There's a phrase about burning a candle at both ends, and for Marvel's All-New Ghost Rider it couldn't be more apt.
The newly-lit flamehead Robbie Reyes is in shambles here on the eve of this week's All-New Ghost Rider #11, as the spirit of Eli Morrow has taken hold in what's become a hot-rod horror story for series creator Felipe Smith. And for the final two issues of this series, Smith dusting off his comic illustration skills after time away as character designer for Nickelodeon's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series to write and draw Robbie and Gabe's final issues himself.
But as it turns out, just as Robbie Reyes is finding himself at a loss when on his own, Smith couldn't finish All-New Ghost Rider without some help from another artist friend, Kris Anka. Smith spoke to us about the emotional and physical journey Reyes has been on in All-New Ghost Rider, and you can see first-hand the writer/artist's own investment in his first major work for Marvel.
Newsarama: Felipe, the penultimate issue of All-New Ghost Rider comes out this week. What can you say about these final two issues you’re writing and drawing?
Felipe Smith: Starting with # 11 of All-New Ghost Rider we enter a new chapter in Robbie Reyes’ life, with the introduction of new characters, new insight into his childhood, his absent parents, his connection to the spirit of Eli Morrow, and a clear, perhaps shocking, look into his future as the urban legend of Hillrock Heights.
This issue takes place 10 months after Robbie defeats Dr. Zabo’s Blue Hyde Brigade with the assistance of his Ghost Rider mentor, Johnny Blaze.
Some changes will be evident visually, like Robbie’s new look, (He grew his hair back, readers! [laughs] and even Gabe’s.
But the most evident new development, which will be immediately apparent, is the growing challenge Robbie faces day by day bearing the spirit of a blood-lusting Satanic serial killer.
Although Johnny Blaze gave Robbie much needed advice on the management of the spirit of Eli Morrow’s powers; this advice may be hard to follow when Robbie faces one of the biggest challenges a Ghost Rider possibly could!
Nrama: You recently had another Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, show up and mentor Robbie Reyes. Could we see more multiple Ghost Riders, like Johnny and possibly others, show up in these final issues?
Smith: I can’t give you too much information but…”YES!” [laughs]
More of Robbie’s vengeance-seeking predecessors will step into the ring, accompanied by high-speed action, battles of will, and intense trial by hellfire!
I’m pretty excited! I hope you stay buckled in and come along for the ride.
Nrama: Where’s Robbie Reyes’ head at now, 10 issues into this crazy new chapter of his life?
Smith: 10 issues into the series, Robbie has grown accustomed to his powers and knows how to use them effectively. He’s managed to keep the spirit of Eli Morrow at bay and follow Blaze’s advice to “coexist with the demon without losing your humanity”.
Although he can effectively enforce justice on the streets, Robbie’s having a harder time keeping things in order at home. His relationship with his little brother Gabe is not what it used to be, which really breaks Robbie’s heart.
In “Legend”, our 2nd story arc, the spirit of Eli Morrow manages to take over Robbie’s functions completely, taking the wheel and leaving Robbie in the back seat to spectate in horror as he not only kills Russian mobsters, but also ruins Robbie’s personal relationship with his teacher, Mr. Wakeford and, more importantly, with Gabe.
After witnessing his older brother knocking over his wheelchair, destroying the floorboards in his room, punching Mr. Wakeford in the face, and leaving him home alone, in the dark, without his wheelchair or any dinner, Gabe has lost most of the trust and respect he had for his brother Robbie.
Those of you who have followed the series so far know that Robbie is Gabe’s greatest hero. He idolizes him to no end.
Gabe, in turn, is Robbie’s pride and joy. Gabe is Robbie’s reason to fight on, to do well in school, to work hard at Canelo’s Auto & Body garage every night, his reason to never lose any battle and always overcome any foe he’s up against. Growing up parentless and with disabilities, Gabe evidently needs Robbie’s protection; but Robbie needs his brother Gabe just as much.
In our upcoming issue, Gabe is now very distant and uninterested in engaging in any activities with his brother. Without his anchor, the powerful relationship with his “lil’ bro,” Robbie finds himself deeply saddened and more susceptible to the rage inside, both his own and the one Eli infuses daily into his very fiber.
Nrama: And Gabe, who in many ways is the heart of the book – what’s his position?
Smith: As you can imagine, Gabe’s position definitely reflects the events that transpired in the “Legend” story-arc. He no longer feels he knows who his older brother is, which is a sad state of affairs, given how important he is to Robbie.
Robbie has also begun to spend a considerable amount of time with one of his classmates, Lisa; a situation that Gabe does not like either. Though he may have trouble trusting his older brother, and may show disinterest, it’s apparent that he’s also a bit jealous of Robbie’s relationship with his new friend.
Nrama: You mention some insight coming about the two brothers’ parents. What can you say about this?
Smith: Without revealing too much, what I can say is that the developments in our upcoming issue will unveil some pretty shocking revelations for both the reader and Robbie himself. [Laughs] How’s that for a non-spoiler answer?
Nrama: Also special for these final two issues is you are both writing and drawing the issues. Coming into All-New Ghost Rider you were known as a writer and artist, but was there a pull for you to come in and draw before #11?
Smith: I think the hardest pull for me to draw this issue came from…me! [Laughs]
I’ve wanted to draw this series ever since Marvel approached me to create it, over a year ago! But I have a day job in animation, designing characters for Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series (shout-out to my Turtle crew! We’re the best!), which has its own deadlines and intensive schedule; it can be very time-consuming all on its own. So it wasn’t realistic for me to also want to write and draw a monthly series.
But after we wrapped up the second story arc of All-New Ghost Rider, my editor Mark Paniccia mentioned that it was time to find a new artist for the next two issues.
I screamed, “Me, please…me!” out so loud, he could have probably heard my Los Angeles-situated cry all the way from New York without the need of a phone.
Thankfully Mark agreed, and I wrote the two-part storyline just in time for the holidays and dove right into penciling issue #11 during my break from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
But as the break came to an end, I had only completed issue #11, with #12 still to be drawn, and Mark wondering why the heck he had let me con him into allowing me to draw it. [Laughs]
Luckily I’ve got a good buddy who offered to help me out. He’s a great artist, he understands my storytelling, he’s expressed interest in drawing Robbie Reyes before, and he already works for Marvel full-time; so it was a bit easier for me to get Kris Anka to help me finish out issue #12 of All-New Ghost Rider!
So, please check out All-New Ghost Rider #11 to see my story accompanied by my own art for the first time on the series (with the always amazing colors of Val Staples!) and then, please join Kris Anka and me as we Art Tag-Team the hell out our issue #12 grand finale.
I’m really excited about these 2 issues! I hope you readers are too!