In recent years, Robbie Reyes and Frank Castle led the pack of Ghost Riders in Marvel Comics, but later this week two classic Spirits of Vengeance return - but no promises they'll get along.
After roles in last year's "Damnation" and recent issues of Avengers, Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch are back with the new Ghost Rider ongoing. This time, the Brothers of Vengeance are at cross paths - one rules Hell, and the other thinks it's hell to be a Ghost Rider. If they can stop fighting each other, they'll realize they have more to worry about - including Mephisto and an old flame from their past.
Ghost Rider by writer Ed Brisson and artist Aaron Kuder launches a new era for the Spirits of Vengeance franchise - but one that will be tied to the past and the future. For more, Newsarama spoke with Brisson ahead of Ghost Rider #1's October 2 release.
Newsarama: Ed, at long last you're writing Ghost Rider. And you're not dealing with just one Ghost Rider, but two. What do you have planned with October's Ghost Rider #1?
Ed Brisson: In #1, we're doing a lot of work to set the stage for a much, much larger story to come, while catching readers up on where Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch are these days.
For those unaware, Johnny Blaze is currently the King of Hell, having usurped the throne from Mephisto in last year's "Damnation" event. He's been running things down below as best he can, but the denizens of Hell haven't really cottoned to the new management. They're constantly working against him, attempting to undermine him. When we open, Johnny's trying to squash a large scale Hell break, which brings him back above ground. His mission is to hunt down a horde of escaped demons.
As for Danny, he's still stuck with the Spirit of Vengeance and is out there doling out justice, but is not fully in control. In order to feel some measure of control in his life, he's bought a bar (The Fadeaway) and is attempting to keep the place afloat (although, he seems to be drinking off most of his stock). The bar is his run at having something that he can control. Something that's his.
Even though they team up to take down a pretty big threat this issue, we get to see where their own values don't align, which seeds the split between the two that will drive our story forward for the next couple years.
Nrama: So how would you compare and contrast Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch here at this point in their lives?
Brisson: Blaze has always been more accepting of the burden of carrying the Spirit of Vengeance. That's not to say he's liked it or been happy about it, but he's come to terms with this being his lot in life. He's willing to sacrifice for the greater good. But, now he has the extra burden of being the King of Hell and so has a whole other set of problems. Pulling down double duty as the King of Hell and as the Spirit of Vengeance has Blaze stretched pretty thin.
Ketch, on the other hand, is done with all of it. He fights against becoming Ghost Rider at every opportunity. He sees only what the Spirit has cost him and refuses to give any more. He doesn't seem to care about the greater good, he just wants to be free from this burden (once again).
Nrama: When you're talking Marvel's Hell, you can't go without talking Mephisto. What part does he have to play in this?
Brisson: Mephisto plays a huge role in all of this. We've got plenty of plans for him, but I'm going to leave that to readers to discover on their own.
Nrama: We've seen some other Ghost Riders re-appear during Absolute Carnage - any chance they or other riders could show up here in Ghost Rider?
Brisson: For the first couple of arcs, we're going to focus on just Danny and Johnny. It's been a while since either has had the spotlight and so we want to ensure that we have time to develop their story before we start bringing in the others.
That said, there are going to be plenty of appearances from Ghost Rider villains of the past.
Nrama: So what are Johnny and Danny up against? It seems more than anything, they're fighting each other?
Brisson: Johnny's struggling to maintain control of Hell while Danny's struggling to maintain control of his life. And just when it seems like they've managed to get a win, the rug is pulled out from under them.
There are outside forces working against both of them, which put our two heroes at odds - even though it will seem like they're both initially on different paths.
The big thing with Johnny is that it seems that his reign as King of Hell may be corrupting him. You can only pretend to be something for so long until you actually become that thing (fake it 'til you make it). One of the things that we're exploring here, that I think is very interesting, is - what happens to Johnny when he becomes the very thing that he's been fighting for his entire life?
Nrama: How did this project come together - did Marvel already have a loose idea, or did you break it to them "Hey, what about me writing Ghost Rider?"
Brisson: I caught wind that Marvel was looking to do a Ghost Rider book and so I snooped around to find out who was editing it (Chris Robinson) and begun bugging him non-stop to let me write it.
Coming into it, Chris has a direction that he saw for the book and I had a near opposite take. One involved Ketch, the other Blaze. But, when we sat back and really looked at what each was thinking, we realized that the two ideas actually complimented one another and, with a little finessing, combined into one, much larger, story.
Nrama: You've lucked out it seems with Aaron Kuder on art. What's he bringing to the table with the pages you've seen?
Brisson: His sense of design and scale is absolutely staggering.
He's a fountain of ideas and is putting his all onto the page. I've been a fan of his for a long time and think that the work he's doing on Ghost Rider is probably the best of his career - a career already filled with incredible work.
Nrama: In addition to this you're also writing Ghost Rider 2099. How is that tying into your story you're doing with Ghost Rider?
Brisson: We'll see some elements of our current run pop up in Ghost Rider 2099 - a surprise appearance from one of our Ghost Riders - but we very much wanted to make sure that Ghost Rider 2099 felt like its own, unique book.
Ghost Rider 2099 was always interesting to me because it existed primarily in its own space and unique world, we didn't want to take from that, but instead wanted to dwell in it.
The book has been a lot of fun to work on and Damian Couceiro has absolutely been murdering it on the art.
Nrama: Last question - what are your big goals with Ghost Rider?
Brisson: The biggest goal is to re-establish Johnny Blaze and Danny Ketch as major players in the Marvel Universe. One of them is going to get a fairly major status-quo change as we push the series forward.
Beyond that, we're trying to tell an epic story that not only uses existing Ghost Rider lore, but also adds to it. We're going to be building to a giant story involving Earth and Hell and a couple other dimensions that will leave the fate of every soul in the hands of the two brothers. Things are going to get crazy, loud and very dangerous.