A Year On: Jason Aaron Talks Ghost Rider
A Year On: Jason Aaron Talks Ghost Rider
In February 2008, Marvel readers were introduced to this new Marvel exclusive writer named Jason Aaron in a big way as he began a four-part story on Wolverine and took over the Ghost Rider ongoing series. With a then-brand-new status quo on Ghost Rider making some readers question the comic's future. Aaron took the concept of Ghost Rider as God's spirit of vengeance and ran with it.
Since then, Aaron has unveiled a rich mythology of Ghost Riders from around the world while following Johnny Blaze's journey through a disturbing yet often humorous variety of foes. Among the entertaining absurdity of gun-toting nurses and nuns with nunchucks, the two most significant adversaries for Johnny Blaze during Aaron's run have been a dark angel named Zadkiel and Blaze's own brother, former Ghost Rider Danny Ketch.
It's all heading toward a huge showdown in this month's Ghost Rider #32, where the last remnants of Ghost Riders on Earth battle Zadkiel's dark angels, with Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze going head-to-head with Ketch. As Aaron finishes his first year with the culmination of the Ghost Riders' war against the dark forces of heaven, Newsarama talked to the writer to find out what comes next for Ghost Rider.
Newsarama: You're rounding the corner of your first year anniversary on Ghost Rider, Jason. How has this year been? What did you set out to accomplish when you took over the book, and do you think you've done it?
Jason Aaron: Yeah, I'm really proud of my run on Ghost Rider so far. I've brought in machine-gun toting nurses, redneck cannibal ghosts, mass-murdering ministers and zealots, warrior angels, nunchuck nuns, all new Ghost Riders from around the world, an all new Caretaker, former Ghost Rider Danny Ketch, a disgruntled, hook-handed ex-cop with a hellfire shotgun and a dude with a giant eyeball for a head. I'd say that's a pretty good start. And fans seem to have really responded to the new tone of the series. I hear all the time from people who've never read Ghost Rider before but are really into it now.
JA: It means everything for the future of the Ghost Rider. The finale of issue #32 sets the stage for my second year on the title in a very big way. Let's just hope that by the end of it, there are still some Ghost Riders left for me to play with.
NRAMA: The main conflict in this next issue is between God's traitorous angel Zadkiel and the last handful of the Ghost Riders, but how significant is it that brothers and former American Ghost Riders Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch, are fighting on different sides? And what does it mean for the future of those two characters?
JA: Yeah, the heart of the whole conflict is really the battle between Ketch and Blaze. Brother vs. brother. Ghost Rider vs. Ghost Rider. That's obviously a conflict that won't be easily resolved, no matter what happens with Zadkiel and his war against heaven. Chances are we'll continue to see that conflict explored in the coming months. Assuming they both survive, of course.
NRAMA: Where did you get the inspiration for all these Ghost Riders from other lands? Did you research demons and mythology from around the world? Or was it just a matter of thinking it would be cool to get a slew of skullheads together to fight?
JA: When the new status-quo was established, with the revelation that the Ghost Rider is actually a spirit of heaven, I thought one of the questions that needed to be answered was if the Ghost Rider is God's avatar on earth, then why does he spend all his time just cruising around the United States? Is that really the only country in the world God cares about? From that came the idea for international versions of the Spirit of Vengeance, and that really opened the door for a lot of cool interpretations. What would a Hindu Ghost Rider look like? A Buddhist GR? It's been a lot of fun setting that idea up, and even though I've killed off most of those characters as fast as I've introduced them, I hope the general idea will remain a part of the Ghost Rider mythology going forward.
NRAMA: Some of the Ghost Riders we saw in Issue #31 were pretty wild. One who rides a bear? Another on a great white shark? Have the designs for these various Ghost Riders been per your instructions? Or has the artist had a little fun here? (Or both?) And will we ever see more about them?
NRAMA: In recent issues of Ghost Rider, we've seen some fairly classic villains return, as well as appearances by the Caretaker and even Michael Bandilino, who played a part in the last issue. With a storyline that has taken Ghost Rider in a different direction by linking him to God's spirit of vengeance, what's the thinking behind including characters from the series' past yet altering some of those things for the future?
JA: Well that's been one of my main goals with the series, to bring back a lot of those familiar elements from past issues, but to make it all fresh and most importantly to keep it understandable for new readers. We'll be seeing some more classic GR villains returning in the next few months, as well as some old school Marvel villains who haven't previously crossed paths with ol' Flamehead. Can you say "Trull the Unhuman?"
NRAMA: As an example of a past concept that's tweaked for the future, let's talk about this new Caretaker: A young nun named Sara who is the previous Caretaker's granddaughter. Since she's featured in future issues, it looks like she's here to stay. What can you tell us about the decision to bring a "Caretaker" back to Ghost Rider, and what does the character of Sara in particular bring to the series?
JA: With all the changes we were seeing to Ghost Rider's origin and mythology, I thought it made sense to have one of those characters who knows what all is going on, even when Blaze himself is clueless. And I also wanted to address the role of the Caretaker in the new status quo, so it made sense to introduce a new version of that character. And it's been forever since Johnny Blaze had a potential love interest in his series, so I liked the idea of making her female, but just to complicate matters, I decided to make her a nun. Not a lapsed nun or a kinky, slutty nun, but a real nun, with firm convictions (and also an appreciation for nunchucks). Having Sara be a nun also makes for some fun situations, when you have her fighting against angels and teaming up with the Son of Satan (oh wait, that hasn't happened yet, has it?). Her relationship with Blaze has been a lot of fun to set-up, and I hope it's one that will continue to grow and be explored.
NRAMA: We'll get back to the next issue in a minute, but as long as we're talking about this new Caretaker, she's featured on the cover of Ghost Rider #33, an issue that's been touted as a tour through the history of Ghost Riders. What can you tell us about that issue and what we'll see?
JA: We'll see glimpses of Ghost Riders from throughout American history, including World War I and World War II Ghost Riders, as well as my favorite, a Smokey and the Bandit inspired Ghost Rider team. And also, Noble Kale and Noah's arc.
NRAMA: Between all these Ghost Riders we've seen from around the world and this "history" issue, are you hoping to build the mythology of the Ghost Rider and widen its scope a little? And why did you think this series needed that?
JA: Ghost Rider has always been a legacy hero. That's not a new idea. But that legacy has rarely ever been explored. I figured it was time to just bust it wide open. The world needed a Ghost Rider who rides a shark, didn't it? And I was happy to be of service.
NRAMA: We've also just seen the solicitations for Ghost Rider #34, and it looks like we're seeing more about Danny Ketch. What can you tell us about the story in Trials and Tribulations and what happens in that issue?
JA: It sets the new status quo for Ketch in the wake of "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance" while also re-introducing the greatest truck driving villain ever created in the Marvel U. And it features the jaw-dropping pencils of one Tony Moore, hillbilly renaissance man and artist extraordinaire.
NRAMA: Readers have also witnessed the return to the title of a one-handed cop named Kowalski, who lost his hand during your very first arc in the title, and he's set out to hunt himself a Ghost Rider. The last we saw him, he was sitting with a hellfire gun in the desert, at a location pinpointed by Zadkiel himself. When do we see the resolution of this story, and what can you tell us about it?
JA: Something really big happens to Kowalski in the finale to "Last Stand of the Spirits of Vengeance." And it's a safe bet that we'll be seeing more of him after that.
NRAMA: Of course, the major battle comes next in Ghost Rider #32. Much of your first year on Ghost Rider has been asking the question, "Johnny Blaze may want to get to Zadkiel, but how can he possibly get to an angel?" Well, one way to get to an angel is to die. Without spoiling anything major, can you at least tell us if there are going to be some surprises in Ghost Rider #32 for Johnny Blaze?
JA: Yes, people will die and yes, there will be some surprises. As far as someone finally getting their hands on Zadkiel, that's a tall order. Zadkiel won't be going down without one helluva fight, that's for sure.
NRAMA: Then let's finish up with what's coming over the next issue or two of Ghost Rider. What can readers expect to see in your title as your pass this first anniversary mark?
JA: More craziness, more villains, more Orb, more allies, more motorcycle action, more shocks and thrills. And also the Anti-Christ.