October 24, 2000
Prepared for Stuart Moore
Proposal for six-part miniseries
Devin Kalile Grayson
Working title: THE HAMMER LANE
“Take heed; for he holds vengeance
in his hand,
To hurl upon their heads that break
GHOST RIDER: THE HAMMER LANE
THE ONLY QUESTION WORTH ANSWERING:
Semi-charmed kind of life
Let’s start here: when last seen, Ghost Rider, the
spirit of vengeance, occasionally inhabited the corporeal form of mortal
Johnny Blaze. No matter what you make of the last thirty years of
GR continuity, one thing seems clear – though arguably cool and heroic,
hosting the spirit of vengeance is a pain in the ass, bringing immeasurable
danger and grief into Johnny’s life and the lives of those he loves. How
could he possibly want anything other than to shake the whole nightmare
off by now?
Gimme six issues, and I’ll tell ya.
Life in the Fast Lane
This time around, for reasons we’ll soon see, Ghost
Rider does not chat nor angst nor even recognize the gradations of revenge.
He avenges. Period.
Riding solo from New York to Sturgis (and the über-biker-rally
that happens there every August), following a seemingly endless chain of
vengeance (and biker bars), Ghost Rider nobly evens the score on a biker
hit-and-run at the beginning of our series, only to be ready to kill guys
for tipping Harleys by the series’ climax.
Johnny quickly comes to realize that he’s losing
control over his mortal body’s otherworldly guest, and while the building
adrenalin rush that comes with GR’s actions is inhumanly addictive, Johnny
knows he has to put on the brakes. But in an increasingly violent world,
how do you stop – or even slow down – the spirit of vengeance? At
a loss and progressively more at risk as he continues to lose control
over his transformations, Johnny finds himself hiring another badass biker
to kill Ghost Rider, “no matter how, no matter how much, no matter what.”
Now all Johnny has to do is put his feet up on the pegs and wait.
Of course, it doesn’t take the hired gun long to
realize that Ghost Rider’s only real vulnerability….is Johnny Blaze.
In the end, amidst roaring Harley engines, gunfights,
and increasingly lethal bar brawls, Johnny learns that the only thing that
can stop vengeance is forgiveness.
And he’s got a lot to forgive himself for.
Weekend Warriors Need Not Apply
CHAPTER 1/ BOOKS ONE AND TWO: ONE BAD DAY
We open with Johnny (or Danny – see wrap up section)
enjoying a normal day of his normal life. He’s maybe twenty now,
has an office job -- things are quiet. Not so quiet though that the jaw
grinders can’t start to stack up: three angry calls from girlfriend Chloe,
two insubordinate co-workers, and one bad run-in with the boss later, Johnny--ravenous
for release--storms into the corporate garage and climbs into his very
own mean machine: a 1992 Geo Hatchback.
Things sure have gone downhill.
But nearby in the garage he spies someone else’s
beautiful chopper. We go close on Johnny to see the spark in his eyes and
then cut to our splash page: Ghost Rider rides again!
At the very first biker bar he hits (which Johnny
is almost thrown out of until GR emerges – and no more of that homoerotic
gas-cap rubbing, okay? These switches now happen in response to the scent,
if you will, of the unavenged), Ghost Rider is sent after a truck driver
allegedly responsible for a fatal motorbike hit and run. Neither Johnny
nor Ghost Rider have any qualms about chasing this ignoble quarry for miles
of asphalt, to finally avenge the dead biker. As his last request, however,
the trucker begs Ghost Rider to settle a score on his behalf – and quicker
than you can say “everyone hates somebody,” Ghost Rider is off after the
immoral rig-runner who has his drivers so high on speed and the fear of
illegally withheld wages that they don’t dare stop for accidents.
The rig-runner breaks the backs of his drivers because
he owes money to vicious drug lords who have threatened to cut off his
hands and tongue if he doesn’t pay up fast. The drug lords are acting
like animals because they’re trying to scare away a suspected undercover
Narcotics Officer. The good-guy narc-squad detective wants the drug gang
brought down because their trash was responsible for the death of his teenage
son….on and on spin the wheels of revenge, and although Ghost Rider’s in
it for the long haul, Johnny is beginning to realize that his methods are
sometimes less than heroic and that maybe more significantly, he has once
again lost all control of his life. His job and girlfriend have long since
become casualties of the road, and more and more he’s starting to doubt
his grip on his mind, not to mention his soul. What’s a sweater-boy with
a Hell-fire-wheeled Harley to do?
Book two ends with Johnny courting the services of
a crotch-rocket-riding gun for hire; Tom “Gunmetal” Gray, a burly
biker with a reputation for shooting straight and walking away from all
the worse wrecks unharmed. The mission: destroy Ghost Rider, no matter
what it takes.
CHAPTER 2/ BOOKS THREE AND FOUR: BEING THE BUMPER
As badass as Gunmetal is, Ghost Rider doesn’t seem
terribly worried as he continues on his ceaseless mission to right wrongs
with icy stares and Hellfire. Johnny keeps his eye on the rearview mirror
as Ghost Rider chases down a Kentucky cop who let dealers leak their poison
into the poorer section of the good cop’s hometown (this time with the
assistance of a local biker chapter, all too happy to help Ghost Rider
take on the fuzz).
In his quest to carry out his mission, Gunmetal stays
close on Ghost Rider’s trail of vengeance. Eventually recognizing
that he’ll never get Ghost Rider from the back, Gunmetal supersedes the
chain of vengeance by himself becoming the villain who needs to be avenged
(specifically, he gets to a corrupt cop before Ghost Rider does, torturing
and maiming him, so that the wounded cop has no choice but to send Ghost
Rider after Gunmetal). Though this trap proves ineffectual (Ghost Rider
manages to avenge the maimed cop without getting killed by Gunmetal), Johnny
learns two things: first, the hired gun he’s unleashed is significantly
more immoral and dangerous than Ghost Rider, and second, said immoral and
dangerous guy has come to realize that Ghost Rider’s only true vulnerability…is
When during their next encounter, Johnny finds Gunmetal
firing at him, he realizes he needs help from the very being he set up….
CHAPTER 4/ BOOKS FIVE AND SIX: A LIFE LESS ORDINARY
Now contacting Ghost Rider through sweat-soaked nightmares
and in dirty bar mirrors, Johnny--the weight of guilt over GR’s unholy
actions crippling him--fears that he himself has become someone to whom
vengeance must be served. Desperate to reel in the chain of destruction
he’s started, not to mention save his own life, Johnny is considering letting
the hired gun take him out when he crosses paths with a mentor archetype
– in this case a wizened old bike mechanic he met briefly in chapter one,
who suggests a more creative way to fight vengeance: forgiveness.
Having not yet read Zen and The Art of Motorcycle
Maintenance, Johnny isn’t quite sure what to do with this newfound insight.
His first instinct is to beat Ghost Rider to the next scene of vengeance
and warn the marked men off--but, of course, Johnny’s very presence only
insures Ghost Rider’s safe arrival, and blood continues to spill.
By this time, Ghost Rider is avenging men who have had their beers knocked
over, and Gunmetal is shadowing Johnny’s every move – chasing him out of
roadside diners and motels until the already freaked out Johnny can’t have
a meal or a full night’s rest without fear of being fired on by a man he
hired, or facing retribution at the hands of a spirit he betrayed.
In the midst of a fantastic showdown between Ghost
Rider and Gunmetal (by now we’re in Mississippi, on the eve of the Sturgis
rally, and we play this last beat like a Western showdown), Johnny comes
to understand that it’s himself he needs to forgive. But for what? The
pain he’s let his loved ones suffer in the shadow of this mystery?
The lives his flame-skulled alter-ego has ruined or taken?
…or maybe just for, despite everything, not wanting
to be normal. Maybe Johnny needs to forgive himself for loving this life
and never wanting it to end.
With the psychic gap between Johnny and Ghost Rider
thus bridged, Ghost Rider kicks Gunmetal’s ass just in time to let Johnny
Blaze ride, triumphant, in the Sturgis rally, now a biker through and through…
…until it’s time for Ghost Rider to ride off into
the sunset, ready to avenge tomorrow’s wrongs.
OKAY, GREAT, BUT WHAT IF THEY WERE ALL CATS…?
I don’t think we need to explain how Ghost Rider
“works” -- the more we ride the line between mythology and psychosis,
the better. Maybe GR’s a demon (or angel) from Hell, but then again, maybe
Johnny’s just NUTS. Answering that is like delineating what Batman carries
in his Utility Belt – it steals too much magic.
With that in mind, I’ve let Ghost Rider be the only
supernatural in this story, but it would be easy enough to let Gunmetal
make a deal with the devil (or a succubus, or whatever) early on in exchange
for super powers. Obviously a mere mortal has very little chance of felling
Ghost Rider, and as is we hint at Gunmetal having moderate mutant abilities,
but all of that works as a plot point in this story, so it isn’t
necessary to “fix” unless we’re craving additional skull-heads, which would
be easy enough to throw in.
I had also just finished this proposal when I got
an email from Joe mentioning that he prefers the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider.
I actually sort of agree: Blaze is more of a swashbuckling character, he
has a cooler name, and most importantly, he’s probably the alter-ego that
comic civilians best recognize. His fall from stunt rider to office clerk
makes a maybe even more dynamic opening, and it would be super easy to
do this same story with him instead of Danny. To play devil’s advocate,
the use of Danny does two things for us: it follows the “do no harm” continuity
rule without demanding much of anything in the way of “continuity catch
up” (bringing Johnny back in might leave us with a little more explaining
to do), and it gives us a stronger contrast between Ghost Rider and his
host. From what little I’ve read, it seems clear that Johnny is more of
a Hawkeye or Gambit, while Danny’s pure Pre-Supermodel-Marriage Peter Parker.
Both choices have merit, and neither make any significant difference to
the structure of the story, so I leave the selection entirely up to you.
Last but not least, whatever the final fate of Ghost
Rider, this project has tremendous cross-marketing potential. It’s
no secret that I am much less familiar with Marvel’s characters than DC’s
– but Ghost Rider I know...not from comics, but from pop songs, tattoos,
and the back of biker jackets. Hardcore fanboys will no doubt want more
continuity than what I’ve offered here, but I’ll be honest with you – my
goal here is to give Ghost Rider back to the people who have loved him
regardless of who wrote what about him when. He’s one of the few
from our medium who has transcended, and I think we should honor that,
be it with ads in Easy Rider, or promotional give-away temporary tattoos.
‘Course, it ain’t MY wallet. ;-)
Thanks for your time! I look forward to hearing your
Can you have a buddy movie with just one guy?