Felipe Smith Promises Muscle Cars, Drag Racing & More in ALL-NEW GHOST RIDER

All-New Ghost Rider #1
Credit: Marvel Comics

Stand back, comic fans – there’s a new Ghost Rider in town.

Writer Felipe Smith and artist Tradd Moore are shifting gears for Marvel’s Ghost Rider beginning this March in All-New Ghost Rider. Announced at the 2013 New York Comic Con, All-New Ghost Rider promises a new face behind the flaming skull: Robbie Reyes, a teenage gearhead with a predilection for hot rods, muscle cars and street racing. The creators state they’re not looking to emulate or replace Danny Ketch or Johnny Blaze (the latter of which is joining Thunderboltsnext year), but instead add a new face to the Spirit of Vengeance’s lineage.

Earlier this month Newsarama spoke with series editor Mark Paniccia about tooling up this All-New Ghost Rider, and now we jump in the backseat with Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore at the wheel to see what this Ghost Rider is like on the open road.

Newsarama: Felipe Smith, Tradd Moore and Ghost Rider – sounds like an epic pairing. What do you have planned for All-New Ghost Rider?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Felipe Smith: Drag racing, pyrotechnics, gang warfare, Satan worshipping, drug peddling, military mercenaries and brotherly camaraderie are all key elements of this Ghost Rider story.

Tradd Moore: Thanks! Visually, I'm planning for this to be the fastest, most frenetic take on the character that I can possibly muster. I want the action scenes to give people whiplash. [Laughs]  Races and chases are notoriously difficult to pull off in comic books, so I'd love for this one to stand out as one that gets things right. I'm excited for the challenge!

Nrama: There’s been a litany of Ghost Riders crisscrossing Marvel continuity, but in All-New Ghost Rider we have an all-new Spirit of Vengeance named Robbie Reyes. Who is he, Felipe?

Smith: Robbie is a quiet 18-year-old East Angelino with a harsh inner city upbringing, a passion for electronic music, and a serious infatuation with absolutely anything powered by an engine.

His vehicle of choice is the automobile, which most evidently sets him apart from other Ghost Riders. He's particularly fond of muscle cars.

Younger than his predecessors, Robbie is not as experienced in life, but his distrust for most people, serious contempt for his violent surroundings and eagerness to escape his current living conditions make him the perfect host for a Spirit of Vengeance.

Moore: Ghost Rider is such a striking visual, and, to me, that's always been his (or her, in a recent case) primary appeal. How can you not be struck by that classic flaming skull? What we're doing to set this Ghost Rider apart is introducing a brand new character that we hope readers will really care about and love to follow. I'm confident that we're doing this with our new Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes. We want readers to be invested in Robbie's life even when he's not sporting a flaming head and exacting vengeance upon bad dudes. He's not here to emulate or replace good ol' Johnny Blaze or Danny Ketch; he's here to be his own character with his own life, hardships, and merits. I can't wait to introduce everyone to Robbie!

Also, all that said, when he does go out to exact vengeance (which will be swift an often), I can assure you that it will be blistering.

Nrama: Ghost Rider has a great rogue’s gallery. Who will he be facing here – someone he’s met before or someone new?

Smith: Ghost Rider will be going up against drug dealers, ex-military mercenaries, inner city gangs, drag racers whose illicit activities go beyond unsanctioned street racing and even adversaries whose existence he himself cannot explain, but the biggest threat he’ll be facing is Mr. Hyde.

Nrama: And what brings Ghost Rider’s attention to Mr. Hyde?

Smith: Upon escaping Ryker’s Island in New York City, a town oversaturated with as many heroes as super-villains, Mr. Hyde decides to head west and set up shop in Los Angeles, where he plans to cement a high position in the criminal underworld. Gang violence, weapon dealing, and drug trafficking run rampant in Los Angeles, and Hyde wants a piece of it all. Little does he know that he’s set foot into our new Ghost Rider’s turf.

Nrama: You mentioned earlier that Robbie’s vehicle of choice is an automobile and not a motorcycle like so many Ghost Riders before. What does this Ghost Rider ride here?

Smith: As I mentioned earlier, Robbie Reyes is a fanatic of anything fast with an engine. He’s a mechanic who has a special love for muscle cars, and as Ghost Rider, his vehicle of choice is a black, ’69 Dodge Charger with a chrome blower on the hood. It’s a fast, powerful, mean machine.

Nrama:  Ghost Rider has always blazed a trail in superhero comics that makes him stand out from other superheroes. How do you think Ghost Rider fits in with superhero comics, or does he – or even should he?

Smith: Ghost Rider has classically stood out from other heroes thanks to his arguably villainous physical appearance, anti-hero character and sinister powers. He's a good guy who looks and fights like a bad guy. The Robbie Reyes' Ghost Rider shares many of these qualities. However, the circumstances in which he receives his power, his relationship with the spirit possessing him, and his outlook on life are quite different from those of his predecessors and make Robbie a very distinct Ghost Rider. In terms of how he fits in comics, specifically in the Ghost Rider line, I would have to say that Robbie Reyes is a darker, more unpredictable anti-hero in comparison.

Nrama: Tradd, Ghost Rider really offers some different type of opportunities visually compared to a standard superhero, given the flames, the vehicle, etc. What do you have planned -- or want to do -- with the character?

Moore: Ghost Rider already stands out from other super heroes visually, and we want our new iteration to stand out from the other Ghost Riders. Robbie needs to be his own man! He's sleek and intimidating. Fierce and exacting. His choice of vehicle is different from previous Riders, a car instead of a motorcycle, and we wanted his design to represent this aspect. I want it to be as clear as ever that if this Ghost Rider catches a villain in his sights, they're never going to make it home alive.

Speaking of different, Ghost Rider is also unique when compared to most other super heroes in that most of his action scenes take place in vehicles. More spinning wheels, less spinning roundhouse kicks, you know? I'm so ready to dive into these scenes. With Luther Strode I have the opportunity to depict a lot of hand to hand combat; it's like a mix between kung fu and slasher style action. With Ghost Rider I get to do something completely different: cars, chases, guns, explosions, fire, fire, fire. I can't wait to represent speed and motion in a way that I haven't had the opportunity to before. I plan for this Ghost Rider to be as dynamic as possible.

Nrama: Felipe, you made your name in American comics back in 2005 with the great manga series MBQ, but for a few years who left the American comics scene completely for Japan. But now you’re back, doing Freelancers last year and now making your Marvel debut with All-New Ghost Rider. What brought you to Marvel, and to Ghost Rider?

Smith: A lot of jumping around brought me to Marvel and Ghost Rider. [Laughs] After completing my first American graphic novel series in 2008, I moved to Tokyo to pursue a new project for an entirely different audience. A year and a half of serialization and 750 pages of story later, I had completed the 3rd and last volume of my Japanese series, Peepo Choo. I immediately began putting together ideas for a new series and eventually came up with a story I thought I could tell well. A year later I realized, after a lot of thumb-nailing and pitching, that this story might have more of an impact on a Western audience who’s already accustomed to certain archetypes, visual cues, and storytelling devices. So after four years living and creating comics in Japan I decided to come back home, take everything I’d learned while working there, and gear my next publishing endeavor towards a Western audience.

This year my editor, Mark Paniccia, with whom I’d coincidentally (maybe not so coincidentally?) worked on my first graphic novel series almost 10 years ago, called me up, pitched the idea of an all-new Ghost Rider series and asked me if I’d like to write it. Of all the characters in Marvel’s roster, he approached me with Ghost Rider. Thank you, Mark!

I love Ghost Rider, I love anti-heroes, and this story is exactly the type of story I’ve been waiting to write for an American audience. I’m excited.

Nrama: Tradd, likewise this is your first book for the Big Two. After your impressive work in Luther Strode I’m sure you had more than a couple offers, so what made All-New Ghost Rider a book you wanted to do?

Moore: This book felt right for a number of reasons. I've always said that I'm not interested in taking on an issue or arc of anything that feels irrelevant to me, and that will always be the case. I'm not interested in producing filler material, and I never want to be a cog in a machine, you know? Comics are a huge dedication of time and effort, so, in my opinion, there's no point whatsoever in working on something that you're not ecstatic about on the creative side. I won't be a part of telling a story that I myself wouldn't want to read.

This is a story that I want to help tell. This is a story that, as a fan, I want to read.

With this new Ghost Rider, Marvel is being bold and gutsy in their decisions, and I love that. I'm proud to be a part of it, and I'm honored that they are giving Felipe and me the freedom to let loose. Felipe and I are both new to the Big Two ball game, and we have been given a chance to do something fresh. We're being given the chance to put our thumbprints, our ideas, our passion, onto the pages of an iconic property, and that's a truly unique opportunity. I have huge respect for Felipe's work and I have a lifetime of love for Marvel's long roster of characters -- from the A-list all the way to the Z-list.

Also, let's not forget that Ghost Rider is a dude with a flaming skull head who drives around at breakneck speeds eviscerating people. That is the most metal thing on the planet. I probably could have just left it at that and saved everyone some reading time.

Nrama: The idea of you two working together sounds like it’s ripe for some great comics. What do you think about who you’re working with here?

Moore: We're early on in the process, but I'm loving it so far! I've never worked with a fellow artist/illustrator before, so it's cool to be able to bounce ideas off of each other visually. It feels very organic. As a creator, I think it's important to try new things, to work in new ways, and to never become too comfortable in where you are. That can lead to stagnation, and it's just boring. You have to push yourself. I think that working with Felipe will expand my experiences and make me a better artist, without a doubt. Felipe is also as nice and approachable as a human can possibly be, so I'm very excited about this collaboration!

Smith: When I found out I'd be teaming up with Tradd Moore on this project, I read all 12 issues of the Luther Strode saga to get acquainted with his work, and I loved it! Besides being a pleasure to work with, Tradd is also a very expressive and dynamic artist. His work is vigorous, fast-paced and easily recognizable, all great things for any book, but especially for a new title. His rendering of action is striking, and his depiction of violence is 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 madness. His character moments are also very good and I especially like the facial expressions and body language Tradd can give an anti-hero. These skills are a great advantage to any writer, and with plenty of high speed races, fighting, explosions and mayhem in store, I’m glad to be collaborating with Tradd!

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