Cult-favorite character Cosmic Ghost Rider blasts back into gear this week with a new limited series, Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider. And in addition to bringing him back to headlining status, writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum and artist Scott Hepburn are bringing him back to his roots in his origin as a future version of Frank Castle.
Newsarama spoke with Hallum ahead of Revenge of Cosmic Ghost Rider #1’s December 18 release about striking a balance between the cosmic comedy of CGR and the tragic lust for a twisted version of justice inherent in Frank Castle.
Alongside the main story of Revenge of Cosmic Ghost Rider, the title launches with a back-up tale from CGR’s creators Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, who worked alongside Hallum (an old pal of Cates’) to pass the torch for the new series.
Hallum spills on the whole process and the upcoming story, including the new villain Cosmic King, the perils of intergalactic bounty hunting, and how a familiar face for fans of Hallum’s other Marvel Comics work fits in.
Newsarama: Dennis, Cosmic Ghost Rider has already been through a lot in his relatively short life – and he’s caught up in another intergalactic bounty. What’s his status quo going into Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider?
Dennis Hallum: Cosmic Ghost Rider is a very powerful being with a very convoluted origin story... Who has a very simple mission statement. He's flying around the cosmos punishing the wicked with extreme prejudice. That's his job. That's his obsession. That's where we find him.
Nrama: And what’s he up against here?
Hallum: Frank’s pursuing a new badass intergalactic crime boss running amok and Cosmic Ghost Rider comes after him. Unfortunately for Frank, The (ever-so-humble) Cosmic King is as every bit as smart as he is terrifyingly powerful. Instead of coming straight at The Punisher slash Spirit of Vengeance slash Power Cosmic Wielding sociopath... He's gone after Frank's immortal soul.
Nrama: There’s another character in the mix here – Cammi, who many readers will know from your previous series Avengers Arena and Avengers Undercover. What’s her role in this story?
Nrama: Cammi is the book's humanity. We're really leaning into the “Punisher” side of Cosmic Ghost Rider, and I think Frank Castle works best when he's grounded by actual humans. Cammi reminds Frank what he used to be. She gives him someone to fight for. Someone to overprotect and infuriate. I also just really love writing Cammi and she lives in space so it made enough sense to get her in the story.
Nrama:As you stated, Cosmic Ghost Rider was once Frank Castle, the Punisher. Now he’s something else entirely, with a very different personality. What qualities does CGR take from his history as Punisher? What do you see as the core tenets of the character?
Hallum: Donny Cates and I actually discussed this a lot before I took the job. At his core, Cosmic Ghost Rider is still Frank Castle. In fact, when he's not flamed on skull boy, he's more or less Old Man Punisher. The Spirit of Vengeance and years of desperate solitude shattered CGR's mind, so in that mode he's definitely a bit "crazier."
But I mean, Frank Castle was never terribly sane. I think the tragedy of Frank Castle is that his mission is an inescapable obsession he knows won't succeed. He can't stop himself punishing. It's just who he is.
And this version of the character sold his soul to do it forever. He can't die. He can't rest. He's just stuck in this murderous feedback loop till the end of time.
Nrama: Scott Hepburn is drawing the main story in Revenge of the Cosmic Ghost Rider. What makes him the perfect artist for the job?
Hallum: Scott's art eats my imagination for breakfast. He pushes every scene to that absolute limit of crazy and just keeps on pushing. These pages. I can't even. The man was born to draw Cosmic Ghost Rider. The Cosmic King looks so badass. The fight scenes are so in your face. All the alien worlds are mind-blowing. I will never shut up about Scott Hepburn and how lucky we are to have him.
Nrama: What’s your favorite thing he’s drawn for Revenge of Cosmic Ghost Rider so far?
Hallum: There's a big Splash reveal of The Cosmic King in issue #2 that makes me want an action figure right now. It's either that or this Gladiator sequence from the opening of issue #1. The moment I saw Scott's Gladiator I considered reworking the plot to make him a recurring character.
Nrama: There’s a second story in the first issue of Revenge of Cosmic Ghost Rider too, by CGR’s creators Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw. What’s it like working alongside Donny and picking up the torch on this fan favorite character?
Hallum: Donny's a friend and we were both living in Texas when I started plotting the book. We sat down for lunch and had a little writer's room for the rough series plot which was a total blast. Donny is one of the most enthusiastic storytellers I know so we just ripped right into it. We talked about the inception of Cosmic Ghost Rider and how the different power sets work and he helped me crack the last few plot points.
And we all get a new Donny and Geoff story out of the deal to boot... I couldn't be happier about the collaboration...
Nrama: CGR’s reputation may precede him at this point, but what can readers expect as this series kicks into gear?
Hallum: The opening is very classic Frank Castle. He's gotten himself thrown into an impenetrable intergalactic prison because it's full of bad guys to punish... But there's more evil in there than he's bargained for. The whole wild story jumps off from there. By the end of issue #1 it's Cosmic Ghost Rider versus an evil space god mobster in a battle for Frank's immortal soul.