In recent years, it has become common place for comic book companies to revive popular and nostalgic brands from our childhood that we know and love. But the trick of resurrecting a cult classic from the grave isn’t always an easy one. If done wrong, it becomes a souless beast sucking the life out of a treasured memory. However, thanks to IDW we know just who to call to combat crappy comics. Say it with me out loud, readers! “GHOSTBUSTERS!
Simply put, the IDW Ghostbusters series are some of the best comics currently being published. Each panel, each line of dialogue is lovingly true to what came before it, while still finding ways to innovate the mythology of the Ghostbusters universe (or should I say mutli-verse?).
Last summer, we saw another layer get added to the world of Ghostbusters with the release of Paul Feig’s female led remake. Sparking even more new interest in the decades old franchise. Now, the comic series is bridging the worlds of the the 1980’s team and the 2016 crew in a new comic series entitled “Ghostbusters 101.” I was lucky enough to speak with writer, Erik Burnham and penciler, Dan Schoening, two of the guiding forces behind the Ghostbusters comics about the new series and all things Ghostbusters.
DE: I wanted to start off this first question with a quick story. Last summer, around three weeks or so after the new Ghostbusters had come out, I was grocery shopping when I noticed a family with a kid who couldn’t have been older than 10, dressed in a homemade Ghostbusters II uniform, complete with the “II” logo, which he had taped on as an armband. Naturally, as a diehard Ghostbusters fan, I had to ask his Mother why he was wearing the costume.. She told me that his Dad had taken him to see the new Ghostbusters movie and he loved it. So, they went back and watched the original two films which fueled the fire. Now he’s obsessed with all things Ghostbusters, especially Ghostbusters II. Seeing this little boy took me back to when I was just a child and would use our family’s vacuum cleaner as a proton pack and that time I spilled green slime on my mother’s carpet, telling her it was from a ghost. As I chatted with this kid about the awesomeness of Vigo, I thought about how everyone has their favorite incarnation of the franchise.
You fellas are clearly big fans of all things Ghostbusters. So my first question is actually a two-parter. What is the first Ghostbusters media you remember seeing and which incarnation of Ghostbusters is your personal favorite?
EB: The first image I remember is the last shot of the original movie — the green ghost flying straight at the camera. My family was visiting a relative, and that happened to be on the TV — it was the first thing I saw walking into the house! So that tape got rewound and watched while the relatives visited, and I loved it from go. Unsurprisingly, the original movie is my favorite. The well-worn nature of the world, the deadpan humor, the scares, it all hit the right notes immediately for me.
DS: One of my favorite Ghostbusters stories is my first experience with Ghostbusters. My mom took me to see the film when it first opened in ’84. We arrived late, right before Ray decides to speak with the ghostly Librarian. Pretty much as I got comfy in the theater chair, the ghost transformed into the hideous beast we have all come to love. Needless to say I was scared, but I was also hooked on the idea that anyone could strap on a Proton Pack and catch ghosts. The ’86 cartoon, Real Ghostbusters, really solidified my love for the idea and different interpretations of the characters.
DE: The reboot is still a hotly debated topic in fan circles and social media. But if the above story proves anything, the film jumpstarted a new generation of Ghostbusters fans. Because of this, do you think in time it will eventually become a more accepted part of the Ghostbusters lexicon? Sort of the way it was really hip to bash Ghostbusters II and now, with age so many people have embraced it.
DS: I can really only speak on how I feel about the new film as art is a subjective form of expression, meaning different things to everyone. Personally, I consider the 2016 film a fully fledged member of the Ghostbusters Canon. The main four characters, Erin, Abby, Patty and Jillian are hilarious and have amazing chemistry together. I’m a big fan of Paul Feig’s work as well. In many ways it reminded me of a great episode of the Real Ghostbusters, and the film truly shines when it’s being true to itself.
EB: I think that it will be accepted and reviled in equal measure as a piece of the franchise in the same way that the other things are — there are still (and probably always will be) vocal and passionate love & hate camps for GB2 and Extreme Ghostbusters. In fact, I’ve seen the argument that the movies themselves are a waste of time compared to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon! That’s fandom. So long as we can be good natured about our preferences, things will smooth out just fine.
DE: Speaking of Extreme Ghostbusters, as you say…that’s another piece of Ghostbusters history that remains hotly debated amoung fans. But your comics take stuff from every part of the Ghostbusters franchise and includes a version of gothed out Ghostbuster Kylie Griffin. How did you go about getting that character included in the series? Is it safe to assume you’re a fan of Extreme Ghostbusters yourself?
EB: Well, we were planning on using a new character to fill the role Kylie did — running Ray’s shop, researching, and eventually becoming a part-time Ghostbuster as well. It was Tristan Jones who suggested we just coopt Kylie’s name and likeness. (If not, exactly, the same personality.) It just kinda ran from there, and she’s been one of our favorites to use. Funny thing is that I’ve — to this day — only seen a couple of XGB episodes!
DE: Through the various IDW Ghostbuster comic series, you’ve worked with the original characters and even alternate versions, like the Real Ghostbusters. Now, you’re bringing four color versions of the “Answer the Call Crew” to life. How did each of you prep for that?
DS: I did a few tests on how to approach the designs of each character. After many takes, we all agreed on the ones you see now. I don’t aim for spot on likenesses, but rather a caricatures of their personalities. I also have seen ATC many times, which helps greatly when I act with the characters on the page.
EB: No major prep for me beyond watching Answer the Call.
DE: As previously mentioned, your comics have played around with several different versions of the Ghostbusters. When you knew a new movie was in the works, did it cross your mind that you might get to play around with the new characters?
EB: Well, we did hope to do a crossover at some point — quite frankly, they’re fun for us to do and it always results in people who weren’t aware that there are years of Ghostbusters comics finding the book and checking it out. Some of these readers are new to comics, some are new to Ghostbusters in general, and it’s a blast when we can see enthusiasm sparking. So yeah, we hoped to do one, but weren’t sure when or if Sony would want to do that. As it is, they asked for the Answer the Call introduction to comics here in 101, which was a surprise, and it turned out to be a fun one.
DS: Indeed! I’m humbled to have this opportunity. Ghostbusters is truly limitless in it’s potential, and adding to it’s already diverse and creative mythos is a dream come true! My eight year-old self would freak out if I told him what he’d be drawing when he’s older.
DE: Erik, there seems to be two types of Ghostbusters fans, ones who are drawn in by the sci-fi/horror aspects and those who enjoy the comedy. As a writer, which aspect of Ghostbusters do you enjoy writing the most?
EB: With Ghostbusters, it’s really hard to separate the two. But my voice as a writer leans toward humor, and I am very comfortable with that, so that’s where a lot of enjoyment lies for sure.
DE: Is there a classic Ghostbusters character you enjoy writing dialogue for this most?
EB: It varies! I love writing all of these characters for different reasons, and it’s hard to boil it down to a most. Everyone gets a spotlight, and there are favorite moments for every character. It’s a cop out of an answer, especially to all those “sure I’m going to say Venkman” — but it’s the truth!
DE: One of the standout things about the Ghostbusters franchise is the creatures, which have always had this bizarre mix of whimsy and horror. You’ve gotten to play with a lot of the classic monsters from the Ghostbusters franchise, but you’ve also have created a lot of new ones for the comic series. Do you do a lot of research into the occult or mythology? Or do you mostly just try to come up with ideas from your own imagination? What goes into designing them?
DS: Almost always, Erik has an idea written in the script and I start with that. I’m greatly inspired by older horror films from the 30’s all the way up to the 80’s. In fact a lot of the ghouls are 80’s inspired. Each issue I try to up the horror factor if it the story allows it. Story is always king and will often dictate the level of scary.
EB: Sometimes I do general reading and trip across something that would be neat, and build a scene around it, like the crybaby ghost. And sometimes I make things up — but supplement with enough research on things that seem close that it winds up feeling more authentic. The Hungry Manitou was one of those. But pure imagination can turn out a character like Ellen Gold. I’m not picky about whether the ideas come from research, imagination, or a combination… just so long as they come!
DE: I believe I noticed Pennywise hanging out in an earlier issue. So speaking of art, your style seems to combine aspects of both the live action films and the Real Ghostbusters animated series. Was this a deliberate choice on your part or just a happy accident?
DS: Perhaps subconsciously I did take from both the animated and live action characters. My main goal with the designs for the comics are to capture the personality and essence of the characters rather than likenesses.
DE: Is there a character from the Ghostbusters multi-verse you found challenging to pencil?
DS: I always refer to older drawings that I find successful as my model sheets. Perhaps one that I still find hard is Egon.
DE: Out of the “ATC” team, Holtzmann seems to have been the break out character of the film. She is every inch the mad scientist, but far more manic than Egon Spengler. She certainly was my favorite of the new Ghostbusters. Is it safe to say she was a fun character to dive into?
DS: Definitely! The way Kate McKinnon delivers dialog combined with posing, she’s a blast to draw.
EB: Holtzmann is wild-eyed zany, and that’s always a fun tool to have at hand for a story. You can tell how much fun Dan is having with her, too, throwing in bigger body language.
DE: Obviously, the crossover is getting a lot of the media attention right now. But “101” is going to be about more than that. So, tell us where we find the Ghostbusters as this series opens?
DS: Basically a money making scheme courtesy of Venkman. Lol. Not only do we see the ATC crew, but we are also reintroduced to the 101 team that we previously saw in the 2017 Annual. The brilliant Rachael Stott originally designed the 101 team for that annual, she’s insanely talented.
EB: It was Tom Waltz’s inspiration to have them return to teaching in some form, and I always liked the pure, crass capitalism behind Peter setting up a fantasy camp for folks to bust a ghost themselves — and events in the first issue kick that off. Both things were going to have a bigger place in the miniseries, but the ATC crew kept demanding more space!
DE: Without giving any spoilers, any big moments readers can look forward to?
EB: This may kind of be a spoiler, it may not. In the Ghostsmashers arc, we showed what could happen if you simply dispersed (or blew up) too many ghosts — the matter reformed, and with so much floating around, the psychokinetic energy combined into a bigger ghost. Well, Holtzmann’s favorite thing is to simply blow up the ghosts (that Times Square scene didn’t bother much with trapping!) What I’m saying is that those two things could cause a problem. Say… in issue 4.
DS: Adding to Erik’s thoughts, if you like Yacht Rock and have seafaring legs, you’ll like Issue 4 even more!
DE: Half joking here, but now that you’ve played with the “ATC” team, do you two ever hold out hopes of getting to play with the “Filmation” Ghostbusters?
EB: Heh. I’m not even sure where the rights to those stand at this point!
DS: That would be funny. I feel it could make for a fun issue, but wouldn’t have the same legs as what we have cookin’ now. And to echo what Erik said, I have no clue who owns the rights to those characters. Although, the thought of Egon examining Tracy the Gorilla (with the colander on his head of course) would be hilarious.
DE: Ivan Reitman has recently said that he aims to continue the franchise in animated form and there has been talks of a new animated series for a while. Your comics now have literally encompassed almost every incarnation of Ghostbusters. Would you be into it if Ghost Corps/Sony adapted your comics into a new animated series or film?
EB: Of course…and I’d hope to work directly on such a thing!
DS: Hmmmmmm….. YES! That would be another dream come true. I’d love to be part of that.
DE: Finally, in closing…”how is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”
DS: Last time I saw him, he was pumping gas at Delville Gas. But that was a few years back.
EB: *Mimicking Ray’s expression*
Once more, I just wanted to say what a big, big fan of your comics we all are. Thanks again for taking the time to do this. The second issue of Ghostbusters 101 slimes into comic book stores May 3rd. For more information on Ghostbusters comics, check out IDW’s website.