In February, the Thunderbolts will encounter a problem that even Marvel's best anti-heroes can't solve — a situation that requires none other than Marvel's most renowned flame-headed biker, Ghost Rider.
Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider, joins the team in 2014, adding to the already eclectic mix of anti-heroes, mercenaries and assassins. Announced by Marvel at New York Comic Con, the supernatural character's addition explains the recent Marvel teaser image that said, simply, "Sinners" — along with the names Charles Soule and Carlo Barberi, the title's creative team come February.
Thunderbolts will also get a new #1 (sort of) as part of the "All-New Marvel NOW!" initiative. The February issue is being called Thunderbolts #20.NOW = Thunderbolts #1.
Soule began writing Thunderbolts earlier this year, and he's since become one of the more prolific creators in the comics industry, with six ongoing titles. Along with Thunderbolts and his newly announced She-Hulk series for Marvel, he's also working on Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns and Superman/Wonder Woman for DC, as well as the political sci-fi ongoing series Letter 44 at Oni Press.
Newsarama talked with Soule about what he's hoping to do with Ghost Rider and how the character adds to the team and the title.
Newsarama: Charles, Marvel just announced that Ghost Rider is joining the Thunderbolts. What does he bring to the team, and why would he want to join?
Charles Soule: The way the book works these days is that each team member has been brought onto the team because they have a special mission that they weren't able to get done by themselves. The same offer has been made to everyone, which is that you can use the team to do your special missions, but when we're not doing one of yours, you have to help with a problem.
So Ghost Rider comes on the team to help out with a Thunderbolt/Ross problem. They have an existing relationship from the comics — they've had adventures before. So he knows him, Venom knows him. So they have this problem, and they're trying to solve it, and they're like, "Hey, maybe Ghost Rider could help out." So they sort of call him up, so to speak, and they have an adventure, and we'll have to see where things go from there.
But I think the problem they called him to solve is something that people will find interesting. I think the way the solution plays out is interesting, and it's one of the fun things about serialize storytelling — you can play things out over a long period of time, and then when all the pieces click together, people will hopefully be surprised and enjoy it.
Nrama: I know you were a comics fan growing up. Were you a fan of Ghost Rider in particular?
Soule: Ghost Rider is one of the first characters that I really remember noticing as "super-cool," you know? Everybody starts with, probably, Spider-Man and Superman and Batman as their first characters that they read and are interested in. And then Fantastic Four and whatever sort of comes from that.
For me, Ghost Rider was one of the very first kind of "left-of-center," "odd" characters that I remember thinking, wow, that's really neat. It may have even started partially with Ghost Rider 2099, which was a weird series that I think led me to the Johnny Blaze stories. So I've been reading his stuff for a long time.
And Jason Aaron recently had a really cool run on the series recently that I enjoyed a lot. So I really like the character.
Nrama: What does he add to the team for you as a writer?
Soule: He adds a supernatural element that the team doesn't have. By and large, the members of the team are soldiers, or warriors. So to add someone who has a completely different power set, a completely different kind of approach to what he does, makes for a neat addition.
Nrama: I can tell you're kind of avoiding actually naming the threat that causes the team to bring Johnny onto the team. But we've seen Mercy the last couple issues. Does it have anything to do with her?
Soule: I'd rather not spell out what the problem is that Johnny is brought on board to help solve. But as far as Mercy goes, you'll see over the next couple issues of Thunderbolts that Mercy has a role to play in the story.
Nrama: What's the rotation on the artists as you get to the Ghost Rider story? Is it Carlo Barberi?
Soule: Yeah, that's correct. It's always been planned to kind of rotate artists. And Carlo is doing fabulous work on this "Ghost Rider" arc, so I'm happy he’s going to be our main artist going forward.
Nrama: Since you've been on board Thunderbolts, something that people have noticed is that is the humor. We expect to laugh when Deadpool is involved, but you've got other characters playing off each other too. Was that something you wanted to make sure was a part of the title?
Soule: First of all, and I think you and I have spoken about this before, I think that a book should be a mix of tones and a mix of moments, because any flavor enhances the other flavors, if you're doing it right. So you can have a joke that hopefully really lands in a book like Thunderbolts, and you underscore that by, like, the Punisher brutally murdering someone. It's a way to kind of comment on what's happening in the story.
Thunderbolts is a book where everyone on that team has been shown, in canon, doing terrible, terrible things — things that in a Golden Age book would have marked them as villains. You've got a cast filled with people like that, and it's just interesting to play with that mix of dark and humor. It's an exciting mix. A lot of different things can happen in that book.
Plus, I just like making jokes, honestly. It makes me laugh to do stuff that's funny in the book.
Nrama: Then to finish up, are there any teases you want to give for what's coming up?
Soule: Issue #19, which is the first issue after the Infinity arc ends, is set on a road trip, where they're traveling on a road trip from New York City to someplace else. And it's all set in the van — in the Punisher's war wagon.
It's one of my favorite issues I've ever written.
Nrama: Does Deadpool get pizza finally? Will Frank at least go through a drive through?
Soule: You're going to have to read and find out!