danny Ketch, that's what he thought Ghost Rider would do. Maybe he thought the Ghost Rider would stare into people," Way continued. "Danny was a Catholic. He was about penance. Johnny Blaze was a carny. He whipped ass. You pay for your sins by getting a whipping."
Johnny Blaze is going to need all the power at Ghost Rider's disposal because in future issues he won't be just dealing with Lucifer. There are other infernal beings in the Marvel Universe like Mephisto and Satanish, and Lucifer's invasion of the mortal plane hasn't escaped their attention. "A lot of those we kind of have to steer clear of because of the movie, but we'll definitely be dealing with a lot of religious icons in this book," Way stated. "You've got a power player making a big power player move. It's going to get noticed."
One of the beings who caught wind of Lucifer's scheme was the mysterious Numecet, who clued the Ghost Rider into the actual extent of Lucifer's plan in issue #4. Readers can expect to learn more about Numecet in upcoming issues. "Numecet is a new character but you could quickly writer her off as a plot device with arms and legs," Way said. "I think in the script she didn't ever really have a form. I think Tex [Mark Texeira one of the book's artists] just decided to sex it up. I wanted to give a sense of the scope of what they were dealing with and because this is kind of a Christian patterned book that we're dealing with I wanted to bring in other religions. I wanted to give a scope which said that if there are these immortal realms that it's not just heaven and hell. Numecet was the representation of another good and evil immortal realm."
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Now that Numecet has informed Ghost Rider of Lucifer's true intentions, issue #5 of "Ghost Rider" (which hits stores November 15th) shifts the focus back onto Johnny Blaze. "I wanted to establish where Johnny is right now and remind everyone of where he came from and how he ended up being the Ghost Rider because that's something that we're going to continually revisit," Way explained. "In the issue he ends up going back to the Quentin Carnival. We flashback to when his father Barton blaze died. We show when the Simpson family, Crash, the mother and Roxanne Simpson, brought him in. Mrs. Simpson, she dies and that's kind of Johnny's fault. Then Crash Simpson dies and that's kind of Johnny's fault. He's in this pattern of loss.
"It's kind of like he's being groomed for vengeance," Way continued. "Because Ghost Rider's vengeance, it's undying, it's unfocused and it's generalized. That's exactly the kind of vengeance that you get when you have a kid and take away everything that he loves. Who is he going to be mad at? He's mad at everything. He wants something back and that's what vengeance is. Johnny loses one family then he gets another one and they're taken away. You can only blame yourself so much. It's going to spill into the world. That vengeance builds and the fire kind of burns hotter. It's kind of like it was his destiny to be Ghost Rider."
Way said that it's quite possible that there may be a mysterious force out there that hunts for individuals to be Ghost Rider. "Johnny is a bit of a hick and uneducated; he's absolutely perfect for the role because he doesn't ask questions," Way said. "Vengeance is stupid and mean. You can talk yourself out of it, tell yourself it's a bad idea but you need to be thinking to do that. It's not like Reed Richards is going to become the Spirit of Vengeance. You want Johnny Blaze. You want a dumbass."
In issues six and seven of Ghost Rider, Way will answer more questions about Johnny Blaze's past including some lingering from Garth Ennis and Clayton Crain's mini-series, which the current "Ghost Rider" series spun-off from. "I read Garth's scripts and I was like, 'Man that's a great story but just one questions when did Johnny Blaze die?'" Way explained. "Everybody was like, 'Well he's stuck in Hell. He made a deal with the Devil for his soul.' But that's one of those payable upon death sort of things. So, he died right? How did he die? I honestly thought they were going to be like, 'Oh that happened in issue number so and so." As far as they could tell me he didn't die. So I was like, 'Oh, okay. I get to write that. That's cool'
"So with issues six and seven it's kind of a fifty-fifty split of being set in the here and now and flashbacks," Way continued. "In the present time we've got Ghost Rider dealing with yet another avatar of Lucifer and realizing that the uphill battle has begun. Basically power is consolidating very quickly. The multiple Lucifers that are left are getting much more powerful. It's gotten to the point where Johnny Blaze has to step back. He has to let the Ghost Rider take over to get done what needs to be done. We learn back in the flashback that giving up control to the Ghost Rider is exactly what got Johnny sent to Hell in the first place. Johnny got tricked is essentially what it comes down to. Throughout the history of the character, he gets tricked a lot (laughs). This time though, they really stick it to him because you'll notice it wasn't just Johnny that got stuck in Hell. All throughout Garth's run, it's Ghost Rider stuck in Hell too. There was never a deal that said Ghost Rider had to go to Hell. Why was he stuck there? Now we're going to see."
Way was excited about the guest artist that's going to be bringing issues six and seven of "Ghost Rider" to life, Richard Corben. "How fucking cool is that?" Way asked. "Axel ["Ghost Rider" editor Axel Alonso] works with Corben a lot. There is a baptism scene early on in issue #6 that Corben pretty much knocked out of the park. We we're doing this creepy, lurid story that was kind of half flashback and everything that Corben does is pretty creepy and lurid but he can also do funny things and I like to tell jokes with Johnny Blaze because he's kind of easy to poke fun at. He's always caught off guard. It isn't hard to fool Johnny or surprise him. He doesn't tend to look behind the curtain very often."
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After the Richard Corben illustrated arc, Ghost Rider finds himself in a town with a very ominous name. "It's called 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois," Way said. "So you can kind of pull you our conclusions together. I reckon it won't take people too long to peace together who will show up.
"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois" arc will also show how the fall out of one of the Marvel Universe's biggest events means all sorts of trouble for Ghost Rider. "We get to play around with Marvel time," Way explained. "When Lucifer passed over onto the mortal plane he jumped into the bodies of the recently deceased. That was right around the time of 'Civil War,' where all of a sudden we've got a whole bunch of very interesting deceased characters. So, one of those guys is going to pop up with a brand new bag."
Way is having a Hell of a lot of fun (pun intended) chronicling the monthly adventures of the Spirit of Vengeance. "I'm writing two monthly books right now and 'Ghost Rider' is the one that I kind of get to unwind with," he said. "Every once in awhile you have to buckle down and be like, 'All right let's get some exposition done. Or let's get this done.' But the book is just a riot to work on. Working with Javier and Tex, when their pages show up in my e-mail I'm like, 'Man this look's fucking great.' Our colorist on the book, Dan Brown, is also really fantastic because Tex is basically painting the book. So, we get kind of an undertone and the colorist seems to be putting the color underneath as opposed to on top of it, so it's really giving the book a good look. I'm very grateful that people are supporting this book."