Williams Drives the Ghost Rider into "Shadowland"

In the Marvel Universe, the wrath of God rides a motorcycle, its physical embodiment that of a being called the Spirit of Vengeance, better known to denizens fo the Marvel U as the Ghost Rider. Throughout the ages there have been a number of Ghost Riders, but recently a renegade angel named Zadkiel wiped most of them from the face of the planet in order to remove the potential of them opposing his coup to gain the throne of heaven. In the recently completed "Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire" miniseries writer Jason Aaron finished his run on "Ghost Rider" with a story that told of how the last two remaining Ghost Riders, Johnny Blaze and his brother Dan Ketch, defeated Zadkiel.

This October, in the one-shot "Shadowland: Ghost Rider" by writer Rob Williams and artist Clayton Crain, the blood and chaos being caused by Daredevil, the Hand and the other heroes and villains involved in Marvel's "Shadowland" event will summon one of the remaining Ghost Riders. CBR News spoke with Williams about the project.

CBR News: Rob, you're fairly new to the Marvel Universe as far as writing for it - how did you come to be involved in this project?

Rob Williams: [Editor] Steve Wacker at Marvel asked me if I'd like to pitch for it. I'd recently completed a Spider-Man story for him which seemed to go down well. Plus, I've known "Daredevil" writers Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston for years. Andy actually hired me for my first job on 2000AD just prior to him leaving his editor's post there to become a freelance writer.

So, there was an element of trust in terms of them discussing the overall "Shadowland" and "Daredevil" story arcs with me and knowing I wasn't going to either spill the beans all over the internet or tread on their toes in terms of the story I was telling here. I'd been part of the "Vector" crossover on Dark Horse's Star Wars line a few years ago, so I had some experience of this sort of thing. Finally, I read the recent Jason Aaron run on "Ghost Rider", which was huge fun, and I felt like I knew the tone I wanted to take.

There are currently two Ghost Riders in the Marvel Universe, Johnny Blaze and Dan Ketch. But from what I understand, the identity of the Ghost Rider that gets involved in "Shadowland" is being kept a mystery. So, while we can't talk about Johnny and Dan specifically, what do you find most compelling about the Ghost Rider as a character and a concept?

There is some self-torturing, no doubt. But, if you look through Ghost Rider's history, despite him being this enormously powerful spirit of vengeance, he's always been controlled by higher powers; Lucifer, God, the Archangel Zadkiel. In the "Heaven's on Fire" mini, he saves Heaven from Zadkiel and thinks he's finally free from all that He thinks he's more than earned the right to be free at this point in his life.

How big a part does "Shadowland: Ghost Rider" play in the overall "Shadowland" storyline?

The trick in making this one-shot feel important was to make it matter to Ghost Rider whilst also making sure that it fit into the overall "Shadowland" story. Something very important in the "Shadowland"/ "Daredevil" story arc occurs at the end of this issue. If you've been reading Diggle and Johnston's run on "Daredevil," you're definitely going to want to pick this up. Andy and Antony were enormously cool in letting me write a major plot point that you'd imagine they'd want to tie up themselves, having laid all the groundwork. But, this is a Ghost Rider comic. It has to primarily feel important to Ghost Rider. I think that, by the story's end, his tale has taken a different turn.

What can you tell us about the plot and themes of "Shadowland: Ghost Rider?"

Even a God-created Spirit of Vengeance is afraid of something. It just may not be what you think.

In recent years Clayton Crain has done several Ghost Rider projects in addition to his regular work on "X-Force." What can fans expect from his work on "Shadowland: Ghost Rider?"

You just have to look at a few of his previous Ghost Rider images to know that Clayton nails this character like no-one else. There's a real spectacle about his Ghost Rider - the cover with Ghost Rider's bike being flanked by lightning? That's about as good as Ghost Rider's ever looked. And I think we've got some great images within this story that are perfect for Clayton. Ghost Rider driving across a storm-lashed ocean at night and bumping into the world's biggest sperm whale for example. That's going to be poster material.

How would you describe the tone of "Shadowland: Ghost Rider?" The solicits seem to convey a pulp horror vibe?

Well, Ghost Rider's a horror character. But the Jason Aaron run showed how much fun and laughs you can add to it. I like the idea of the character as being this pomposity-puncturing wiseass at the same time that he looks like he should be giving it the whole "who dares wheel clamp the Ghost Rider, etc!" He may look like an otherworldly demon, but there's an ordinary Joe in there, which we like. I kept on hearing Sawyer from "Lost" when I was writing his dialogue. If Nic Cage isn't doing a Ghost Rider sequel, maybe Marvel Studios should give Josh Holloway a call?

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