Welcome to another installment of Creator's Commentary.
This week, Rob Williams, the mind behind Cla$$war, who's written everything from 2000 A.D. to Deadpool Team Up, to the upcoming Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force is taking the helm on Ghost Rider with its 0.1 issue, with Matthew Clark on art. Well, helm wouldn't be right--that's for ships, so maybe takes the handles. Either way, Williams is taking the title over and from the solicitations we've seen that starting with issue #1, there'll be a new Spirit of Vengeance blazing down the back roads and fighting evil in the wake of Fear Itself.
So what happened? What would cause Johnny Blaze to "give up the ghost" as it were when world-beating evil is on the loose? If you want to find out, you'll just have to read on.
****Watch out for road hazards and spoilers!****
MTV Geek: Tell us a little about Johnny Blaze at the start of the story. Where’s his mind at this point?
Rob Williams: He's had enough, simply. He sees the Ghost Rider as a curse that's taken away any semblance of normal life or chance at happiness from him. He can't trust a single person because people are always conning him and trying to use him. So he's in the midst of a self-loathing, drunken downward spiral. He's ripe to make a REALLY bad decision.
Geek: How did you get involved with the Ghost Rider relaunch?
RW: I'd done a couple of jobs for Steve Wacker at Marvel and Steve asked me if I'd like to pitch for the Ghost Rider: Shadowland oneshot [from] last summer. I really enjoyed writing the book and it came out pretty well. Clayton Crain did a killer job on it. I guess Marvel must have liked my voice on the character and Steve asked if I'd like to pitch for a new Ghost Rider series.
Geek: Johnny talks about the agony of the transformation here and generally how awful it is to be Ghost Rider. What is it about him that makes him do it anyway?
RW: He's a good guy, despite himself. Johnny's Han Solo in A New Hope, basically. He can keep telling himself that he doesn't care and he can walk away, but beneath all the crap, there's a good heart there, I think. He'd get to the edge of town, driving away from the trouble, but at the last moment stop, swear loudly and turn around and head back into the trouble. That's one thing we wanted to do here: tempt Johnny, give him a chance to get out of this life. Offer him what he wants most--which is to "Give Up The Ghost."
Geek: Tell us a little about Matthew Clark’s design for the Rider. Did the two of you discuss any tweaks to Johnny’s version?
RW: Matt nailed Johnny straight away, and that's not hype. He read the script and his first design for Johnny have him this badass, rebellious edge--the biker--but there was this sense of weight and pathos in his look, which I loved. This guy's carrying a lot of sadness around with him. The two of us went back and forth with Steve Wacker a few times on the new Ghost Rider and what bikes both the Rider and Johnny should have. Fortunately, Matt's a bikehead (which I'm not) and had a great feel for how that side of the book should look. And Steve was vocal about giving Johnny the old high handlebars, chopper-style bike.
Geek: What was the collaboration with Matt like? What did he bring to the book?
RW: It's been terrific. I'd never met Matt before this, so you never know how you're going to mesh. I think Warren Ellis described the collaboration of putting a writer and artist together on a project as being an arranged marraige and the wife could be an axe murderer but you won't find out until the wedding night. But Matt's been absolutely great--very willing to collaborate and knock ideas back and fore and, most importantly, he's made the book look amazing. We talked beforehand about wanting this Ghost Rider to look like a superhero book, even if the themes/stories have a horror edge. And Matt's surpassed himself. The latest pages he's sending through feel like something from the Ultimates with a hint of Travis Charest. That's not hyperbole. I'm been hugely happy with the visual side of this book.
Geek: At this point, what can you tell us about Adam?
RW: Not a lot (heh). He's very old and very powerful, I'll say that. Been on this Earth a long time and has watched without acting, but everyone has their breaking point. He's seen society go further and further down the toilet and the events of Fear Itself are the final straw for him. That spurs him to act. He wants to save mankind. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Also, he's an apocalyptic cowboy (which is a good name for a band).
Geek: Johnny’s given up being the Ghost Rider in the past and it didn’t always turn out well. What makes him think this time will be any different?
RW: He's desperate. Plain and simple. I don't actually think he believes in his heart of hearts that this time will turn out any better. But he figures, what the hell, I'll give it a shot. What does he have to lose at this stage. He pretty much doesn't care if he lives or dies. He's been to heaven and to hell. Not a lot scares him these days.
Geek: Walk us through a couple of events in Johnny’s recent past that have put him where he is now: distrustful, angry, lashing out.
RW: There's a line where he says he's "always getting conned." He's not the smartest guy in the Marvel U, you know. This was a backwoods stunt cyclist when he became the Ghost Rider. Mephisto conned him into becoming the Ghost Rider to save his stepfather, who then died in a crash. Last time out he was conned by Zadkiel. He can't trust anyone at this stage. There's a moment in 0.1 where he's offered a genuine, honest act of kindness and he slaps it away and wants to know what that person wants from him. I thought that was kind of heartbreaking. He's that damaged at this stage.
Geek: What about other Riders, any thoughts about including Danny Ketch or any other riders in upcoming arcs?
RW: Danny's out there and he'll be affected by what happens in this initial arc. We've got plans for Danny down the road.
Geek: What’s Johnny supposed to do with himself now that he can actually live a normal life?
RW: Anything and everything. He actually believes for a moment that, finally, he can be free. But, there's always repercussions to every choice and action. Johnny's guilt isn't going to let him just walk away.
Geek: Would you like to talk about the final teaser page or anything you’d like to whet fans’ appetites for in the next year?
RW: We have fun plans! Plans that may well involve space and an exciting crossover with three other Marvel characters. Check out the "Coming This Year In Ghost Rider" teaser page for more.
Ghost Rider #0.1 is on shelves now.