WWC: Simon Spurrier & Javier Saltares Tackle Danny Ketch

WWC: Si Spurrier Talks Danny Ketch

Note - there is no art available for the upcoming miniseries. The above image is detail taken from the regular Ghost Rider series.

Hey – Ghost Rider fans? Danny’s back.

Well, yeah - Danny Ketch has come back in the ongoing Ghost Rider series, but in October, he's on his own.

Friday at Wizard World Chicago’s “Mondo Marvel” panel, the publisher announced the launch of a new mini-series featuring their second Spirit of Vengeance—Daniel Ketch. Ketch’s role as Ghost Rider, along with the nature of his connection to the mythos of the character, will be explored in depth in this new project entitled Danny Ketch: Ghost Rider. Joining the misbegotten supernatural superhero for this five issue mini-series will be Gutsville writer, Simon Spurrier, as well as perennial Ghost Rider artist Javier Saltares.

First introduced in 1990 as the star of a re-launched Ghost Rider title, Ketch’s run as Ghost Rider blazed a strange and twisted path; the title not only re-invigorated the Marvel character but spawned an entire line of supernatural books in the early ‘90s.

Newsarama sat down and talked to Simon Spurrier about the eclectic anti-hero, Daniel Ketch, and his involvement with this new project.

Newsarama: What can you tell us about Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch so far?

Simon Spurrier: It’s a five-part miniseries which debuts in October, printed on pages of pure Awesome. The artist is the throbbingly talented purveyor of Atmospheric Loveliness Javier Saltares, who – it turns out – was an artist on Ghost Rider back in the 90’s when Ketch first showed up. All together now: The Ciiiii-iiircle of Life.

NRAMA: Enthusiasm – check. Does this limited series revisit how Ketch became the Ghost Rider when the series was relaunched back in 1990?

SS: Ish kinda sorta.

Here’s the thing: Ketch’s origin story is a work of extraordinary brilliance which allowed him to have a fairly simple beginning (touching a mystic gas cap – bang), an interesting wider milieu (family curses, angry ghosts, demonic manipulations, medallions of power), and a sudden connection to the “classic” Ghost Rider mythos (Surprise! He’s Johnny Blaze’s brother!). It’s all very neatly intertwined.

…and it’s also basically impenetrable, unless you happen to have access to a bunch of back issues, Wikipedia, and five spare hours.

NRAMA: More than five hours—most of that information was published over 12 years ago—spread out over 100 issues of the previous Ghost Rider series; that’s a lot of back issue bin diving…

SS: Right. So it wasn’t really plausible to spend a lot of this serial’s page count trying to disentangle the morass of convolutions… but at the same time I absolutely didn’t want to be guilty of a massive reboot which simply pretends none of it ever happened. So we needed a way of respectfully acknowledging Dan’s past without letting it become a big unwieldy problem in the present. We wanted to use this conflicted, haunted character without getting weighed-down by all the baggage of his fiddly details.

So will we be revisiting the Original Origin (as it were)? Yes, a little – in flashbacks and recollections. But it probably makes more sense to think of this serial as a New Beginning for a wonderful old character, rather than a nostalgia-fest.

NRAMA: For readers who aren't familiar with the character--what separates Johnny Blaze's Ghost Rider from Danny Ketch's incarnation?

SS: Well, in the simple nuts-and-bolts sense: whereas Johnny Blaze became Ghost Rider after making a deal with a demon, Danny became Ghost Rider when he unexpectedly stumbled upon a disused bike in a junkyard, discovered it was part of a family curse, got possessed by the ghost of his long-lost ancestor, discovered that…

Well, anyway. It’s long.

The point is this: Blaze became G.R. because he made a proactive decision which he knew would have spooky consequences. Ketch became G.R. by accident.

And yeah, some of the revelations Jason has served-up in recent Ghost Rider stories change the way we see Johnny Blaze’s origin slightly (and confuse Ketch’s origin even more!), but the underlying trend remains: Johnny Blaze is a determined, indomitable guy who focuses on his goals and chases them like a fiery leather-coated terrier. Danny Ketch was far more conflicted: an unwilling participant in this hellish spookiness; haunted by the spirit inside him and tormented by the things it made him do. His greatest defining characteristic was the sheer decency and willpower he possessed beneath all his doubts and struggles; allowing him to exert control over the flaming spirit sharing his soul

In fact, in the 90’s series, Dan Ketch spent a lot of his time trying to escape from the curse of the Ghost Rider – that classic Marvel “reluctant hero” archetype.

In this serial our starting point is really very elegant, in that it typifies Dan’s personality, speaks volumes about his willpower, and solves all those thorny origin issues we just discussed. To whit:

He got his way. He escaped the curse. He’s only human—briefly.

NRAMA: Will there be any other familiar faces in this story--like Barbara Ketch or Deathwatch? Will there be the introduction of any new characters?

SS: One or two familiar faces. One in particular that I’m really pleased to see back – my favorite character from Ketch’s old rogue’s gallery; can’t say any more than that, sorry.

Several new characters as well. My favorite of the bunch is probably “Mary LeBow”; a Camden-style punk who describes herself as a ‘Technomancer’. She’s handy with digital-occultism, likes to pump electrons through Cornish pixies to see if they explode, and is indirectly responsible for Dan’s current sad situation.

On the subject of new characters, the whole serial is narrated by a talking Magpie. I love comics.

NRAMA: How has Ghost Rider's evolution as this Faustian-style archetype changed in today's version?

SS: Well, Ketch never really had that Faustian origin anyway, but it’s certainly coming back in this serial in a very upside-down sort of way. The idea is to draw a lot of creepy parallels with Johnny Blaze’s story, but from a completely alternative perspective.

It’s interesting you use the word “evolution”, because in this serial we’ll be seeing Ketch going through several stages of exactly that. By which I mean he’ll be changing and transforming as a Human Bundle of Emotions, yes, but there’ll also be several distinct stages of spookiness transforming him on a physical level.

This isn’t Ghost Rider as you know it. It’s far, far stranger. And at the serial’s end we’ll be exposed to a whole new status-quo.

NRAMA: Ghost Rider is getting a makeover?

SS: I’ve seen the sketches. Seriously: brace yourselves.

NRAMA: Simon, are there other mystical characters in the Marvel Universe who could stand to use this type of spotlighted limited series? Any of particular interest to you?

SS: Oh yeah, loads. I have a much dog-eared notebook on my desk which is full of names and half baked ideas for bringing back all sorts of glorious old creations. Most of them are non-starters, really – there’s a reason some characters never go above 3rd tier – but there are a few Strange But Wonderful properties I’d sacrifice my left nut to write.

I tend to gravitate naturally towards sci-fi, horror, or psychedelic craziness (that’s the 2000AD influence talking) so things like Ghost Rider or Silver Surfer are a dream come true. My day job is writing spooky occult-ish crime novels, so comics give me the opportunity to cut loose and go bonkers – or at least to push the envelope even further away from Reality. Give me a bizarre Astral Oddity to play with and I’m happier than a pig in shit.

NRAMA: What are some of key facts about Danny Ketch that you think time has made readers forget about? Are there facets of this character that you plan on focusing where other writers have neglected?

SS: He’s just a wonderfully conflicted guy, really. As we meet him in this serial he’s a bundle of regrets and insecurities, focused on a single event in his recent past. The most fascinating thing about him is that he’s a flawed personality who is completely aware of his own weaknesses. That makes for some wonderful drama.

Underneath it all is a core of rock-solid willpower and decency – which are both strained to breaking-point in this story.

Plus, in Ghost Rider form, he has a motorbike with a battering ram on the forks. You don’t get any better than that.

NRAMA: Give readers something to chew on about Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch--six words or less.

SS: Pain. Action. Horror. Manipulation. Fiery elephants.

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