Vengeance Unbound is honored to present an interview with the current writer of the ongoing Ghost Rider series, Jason Aaron!
1) I understand you have an interesting story about how you broke into the comics industry, something about winning a writing contest for Marvel a few years back? What did it take for you to get your feet in the door at Vertigo for your first major project, The Other Side?
Yeah, my first break came when I won a Marvel talent search contest in 2002. I did an 8 page Wolverine story, which was my first published work. Unfortunately it didn't lead to anything else at the time, but it did encourage me to start pitching ideas around. And one of the first things I pitched was a Vietnam War mini-series. I somehow got that pitch to the attention of Will Dennis at Vertigo and it was published last year as THE OTHER SIDE. And since then, one thing has just led to another.
2) What circumstances led you to getting the Ghost Rider gig? Was Johnny Blaze a character you were chomping at the bit to write, or did you come into the series cold?
It was my Vertigo series SCALPED that brought me to the attention of Marvel editor Axel Alonso. I did some WOLVERINE issues for Axel, and he asked me if I wanted to pitch for GHOST RIDER. Up until then, I'd read GR off and on over the years. I has some issues of the original series and had read a lot of the 90s series, so I was already up on the character. Thankfully Axel liked my take. And it helped that the previous writer, Daniel Way, was leaving me in a great spot to take over.
3) You took over Ghost Rider from outgoing writer Daniel Way , who introduced the somewhat controversial idea of Blaze being possessed by an angel. Was the angel concept your idea or Way's, and did you have trouble with the new status quo when you came on board?
It was Way's idea, and no, I didn't have a problem with it. Quite the contrary. I loved the fact that the angel revelation allowed me to take the book in a different direction, setting up an all-new villain and ultimately a bit of a different tone for the book. I understand how people gripe about Ghost Rider's continuity, wondering how you can reconcile the GR being a spirit of heaven with Blaze being possessed by Zarathos and everything to do with Noble Kale and the Medallion of Power. But Ghost Rider continuity was already a very complicated mess. Unless you're a real student of the series, there's no way you can keep up with everything. As far as I'm concerned, the best thing to do is pare that stuff down as much as possible to make things accessible for new readers. I know a lot of long time readers would love to see stories resolved that were started years ago, but they have to understand that those writers are gone. We're just trying to create a Ghost Rider series for the present, to tell exciting new stories and to keep growing Flamehead's fanbase. That doesn't mean you have to throw out all the old stuff, and in fact you can see where I've been making a lot of references to GR continuity in recent issues. But the main thing here is just to tell new stories, stories that still stay true to what Ghost Rider is all about.
4) You were responsible for bringing back Danny Ketch, the host for the 1990s Ghost Rider and a character fans have been asking about since the new series began. What made you decide to bring Dan back to the series?
It was then editor Aubrey Sitterson who suggested it, and at first I was opposed to the idea. I just didn't want to open that whole can of worms. But the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I liked that we'd be bringing Ketch back in a way that fans weren't expecting, and I was interested in being able to expand Blaze's supporting cast a bit and to shape Ketch into a more fully-realized character, someone I'd be able to have fun with. And rest assured, Ketch is back for good. This isn't a short term thing. I think he'll remain in the series even after I'm gone.
5) You're also dealing heavily with the Ghost Rider's origins in your current story-arc, a subject that's been handled pretty poorly in the past. Considering how convoluted the origin story has become over the years, what do you think is necessary to keep – Noble Kale, Zarathos, the Medallion of Power, Mephisto, what makes the cut?
I'm mostly just focusing on the new wrinkle, and trying to make everything else make as much sense as possible, if that's possible at all. I've worked in a few references to Noble Kale so far, and chances are you'll see a bit more of him later. I'm not at all interested in revisiting Zarathos or the Medallion of Power though. I just don't see that there's anymore story there.
6) Here's the question that's a major point of contention for Ghost Rider fans: Johnny Blaze or Daniel Ketch, who do YOU see as the true Ghost Rider?
I'm partial to Blaze, because he's just a more interesting character, more tortured, more fun to write. But that said, who says we can't have two Ghost Riders, huh? Or then again, why stop at two?
7) Do you have a favorite story-arc for Ghost Rider? Were there any writers that inspired your take on the character?
I'm a big fan of writer Michael Fleisher, and a lot of his issues from the original series were great. J.M. Dematties did some nice stuff at the end of that first series as well. And of course you've got to give respect to Gary Friedrich, who got the whole thing rolling. In terms of the 90s series, I became a big fan with the Rise of the Midnight Sons storyline, where we first got the spin-off title Spirits of Vengeance that paired Blaze and Ketch together. My favorite villain from that series was probably the Scarecrow, so I'd still love to bring him back at some point. I also really loved the recent GHOST RIDER: MYTHOS one shot by Paul Jenkins. That was my favorite GR story in a long time. Beyond that, I'm also a huge fan of Stever Gerber's Son of Satan stories from MARVEL SPOTLIGHT, as well as a lot of the elements that Warren Ellis introduced in HELLSTORM, and I hope to be incorporating some of those characters and ideas into GHOST RIDER in the coming months.
8) What did you think of the Ghost Rider movie?
Not my cup of tea really, but I thought the effects were pretty cool.
9) Here's where you get to shill your products, Jason! What other projects do you have in the works right now? Any other new Ghost Rider material outside of the current ongoing series?
I continue to write SCALPED, my Eisner nominated Vertigo series, and have a new WOLVERINE mini-series starting later this month. I'm also doing a PUNISHER Christmas Special later this year. And while it's not written by me, there is a new GHOST RIDER series debuting this month. It's a mini-series focusing on Danny Ketch, and it's written by the amazing British writer Simon Spurrier and drawn by someone who's no stranger to Flamehead fans: the great Javier Saltares. It will serve to bridge the gap between the old Danny Ketch and the new version, who for some reason is in service to Zadkiel.
10) Mr. Aaron, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with me. Any last remarks for all the Ghost Rider fans out there?
I just wanna say that my first year on this series has been the most fun I've ever had as a writer, but I'm even more excited about what's coming up in year two. In terms of teases, be on the look-out for an awful lot of exciting new characters (including a look at some past Ghost Riders we've never seen before), as well as the return of another old favorite, though in a slightly different form. Oh, and the Orb will be back as well, I guarantee it. Thanks.
Special thanks to Jason Aaron for subjecting himself to this interview, and be sure to pick up the ongoing Ghost Rider series each and every month to read more of his incredible work!