With the methods of Daredevil and the Hand bubbling over with the fury of Shadowland, there's only one character who can tame the wild streets of Hell's Kitchen -- Ghost Rider. Having enflamed imaginations with a recent teaser of Marvel's Spirit of Vengeance taking on Moon Knight, it's clear that the Ghost Rider will be playing a key role in the testing of Matt Murdock. As Daredevil will come to learn in October's Shadowland: Ghost Rider, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions -- and no one can traverse that path better than a man with a flaming motorcycle and the Penance Stare. Newsarama caught up with writer Rob Williams to talk about the grind house influences to the book, working with artist Clayton Crain, and what is bringing the combustible wheelman back into the fold.
Newsarama: Rob, it's interesting, because Ghost Rider has been known to straddle that line between the "street-level" characters and... something else. Without giving too much away, what draws Ghost Rider into this battle?
Rob Williams: Something I can’t reveal, sadly. Let’s put it this way, Ghost Rider’s not necessarily thrilled about his involvement in Shadowland, but he is, first and foremost, a Spirit Of Vengeance, and thanks to the goings on within the Shadowland castle, there’s PLENTY of vengeance needed.
Nrama: For you as a writer, what's the draw for an event like Shadowland? What sorts of opportunities does the Last Temptation of Matthew Murdock lend you?
Williams: There’s a very good writing tip – made by the screenwriting guru Robert McKee and others, no doubt – that it’s not enough to put a protagonist’s life on the line, you have to put their soul on the line too. When you’re talking about the Last Temptation of Matthew Murdock, all these Biblical images come to mind, the ones integrally tied into Daredevil’s history. And Ghost Rider fits right into that world. He looks demonic but was created by god to bring vengeance down on those most deserving. And Johnny Blaze has perpetually been a soul on the edge throughout his past. These characters aren’t afraid of death. They’ve faced that too often. It’s their day-to-day currency. If you want to frighten them, you have to find their core values and put them at risk. Shadowland does that in spades.
Nrama: Furthermore, the solicitations actually reference "Ghost Riders" -- meaning plural. Are we just seeing Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch? Are we seeing the new Vengeance? Or are we seeing something more here?
Williams: Shadowland provides all the Ghost Rider you could want or need. Both Danny and Johnny’s futures were left pretty open at the close of Jason Aaron’s excellent Ghost Rider run.
Nrama: Speaking of these guys, can you get us a little bit into where their heads are at for Shadowland? You guys allude to a higher mission here -- how do they feel about Daredevil's tactics?
Williams: Got to be careful what I reveal here, but as I said, Ghost Rider isn’t exactly willingly brought into the mess that is Shadowland. When he discovers what’s happening, he’s as pissed off as a flaming skull on a motorbike of fire can be. So someone’s going to pay.
Nrama: You're working with Clayton Crain on this book -- what sorts of strengths do you feel he brings to the table on this book?
Williams: You just have to look at Clayton’s Ghost Rider artwork in the past. It’s phenomenal. It really grabs the grandeur and weirdness of the character and adds some seriously Revelations-style spectacle to the mix. There’s one famous cover of Ghost Rider being hit by a bolt of lightning which may well be THE archetypal Ghost Rider image, so I’m absolutely delighted to have him drawing my script. The opening page of our story is Ghost Rider gunning it up a monstrously tall, vertigo-inducing Manhattan skyscraper, out for vengeance, brimming with fury. Clayton sent the page through the other day and it looked just crazily good. The way a Ghost Rider movie should look.
Nrama: Now, one question we have, considering Clayton's teaser image of Ghost Rider versus Moon Knight -- we know Marc Spector will have his own Shadowland miniseries, but will we see any of the fallout between Khonshu's Enforcer and the Spirit of Vengeance in your series?
Williams: There’s no Moon Knight in our story, but there are a few major players from Shadowland, and a major plot thread from Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston’s Daredevil series runs through our tale too. If you’ve been reading Daredevil you’re going to want to pick this up. Something happens that not only ties up a Daredevil plot thread but also threatens to seriously mess up Matt Murdock’s day. (As though that man needs his days to get messier…)
Nrama: In a lot of ways, Ghost Rider has been defined by a grind house sort of tone, due mainly to Jason Aaron's recent tenure on the book. For you, how do you describe your take on Ghost Rider compared to this? And to get a flavor of how you're approaching this book, what sorts of influences or media have you been consuming to get your head into the Ghost Rider headspace?
Williams: I read the Aaron trades, which I loved and highly recommend. There was this great mix of irreverence, fun and biblical beatdowns. It’s way too easy to have characters from heaven and hell doing the whole “WHO DARES!!!” bit. You need a bit of humor to ground these tales, and I think it’s fair to say that a cadre of Gun Nuns would definitely fall into that category. That’s something I naturally tend to do with my writing anyway, add a bit of piss take humor to the dramatic spine. I enjoyed the gothic Americana of Jason’s Ghost Rider and I love a bit of bleak alt-country. I could imagine a kind of Steve Earle soundtrack to Ghost Rider. Some Bonnie Prince Billy, Townes Van Zandt – lyrics filled with angels, lost souls and redemption, handguns and murder. That’s my type of material.
Nrama: Finally, for those who are still on the fence on this book, what would you tell them to get them on board? Any moments you're excited to see hit the page that you can tease?
Williams: Take a look on Clayton’s teaser page. That should be enough to get you onboard. But if you need more convincing, how’s about Ghost Rider versus an army of Hand Ninjas? That sounds like fun to me.