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Ghost Rider special reunites Vengeance and Howard Mackie

Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance #1
(Image credit: Javier Saltares (Marvel Comics))

The very 90s-esque extreme Ghost Rider Vengeance rides back into town this month with the one-shot Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance #1. Writer/co-creator Howard Mackie has reunited with his creation in a story that spins out of the recently-concluded Ghost Rider ongoing where he helped Danny Ketch fight Blackheart and acted as a fill-in ruler of Hell when Ketch was busy.

(Image credit: Javier Saltares (Marvel Comics))

In this storyline, Mackie and former Ghost Rider artist Javier Saltares re-introduce Vengeance to the world and put him against some would-be contenders for the rulership of Hell. Mackie tells Newsarama this is a project four years into the making and touches on a renewed burning desire inside him to write more Ghost Rider.

With Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance #1 on sale December 30, Mackie spoke with Newsarama about Vengeance, revisiting his old Ghost Rider haunts, and how this amped-up Spirit of Vengeance is in some ways a reflection of the writer himself.

Newsarama: Howard, how did this project come about? Was it something you pitched to Marvel or Marvel pitched to you? 

Howard Mackie: This project - much like the launching of the '90s Ghost Rider series - took a long and winding road. Marvel reached out to me about four years ago and asked if I would be interested in doing a one-shot featuring the Danny Ketch version of Ghost Rider. At that point the ongoing series featured Robbie Reyes, so they were looking for a Danny Ketch/Robbie team-up. Time passed, editors changed, the Robbie series ended - I was getting ready to pitch a one-shot with Dan and Blaze going up against Lilith - and the most excellent series by Ed Brisson and Aaron Kuder came to life. 

So, it was back to the drawing board. Marvel asked if I'd be interested in bringing back Michael Badilino and Vengeance as a Ghost Rider Annual that would feed into the series. I've had a soft spot in my heart for Vengeance (weird, right?) since I created him with Adam Kubert, so there we went. 

(Image credit: Javier Saltares (Marvel Comics))

Nrama: What made you want to return to Ghost Rider? 

Mackie: I really didn't…until I did. I've got a few personal rules I adhere to in regards to characters I've created… 

First, I almost never re-read anything I've written once it's in print. If I do that… all I see are the mistakes. Mine…the artists…the editors… 

Second, I stop reading comics featuring characters I've written once I'm done with them. I'm concerned that if I did read stories, I might accidentally say something - in interviews for example-- that could be construed as a criticism. Not my place to judge what's been done with a character after I'm done with them.

Third, I never consider returning to a character once I'm done. When I was done with Ghost Rider in the '90s… I was really done. I wrote a whole lot of flaming-head stories between Ghost Rider, Spirits of Vengeance, Marvel Comics Presents, and a variety of one-shots.

A few years after I had written my last stories with Danny Ketch, Johnny Blaze, and Michael Badilino, I began to have stray thoughts: 'I wonder where those characters are now?' This led to daydreaming, jotting down notes, and going through lots of 'What ifs?' So, when Marvel reached out to me… I was ready.

(Image credit: Javier Saltares (Marvel Comics))

Nrama: What was it like reuniting with Javier Saltares?

Mackie: In the course of my career, I've been fortunate to work with some of the top talents in the comic book industry. Getting to work with Javier and Mark Texeira to launch our Ghost Rider series was really special. Everyone brought something to the plate to make the '90s series the immense success it was. 

Many people don't know exactly how successful it was, or how much resistance we met internally to get the series going. The earlier Ghost Rider series was canceled because of low sales - I happened to have loved it - and the sales department had no faith in publishing a book featuring a failed character, written by a fledgling comic book writer, and drawn by two relatively unknown artists could ever be a sales success. We proved them wrong. So, getting to work with Javier again was a dream come true. 

Nrama: Why did you want to bring back Michael Badilino in particular?

Mackie: The original idea was for me to do a Danny Ketch story, but he was tied up in his ongoing series. It was my editor Mark Basso who turned my attention toward Badilino. I'm so glad he did.

The biggest problem I have is that I've got Badilino and Vengeance in my head, and things are very dark.

(Image credit: Javier Saltares (Marvel Comics))

Nrama: What intrigues you about his character and the Ghost Rider mythos in general?

Mackie: In all ways, Badilino is the third part of a very dark triangle of Riders and also a little bit of Howard Mackie-writer.

Danny Ketch was very much the younger me. He was a kid from Brooklyn who was saddled with a living spirit of vengeance thrust upon him. He was forced to wrestle with demons - externally and internally - but I think Danny's heart and soul were relatively pure. Thus, he was able to keep the Spirit of Vengeance under control.

Blaze was a little bit more mature and world-weary. He's been to hell and back several times, and that wears away at you. When I was writing Blaze, I felt like he was always struggling to keep things under control. Sometimes he didn't succeed.

Badilino embraced the darkest impulses of being a Rider. He looked into the darkness, the darkness looked back, and there was a union. I find the potential in exploring that kind of character infinitely exciting as a writer. You know… what if Ghost Rider wasn't such a wimp?

(Image credit: Phillip Tan (Marvel Comics))

Nrama: There are some big players in hell in your one-shot - what can you tell us about their interaction?

Mackie: Well, Blaze is ruling Hell during the time that this story is set, but he is a background character only. Vengeance does interact with two other characters I created during my Ghost Rider run in his attempt to escape from hell… Skinner and Anton Hellgate.

Nrama: Are there other Ghost Riders we can expect - Robbie Reyes, etc?

Mackie: Not in this story. I have several other pitches for all the characters hanging out in the cloud.

Nrama: Speaking of, following this one-shot, would you like to write a sequel? Do you have more Ghost Rider plans?

Mackie: I would love to get to explore the path upon which Badilino and Vengeance are riding straight of hell. I always thought the Ghost Rider characters work on the darker edges of the regular Marvel Universe. Handing out vengeance amongst mutants super-powered, and supernatural villains alike. So, there are no current plans, but I'd definitely be up for it.

Ghost Rider: Return of Vengeance goes on sale December 30, in print and digitally. Check out our list of the best comics readers for Android and iOS devices.

Kat Calamia

Kat has been working in the comic book industry as a critic for over a decade with her YouTube channel, Comic Uno. She’s been writing for Newsarama since 2017 and also currently writes for DC Comics’ DC Universe - bylines include IGN, Fandom, and TV Guide. She writes her own comics with her titles Like Father, Like Daughter and They Call Her…The Dancer. Calamia has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and minor in Journalism through Marymount Manhattan and a MFA in Writing and Producing Television from LIU Brooklyn.