By Chris Arrant
As Fear Itself strikes the Marvel Universe into this summer, those fearful flames re-ignite Ghost Rider in a new ongoing series by Rob Williams and Matthew Clark set to begin this July with a special Point One issue in June to get readers revved up.
“It’s a new start for the Ghost Rider,” explains Williams, who recently wrote SHADOWLAND: GHOST RIDER. “The same amount of over-the-top heavy metal visuals and fun, however.”
With powerful Asgardian hammers falling into the hands of some unsavory characters and people across the globe caving in to anxiety and panic, the events of Fear Itself set up this next chapter for the Spirit of Vengeance.
“People out there think that this is the end of the world,” notes Williams. “That apocalypse comes. To many the God of Fear looks like the devil himself. That's going to make some extremely powerful figures believe that they have to act now. Our main 'bad guy' here wants to save the human race. But his idea of saving humanity may not exactly be welcomed by humanity—and that’s an understatement.”
Although several people have carried the Ghost Rider name, it’s long-time bearer Johnny Blaze who will serve as the titular character in this title. And although Blaze has been through some terrible straits in the past, Williams takes that one step further.
“When we meet him in our Point One issue he's at his lowest ebb,” explains the writer. “He feels the Ghost Rider has been a curse rather than a blessing. It's taken any hope of a normal life away from him and he wants out. It's the perfect time for a mysterious individual to offer Johnny a Faustian pact.”
“The main thrust of the plot is able to unfold simply because the world is in such a soft, untenable state during Fear Itself,” embellishes editor Steve Wacker. “In a world devoid of hope, the hopeless can ride free. Johnny Blaze is probably the most hopeless of all and his enemies are certain to take advantage of that.”
Getting rid of the Ghost Rider curse once and for all presents a very appealing proposition for Johnny Blaze, but he knows if he’s not carrying it around then the curse continues on to someone else.
“Will Johnny accept?” asks Williams. “If so he's going to have to face the consequences of this. The world and the whole Marvel Universe will have to face the consequences of this decision.”
Williams has a history of writing the harsher brand of heroes, from Marvel’s own Punisher and Wolverine to stints with both Robocop and Judge Dredd. But for GHOST RIDER, he digs deep to find the truth.
“GHOST RIDER is essentially a story about a person with their head on fire who rides a motor bike really fast, so it'd better be fun,” stresses the writer. “But also, this is the horror and apocalyptic end of the Marvel Universe we're dealing with. GHOST RIDER should be a kind of alt-country Biblical landscape, I think. Demons, both personal and literal. Redemption, damnation. Big grandiose themes. Ideally it should be the lovechild of Terrence Malick's ‘Badlands,’ Johnny Cash, big Tony Iommi riffs and the acerbic tongue of Bill Hicks.”
“Rob is a guy whose work I’ve been getting to know over the past year or so in the Spidey office and he’s been a dream,” touts Wacker. “Andy Diggle suggested him for the SHADOWLAND: GHOST RIDER one shot and it was one of our strongest tie-ins. Rob then came to me after with a plethora of ideas and things rolled on from there. He clearly is a guy who has thought long and hard about selling his soul to the devil.”
Helping Williams take these eclectic influences to the printed page will be artist Matthew Clark, who just signed an exclusive contract with Marvel.
“Matt draws a killer Ghost Rider,” says Williams. “We're incorporating some fun new designs into the series, hopefully keeping all that's good about the traditional look and adding a few new demonic wrinkles.”
“Matt’s one of those artists that can seemingly draw anything,” adds Wacker. “He certainly seems unafraid to draw bikes, which is pretty important in this case.”
“[It’s] daunting, scary and thrilling all in one,” Clark offers on his new assignment. “I'm looking forward to reaching out and hopefully attracting new readers to this series. My other fans might be shocked because this isn't my forte, although I do have an affinity for weird and bizarre characters so maybe it is my forte. I'm still not settled in yet it's still just hitting me but I wake up every morning wanting to draw and that feels good.”
After a long stint of more straight-up super heroes, Clark’s work on GHOST RIDER ignites new ideas for the veteran artist. When asked for some specific things he’s dreaming up, he couldn’t help himself:
“There [are] all sorts of new touches to ol' flaming skull head. Drawing Johnny in his old outfit. Coming up with our version of the hell bike. Creating new characters to mess with Johnny. To hopefully create something that will have legs and be remembered.”
Ghost Rider has a long history at the House of Ideas, and it’s a history that Williams remains very cognizant of.
“We want to make this series an accessible jumping-on point for new readers,” Williams notes. “Like any Marvel mainstay, Ghost Rider's past history is more than a little convoluted. People will be able to start with the Point One issue here and, even if you've never read a Ghost Rider story before, you'll get it.”For more news, live reports, photos, videos and more from the 2011 Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, stay tuned to Marvel.com all weekend! And to really keep up, get the Marvel Live Event App!