Announced Saturday during Marvel's Fear Itself panel at C2E2 in Chicago, a new Ghost Rider ongoing series is coming in June 2011, starting with a Point One issue and followed by a #1 one month later.It's the first ongoing series starring the character — who was seen in last year's street-level crossover Shadowland — since the recent Jason Aaron-written series ended in 2009 with issue #35. This series will tie-in to Fear Itself initially, and the fact that the character's starring in a new film slotted for 2012, titled Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, doesn't hurt in drawing attention, either. Newsarama has the first interview with the new Ghost Rider creative team of writer Rob Williams (Daken: Dark Wolverine, Cla$$war) and newly Marvel exclusive artist Matthew Clark (Inhumans, Doom Patrol). Newsarama: Rob, Ghost Rider is an incredibly iconic character and certainly a fan favorite. Given that you wrote Shadowland: Ghost Rider and are now on the new ongoing series, I'm guessing that you're one of those fans. Any particular eras of the comic that you're looking at for inspiration with this series?
Rob Williams: Well, you always want to put your own stamp on things, find your own voice on a title rather than primarily looking elsewhere for inspiration, but I did really enjoy the recent Jason Aaron run on the book. That had this great gothic alt-country edge — like Johnny Cash or Townes Van Zandt fronting Metallica — combined with an overriding sense of fun and a great sense of humour. Biblical, end-of-the-world stakes mixed with not taking itself too seriously. This is, after all, a book about a flaming skeleton who rides a really fast demon motorbike. I thought it was one of the best runs that Marvel have produced in recent years.
Nrama: This is a new Ghost Rider series, so people are going to wonder who the current host for the Spirit of Vengeance is — are we going to be sticking with Johnny Blaze? Maybe Danny Ketch? Perhaps a third option?
Williams: Johnny Blaze is still going to be a central character in this series. Old school Ghost Rider fans are going to be seeing Johnny's classic bike and look. But part of our hook is Johnny being given a faustian pact — he can rid himself of the curse of the Ghost Rider forever if he's willing to pass it on to someone completely anonymous to him. It's the old moral chestnut of 'you could have a million dollars but someone you've never met in China would die.' Johnny's sick of this life. Of what he sees as a terrible curse. Our initial arc is called "Give Up The Ghost."' But if he does pass on the Rider, who will it move to? People will have to buy the book to find out.
Nrama: What kind of new territory are you looking to explore with with this series?
Williams: Well, we open with Fear Itself as the backdrop, ripping the world to pieces. People genuinely think this may be armageddon. The end of all things. So it's an environment that's built for the Ghost Rider. The thing we were very clear on with this series from the earliest conversations was that Ghost Rider isn't a superhero. So, what is it? It's a weapon. A supernatural weapon of mass destruction. And when a lot of people come looking for the Ghost Rider it's going to be time to hit the road and gun that bike as fast as it'll go. From that point on we're in an apocalyptic road movie. A supernatural Easy Rider with a heavy metal soundtrack.
Nrama: Matthew, congratulations on the Marvel exclusive — this is your return to the publisher after several years at DC. What brought you back to Marvel?
Matthew Clark: It was time and I needed to play with some new toys. Having drawn most of the characters I've always wanted to at DC, it just felt like the right time. I needed a new challenge and to challenge myself. I've always been in touch with Stephen [Wacker] and David [Bogart] regarding my availability, and they made it happen. I'm really excited to be here. Everyone has been really excited to have me here and that has made me feel great, and wanting to produce some good stuff for them and the fans.
Nrama: Ghost Rider certainly has a distinct look, and a lot of very talented artists have rendered him over the years. Stylistically, I think it's fair to say you're a definite departure from Clayton Crain, who illustrated the last comic starring Ghost Rider. What's your take on illustrating the character?
Clark: I met Clayton at [this month's Emerald City Comicon] and wanted to chat up more but was under a gag order about the series. So I’m a touch more realistic, and that's what I'm bringing to the book. In terms of design, I'm drawing Johnny a tad thinner, less muscled — more down on his luck I imagine that having the Ghost Rider mantle kind of eats away at you a bit at a time. Updates to the design? You can't update perfection. I'll just add little tweaks here and there to the outfit and skull, but I'm keeping the boots exactly the same. I'm also hoping to do flashbacks so I can draw his original leathers. Maybe give him a martini glass with M&M’s in it… nah, it'll be shot glasses full of cheap whiskey.
Nrama: Rob, you mentioned Johnny Blaze — any plans for Danny Ketch?
Williams: Danny's in our plans. He's not an initial point of focus but he's out there. And Johnny Blaze's decision is going to have a major effect on Danny Ketch's life too. We wanted to make this series an accessible jumping on point for new riders, but we'd be foolish to ignore the rich lore of past Ghost Rider series'. So there'll be some new and some old favourites - both in terms of good guys and bad guys.
Nrama: This new Ghost Rider series is tying in to Fear Itself — what draws Ghost Rider into that conflict?
Williams: It's more the case that the imminent end of the world, as playing out in Fear Itself, convinces our antagonist to act now. This is a mysterious, powerful figure called Adam who believes that it's up to him to save the souls of humanity, and he needs the Ghost Rider to do it. There's good intentions there, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Tarmac and good intentions (that sounds like a Lucinda Williams album).
Nrama: Ghost Rider tends to attract some rather unpleasant enemies — what villains can we expect to see in the comic, in the Fear Itself arc and (if you can speak to it at this point) beyond?
Williams: Again, we don't want to give too much away, but in our first issue proper we'll see Blackout and Deathwatch. But a far more powerful Ghost Rider villain is lurking just around the corner. And there's a very good chance that the Ghost Rider itself could be the villain here. It certainly looks the part. This is a battle for the soul of Johnny Blaze and for the souls of all humanity. By the time issue one is finished, every child on the planet is going to be having nightmares about this Ghost Rider...