Since Jason Aaron started on Marvel’s Ghost Rider last year, the story has been building toward a showdown.
With this summer's six-issue "Heaven's on Fire" story, Aaron will deliver the promised Ghost Rider battle at the gates of heaven. For more than a year of issues, Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze has been chasing the renegade angel Zadkiel, and his Ghost Rider brother Danny Ketch has been unwittingly helping Zadkiel take over heaven. Now Marvel is giving the final battle a new #1 issue so uninitiated readers can jump on board Ghost Rider just in time to see the fireworks.
Announced at this weekend’s Emerald City Comic Con, "Heaven's on Fire" will begin in August with art by Roland Boschi after the regular Ghost Rider series goes on hiatus. Aaron, who admitted that he got the title of the comic story from the Kiss song of the same name, will finish his run on Ghost Rider with the last issue of Heaven's on Fire.
Newsarama spoke to Aaron about the six-issue story finale and found out what's so special about the Antichrist.
Newsarama: First, Jason, how is this going to work? Is Ghost Rider ending before these six issues begin?
Jason Aaron: Tony Moore's doing the next three issues of Ghost Rider, and his last issue is #35. Then we won't have any Ghost Rider until August, when Heaven's on Fire starts.
I'm telling the same story I was telling from the get-go. I signed on for two years, and altogether, it's going to work out to that -- maybe an issue or two shorter. It's basically one long story -- the pursuit of and confrontation with Zadkiel. And obviously, a lot of revelations and reunions along the way. So nothing's really changing in terms of what I wanted to do with the book.
NRAMA: What's the thinking behind putting the new series on hiatus just to replace it with this mini-series?
JA: Since I took the series over, we've gotten a lot of great press and a lot of great reviews, and I think we've turned a lot of people on to Ghost Rider who've never picked it up before. There's almost like an animosity toward Ghost Rider among some comics fans. I think Ghost Rider's one of those books people thought they'd never read, for whatever reason. So I think we've drawn a lot of people into the series who have never read Ghost Rider before, who are really liking it.
With me launching the new Wolverine book, which is the highest profile thing I've done, Marvel wanted to throw a little more spotlight on Ghost Rider. So the first issue of Wolverine: Weapon X that comes out soon has got the first preview pages of the Ghost Riders story. I'm obviously still finishing up the same story I've been telling for a little over a year now. But that said, I think this is still a good chance for anybody who hasn't checked out Ghost Rider to jump in.
NRAMA: So, if you're starting a new #1 issue for this story, does that mean you're going to have to start from scratch to tell the story?
JA: The recap in the first page pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the ongoing story, but then, in the first issue, we'll be introducing all the characters, as well as a lot of new characters we haven't seen in the book yet. For example, we're bringing Son of Satan into the book in the first issue. It's one of those characters I've been dying to write since I took over Ghost Rider. That was one of my first questions when I got the gig: "Alright, now, when can I bring in Son of Satan?" Because that's one of my favorite characters, just from all the Marvel Spotlight stuff, especially the stuff Steve Gerber did on the character.
NRAMA: OK, so new readers get an introduction, but it continues the story that regular readers have been following. What can you tell us about the story of Heaven's on Fire?
JA: Well, the spark that starts the Heaven's on Fire storyline is that we find out Zadkiel has now taken over the City of Heaven. The longer he holds this city, the more powerful he becomes, the more sway he has over events on earth. So he's now trying to kill the Antichrist. We see how these Satanists have been working for years to breed the Antichrist. They've been taking murderers and psychopaths and politicians and breeding them together to create the perfect Antichrist. And they have a lot of kids who are potentials.
And Zadkiel wants to eliminate the chance of there being an Antichrist so that he can thwart Biblical prophesy. So basically, the book of Revelations would be out the window. No Armageddon. Zadkiel can rewrite the future himself.
So you put Blaze and Caretaker, who's a nun, you know, she's a Catholic nun, and Son of Satan, who's not too fond of his father and his ways, and Jane Cutter, who's an occult terroritst, and Danny Ketch, of course, who has his own dark secret brewing in this mini-series, and you put all these characters in the odd position of having to save the Antichrist in order to take down a renegade angel and save the world.
It flips the role of heaven and hell and angels and demons just a little bit. It kind of crazies everything up, which I think is pretty much what I've been trying to do in the last year and a half on Ghost Rider.
NRAMA: You've been bringing back a lot of classic Ghost Rider villains and characters from the past. Sounds like we're seeing more of that in Heaven's on Fire?
JA: Yeah, we brought back villains like Blackheart and the Orb, which is one of my favorites. We introduced a brand new version of Caretaker, which is a character from the '90s series. And that's going to continue into the Heaven's On Fire arc. We'll see Son of Satan in the first issue. We also see Jane Cutter, as I mentioned, who is a Warren Ellis character from his run on Hellstorm. She's an occult terrorist who was a lover of Hellstorm's for awhile in that series. So she comes back.
In the second issue you see one of my favorite villains – I may be the only one – Master Pandemonium, who was mainly from the West Coast Avengers series. He was one of the main villains of the West Coast Avengers. And he's a guy who is tailor-made for Ghost Rider. He would, like, have demons for arms and a big hole in his chest that was like a gateway to hell through his chest. He was born to be in Ghost Rider. So we see him. And as we saw at the end of Issue #33, we have Blackout, the albino vampire character from the '90s series, and the Deacon, which is a new villain that I introduced early in my run. These guys are teaming up and they're putting together a team of villains to take down the Ghost Riders once and for all.
NRAMA: Just to clarfiy, when you say "Ghost Riders," who are you talking about? You've had a few in this series.
JA: We used to have a few Ghost Riders, but they've been eliminated now down to two. And as we see in the next couple issues, #34 focuses on Danny Ketch and sets up his new status quo in the wake of previous events. We'll see what his new relationship with the Ghost Rider is like. And the same with Johnny Blaze in Issue #35. Things have changed a little bit for both of these guys and how they relate to the Spirit of Vengeance. Those are the only two Ghost Riders, where once there was an entire planet's worth of Ghost Riders. There were Ghost Riders for different regions of the world, different religions, all fighting various supernatural menaces. Now we have these two guys – brothers – who don't get along so well, especially in light of recent events. Their initial reunion will obviously not be a warm and friendly one.
So we'll have a team of good guys and a team of bad guys. The new group of bad guys will include the Orb, the new version of Vengeance, plus some other villains who've never appeared within the pages of Ghost Rider, like Big Wheel, the guy who's inside the giant wheel. Just a crazy collection of villains and a crazy collection of heroes.
NRAMA: And when Heaven's on Fire is done, then that's when you leave Ghost Rider, Jason?
JA: That's it, yeah. This is six issues, and that's it. Then I'm out. Again, that's me trying to throw every last bit of craziness I have left into the mix. I don't want to walk away with any bullets left in the holster. I'm going to fire every one of them while I have the chance. To use a football metaphor, I will leave it all on the field.
NRAMA: Will the Ghost Rider series continue after Heaven's on Fire?
JA: I'm sure after Heaven's on Fire, there will still be a Ghost Rider book. I would imagine it would start with a new #1 issue, but we'll see what happens. It will be a good spot for somebody to jump on and take over.
NRAMA: Will you ever come back to Ghost Rider?
JA: Who knows? I would never write off the possibility. But I think what's been good about the stuff I've done so far for Marvel is I've hopped around a lot, from Wolverine to Black Panther to Ghost Rider, and it's all been situations where I came on and told one story. Whether it was a single-issue story or a four-issue story, or in Ghost Rider's case, a two-year story, it's still one story. I was hopping around doing these stories and moving on to something else.
It will be different with Wolverine because I'll be telling, hopefully, a few years of stories. But I think it's fun to not overstay your welcome on things – to step up to bat, hopefully hit a home run, then move on to the next thing. But yeah, I would never write off the possibility to do more Ghost Rider. And I certainly hope this is not the last chance I get to write the Son of Satan. That would be a travesty.