Interview: Felipe Smith Talks Agents of SHIELD, Robbie Reyes’ Past and Future

If you’re like us then you love Ghost Rider.  The flaming Hell Charger and the trials and struggles of Robbie Reyes (Gabriel Luna) were the highlight of an incredible season of Agents of SHIELD.  If you’re also like us, you want to catch up with everything Robbie while we wait with baited breath to find out if he’s going to return to Agents of SHIELD or get his own series.  To do that, we caught up with Felipe Smith, Robbie’s creator to talk the character’s ast, Agents of SHIELD season 4, and what our hopes for the future of the Ghost Rider.

TMR: What was your inspiration for Robbie Reyes? 

Felipe Smith: One of the first Marvel comics I ever read was Ghost Rider & Blaze: Spirits of Vengeance and it blew my mind. I thought Ghost Rider was one of the coolest characters ever. When Marvel asked me to create an entirely new Ghost Rider, I wanted to make sure he’d be a relatable, memorable character with distinct characteristics that set him apart from his predecessors, making him a significant addition to the Marvel Universe.

Right off the bat I knew I didn’t want Robbie Reyes to be another “Spirit of Vengeance”, because that would limit what I could do story wise without meddling with or completely ignoring what other Ghost Rider creators had already established.

Having Robbie receive his powers from an alternate source, the “Spirit of Eli”, would allow me to show even the biggest Ghost Rider buff something new, create justified conflict with his predecessors, and ultimately make him a truly “All-New” Ghost Rider that would hopefully prove to be an important and permanent part of the MU.

Once I decided his powers and look would differ from those of a traditional Ghost Rider, I focused on his personality and his background.

I knew I wanted Robbie’s story to take place on the West Coast, specifically in Los Angeles (where I live), because it would allow him to establish his own story, independent of the MU’s hero and villain saturated East Coast.

Besides being a mechanic, Robbie is a skilled drag racer. From what I’ve observed personally in L.A., street racing culture has a predominant Asian and Latino presence. Although I’m familiar with Asian culture, specifically Japanese (I speak the language and have lived and worked in Japan for 4 years, while publishing my manga series PEEPO CHOO) I’m way more familiar with Latin cultures, since my Mom is Argentine and I was raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

So “Latino” it was, and since the largest Latino demographic in LA is Mexican, it made more than perfect sense for Robbie Reyes to be Mexican-American.

Robbie would soon find great power, so as a character, he needed something to ground him and something to care for: Enter Gabe Reyes (Lorenzo James Henrie), his adorable little bro! Because Robbie is so quiet, guarded and distrustful of others, Gabe is an essential part of Robbie’s character development. I knew I wanted brotherhood to be an important theme in All-New Ghost Rider.

Can you talk a little bit about how he came to Marvel’s attention?

Around October of 2013 Marvel editor Mark Paniccia contacted me about creating a new Ghost Rider that would appeal to a younger audience with two stipulations in mind: younger” (than Johnny Blaze & Danny Ketch) and “drives a CAR”.

The minute I heard the word “CAR” I was in because I knew fans would HATE the idea of a Ghost Rider without a motorcycle, so we’d have their attention. All we had to do was create an appealing character they’d want to root for and a story that would entertain.

What’d you think of the finale of Agents of SHIELD season 4? Wasn’t it crazy?

I loved the finale! I thought they did a great job! Of course, my favorite scenes involved Robbie Reyes! [laughs] Gabriel Luna’s performance was superb, as always, and the fighting choreography and visual FX during his transformation and action scenes were spectacular! I hope he gets a spinoff show of his own! I think viewers would love that!

Can you share anything about how you felt watching your character come to life on the show?

I was very excited to see that the first promotional images for Robbie Reyes, his Ghost Rider form and the Hell Charger were amazingly faithful to our comic book version and specifically referenced my issue #1 cover art! I immediately noticed how true to the source Gabriel Luna’s characterization was, from the quiet, intense stare, to his body motion. I was really happy. But when I saw Ghost Rider’s introduction mimicked the scene from All-New Ghost Rider #2 in which the Hell Charger is shot by a ROCKET LAUNCHER and it flips in the air landing back on the road on all four wheels, I went INSANE! I could have never hoped for such a faithful translation from comic to live action.

What was it like seeing Robbie, Gabe and Eli come to life on the show?

Although some elements were altered to better fit Agents of SHIELD’s storyline, I was very happy to see that they’d included both Gabe and Uncle Eli (Jose Zuniga) as well!

How did it feel connecting Robbie’s powers to the darkhold?

It made sense. If I understand correctly, the Darkhold is like the Necronomicon.

In the comics, Eli Morrow is a Satanist serial killer who uses a similar artifact to learn how to transfer his spirit into a different body/vessel. In a moment of dying desperation Eli ends up putting his soul into his getaway car, the Black Charger, which is later used by Robbie on the night of his fateful, fatal race.

Do you have a favorite Ghost Rider Scene in the series? A favorite episode?

I’ve got to say that I’ve liked every single scene he was in, but my favorite, by far, is his introduction to the series in episode 1!

We know you got to be on the show, what was it like being a part of that magic?

It was great! Everybody on set was really nice and made us (All-New Ghost Rider artist Tradd Moore was also there with me) feel right at home during the visit. Besides having the opportunity to talk to some cast members and crew I also got a tour of the SHIELD sets and the wardrobe department. The highlight of my visit was seeing how they shoot their action scenes! It was a very elaborate one (episode 8) with Yo-Yo Rodriguez slo-mo action and Robbie Reyes going toe-to-toe with a very powerful Eli Morrow.

Can you talk about your ideal team up for Robbie either in the show or in the comics? In the comics I loved seeing him with Laura Kinney.

Kamala Khan, The Punisher, She-Hulk, and Blade for both comics and live action.

We at The Marvel Report are pushing for a spin-off. The West Coast of California needs a little bit of love in the MCU.  Do you have any ideas on what that could look like?

YES! A Robbie Reyes All-New Ghost Rider spin-off show starring Gabriel Luna would be absolutely glorious! Let’s hope Marvel can make it happen!

There you have it guys! Be sure to add Robbie Reyes to your summer comic reading list and be sure to follow Felipe on Twitter for updates on his new projects! You’ll be able to catch up with Agents of SHIELD season 4 on Netflix in June.