Robbie Reyes hasn't appeared in the Marvel Universe since the end of Secret Wars, but that's about to change as he's racing into a new volume of Ghost Rider with his co-creator Felipe Smith at the wheel. Joining Smith on the new volume of Ghost Rider is artist Danilo Beyruth - and they'll also be joined by guest stars in the form of Amadeus Cho and Wolverine, as well as some new villains.
Since the first volume of All-New Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes has become deeply entrenched in the Marvel mythos, and though his new volume will mark the first time he's come into contact with other Marvel heroes outside of Secret Wars, he's already recognizable outside of comic books thanks to his co-starring role on ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Smith spoke with Newsarama ahead of Ghost Rider #1's November 30 debut to discuss the perfect timing of Robbie's return, his relationship to the rest of the Marvel Universe, and the new threats - including Pyston Nitro, co-created by Robbie's co-creator Tradd Moore - that will challenge him as he races back into the spotlight. With this article are new interior pages from Ghost Rider #2.
Newsarama: Felipe, you took a break from Ghost Rider after Secret Wars, but now he’s back. Why is this the right time for Robbie Reyes?
Felipe Smith: We were originally planning on launching a new ongoing series right after Secret Wars’ Ghost Racers but, unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow for it at the time.
While writing All-New Ghost Rider (and Robbie Reyes) I’ve always had a full time day job in animation, designing characters for Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I found out very quickly that writing a monthly book while working full-time in animation can be pretty hard to manage.
Fortunately, Marvel expressed its interest in keeping me on the series and in charge of Robbie’s storyline, so they opted to work with my schedule and wait until I was in a position to jump back behind the wheel again. I greatly appreciate it.
I’m now finalizing my duties on TMNT, and Ghost Rider #1 launches later this month, which I’m really excited about. It was really a matter of timing.
Of course, having Robbie Reyes currently setting things ablaze on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is very fortunate, too!
Nrama: Where does this new volume of Ghost Rider find Robbie Reyes?
Smith: In Ghost Rider #1, we pick up right where All-New Ghost Rider #12 left off. It’s a good jumping-on point for people who haven’t read All-New Ghost Rider because we show what Robbie’s life is like after making his deal with Eli Morrow, his serial killer uncle. We found out he’s not a Spirit of Vengeance, but that he’s become an honorary Ghost Rider after meeting Johnny Blaze.
We’re gonna dig deep into his dynamic with Eli. We’ve already seen that they don’t have a good relationship. Robbie is host to someone he really despises. We also discovered that his brother Gabe’s condition (his developmental disability), was directly caused by his uncle Eli. So this is someone Robbie really hates, but he’s stuck with indefinitely, and it’s also the source of his power, which he uses for good.
And for the first time, we're introducing other young Marvel heroes into Robbie’s world out on the West Coast. We’ve got Amadeus Cho, the Totally Awesome Hulk, showing up in the first issue. We’ve got Wolverine, Laura Kinney, showing up as well. And there will be more. In Robbie’s first two story arcs, the only other hero he ever met was Johnny Blaze, who became something of a mentor.
Most of our Marvel heroes are prominently on the East Coast. If you grew up on the East Coast and you suddenly get powers, you’re very aware of what superheroes do. You’ve got Kamala Khan, who writes fan-fiction about her favorite heroes, you’ve got Miles Morales. You’ve many young heroes who are new to what they’re doing, but are knowledgeable on the role of a superhero, and have older heroes they can look up to for advice.
But Robbie, on the other hand, is fairly unaware of that whole world. He’s grown up in a place where the heroes rarely appear. And he’s not particularly interested in being a “super hero.”
He’s not as quick to jump in and be part of the team. He’s more concerned with protecting the people in his life and his neighborhood. I think Robbie doesn’t consider himself a super hero as much as someone who has powers, and therefore a duty to do certain things. So as soon as he meets these other characters, there’s an interesting dynamic we’re going to explore.
Growing up without parents and raising his younger brother from around the age of 8 or 9, Robbie has a very different demeanor than a lot of these other heroes, so we’re gonna see some interesting dynamics there.
Nrama: You just mentioned Amadeus Cho and Wolverine appearing in upcoming issues of Ghost Rider, but which villains can we expect to see?
Smith: A notable thing about Robbie is that besides not being acquainted with any many Marvel heroes, he has not (with the exception of Mr. Hyde) encountered any classic Marvel villains either.
In the case of our upcoming story arc, he will once again encounter a previously unknown threat. I don’t want to give away too much.
Tradd Moore and I are also introducing a new villain called Pyston Nitro in the first issue, in a short back-up story. She’ll be an original Robbie Reyes villain, part of the new Ghost Rider villain line-up.
Nrama: As you said, the only other hero Robbie has met at this point is Johnny Blaze, the original Ghost Rider. Will Johnny or any of the other Ghost Riders be showing up in the foreseeable future?
Smith: That could possibly happen. How do you like that answer? [laughs]
Nrama: We'll let you out of that one. But speaking of that back-up story you’re doing with Tradd, is that a one-off back-up, or will those continue?
Smith: This short back-up story serves two functions: Introducing Pyston Nitro to Marvel readers and reuniting the original All-New Ghost Rider Team, with Tradd handling the art and Val Staples the colors!
I don’t know if we’ll do more of these, but I sure hope so! We had a blast putting this one together!
Nrama: In the first volume of Robbie’s story, you and Tradd really defined a unique look for the character and his world. Now you’re working with Danilo Beyruth. How has your working relationship developed? What makes Danilo the right artist to step into this partnership?
Smith: Danilo has a very distinct style, just the way he draws things in general. I think Ghost Rider always calls for dynamic action. Fortunately we’ve had artists who can really handle that well. We had Tradd Moore when the series launched, Damion Scott in the second arc (I did issue 11) and then Kris Anka helping me with the 12th issue, and of course Juan Gedeon on Ghost Racers during Secret Wars. One thing they all have in common is dynamic action, and they’re good at drawing cars racing.
I hear people say it’s so hard to draw motion, and cars moving in a static medium, and that blows my mind. You’re drawing! You can convey anything you want once you figure out your pacing and page layout. I think comics can convey motion and movement better than other mediums, because it’s just a matter of doing it graphically. And that’s something all these artists can do.
Danilo really has a knack for it, which I really appreciate because action is such a big part of my storytelling. So is expressive art. Every artist we’ve had on the series so far has been really good about having kinetic, bold action and really expressive characters for the dramatic scenes. Danilo’s action is really good and engaging.
In this new series, we’re delving into Robbie’s relationship with his family, his relationship with his uncle Eli who has now bonded with him eternally. But at the same time, it’s an action comic, and Danilo really strikes that balance.
Nrama: Does being an artist yourself affect the way you script things? Does the way you write change when you know someone else is going to be drawing the story?
Smith: I definitely approach scripting with the artist in mind. Working with Tradd Moore was the first time I ever scripted for someone else. Before that I just wrote and drew my own stories. But I quickly realized that every artist is different and you definitely have to script to the strengths of the artist.
Regardless of what kind of story you want to tell, you have to play to the strengths of the artist you’re collaborating with. I try to look at as much of their work as possible and see what they seem to have fun doing and what they excel at, and I try to lean hard into that when scripting.
Some artists are really good at quiet, emotional moments with the characters, facial expressions, body language. You don’t want to miss taking advantage of that with your storytelling so maybe you lean a bit more into the personal side of the characters. Other artists are really good at action, with these impactful panels that make you excited to keep flipping the pages; so you want to take advantage of that.
I learned right away that when you’re collaborating, the way you see the story in your mind isn’t necessarily the way it’s gonna end up on the page. As the writer, you’re not the end-all-be-all of the visuals in the narrative, so you have to write in a way that will allow your artist to best convey what you have in mind.
Nrama: Could you ever see yourself drawing something at Marvel with a different writer?
Smith: It’s possible. If the story and characters were compelling and I liked what was cooking [laughs].
Overall though, I think I’m more interested in writing and drawing my own stories. But I won’t say it could never happen. I’m not opposed to it.
Nrama: Marvel has really embraced Robbie as a character, even making him a major player on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. How does it feel to see your creation brought to life like that, and impacting pop culture in this way?
Smith: It’s great. It’s amazing. Just over Halloween I saw so many people dressed up as Robbie, either fully transformed with the metallic engine skull, or just in the jacket with the white horseshoe. It’s been crazy. A friend of mine was out in North Hollywood about a month ago, and he saw a guy wearing the leather jacket with the white horseshoe design. It wasn’t Halloween or a con or anything, the guy just put on the jacket to go to a bar. My friend texted me a picture of it. That’s really exciting.
And of course, seeing people (both guys and girls) dressing up as Robbie at conventions, makes me unbelievably happy! It’s cool. Definitely exciting.
Nrama: There’s been a big push at Marvel to diversify their character base and bring in new voices to their line. Your work on Ghost Rider is at the forefront of that trend. Is that something you’re conscious of while working on these stories?
Smith: I don’t know if I specifically thought about diversity when I created Robbie. I wanted to set the story in Los Angeles, and the Mexican-American population is obviously prominent here, so I thought in terms of the character and his background; and it made sense. car culture is really big in L.A. If you look at the demographics in street racing, and in East Los Angeles in general, it just made sense for Robbie to be Mexican-American.
And in terms of diversity, I think it’s definitely necessary, and the more people who are represented in every art form - not just comics - the better. Comics should definitely be representational of the world around us. So in terms of Robbie being part of the movement to diversify comics and the characters we see in them; I’m glad to be part of that movement.
But it wasn’t a premeditated decision. I was thinking of the story, and where it takes places, what Robbie is about, and that’s what it ended up being.
Myself, I was born in Akron, Ohio, but moved to Argentina when I was 5, and grew up in a Spanish-speaking country. My mom’s from Argentina and my dad’s from Jamaica. I grew up in Buenos Aires, but after high school, at 18, I moved back to the U.S. for college.
So writing an American character of Hispanic heritage just felt natural. I didn’t have to think too hard about Robbie’s attitude and personality. It all happened pretty organically.
Nrama: What do you hope to accomplish with this new volume of Ghost Rider? What are your big goals for Robbie Reyes?
Smith: My first goal, when creating Robbie, was for him to last and not just disappear, like many new characters often do. We’re now getting a second volume of the ongoing Ghost Rider series with him in the lead, we’re seeing him on TV, we’ve got people dressing up as him. I want Robbie to be an important part of the Marvel Universe, and in the line of Ghost Riders, I want him to stand out and be special and unique in his own right.
My other goal is very simple: I want these comics to be entertaining.
I want people to enjoy them, have fun reading them, and for them to want to read them again and again. Sometimes comics are held in high regard because they introduce important themes or twists, or things we haven’t seen before in the medium. But they’re also not that entertaining to read. To me, comics should be entertaining. You should be flipping the pages, excited to see what comes next. It should be an experience where you feel something for the characters, whether you despise them or love them. That’s very important to me in comics.
So I hope to entertain, to introduce some interesting characters, and to put together a fun read.