Readers of Dark Horse Comics’ monthly showcase collection, “Dark Horse Presents,” have, in recent months, become reacquainted with “Ghost,” the spectral woman in white. After more than a decade since her last appearance, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Phil Noto have launched their new take on the character, with “Ghost” #0, collecting the serialized “Resurrection Mary” story from “Dark Horse Presents,” hitting the stands on September 19, and subsequent issues following on a monthly basis. Comic Book Resources spoke with DeConnick about re-launching the character and exploring the paranormal.
DeConnick has described her “Ghost” as a re-boot of the character, retaining, she said, “the basic concept of who she is and what she can do,” but reimagining much of the character. DeConnick’s story begins with a focus on former journalist Vaughn Barnes and television-show host and paranormal investigator Tommy Byers.
“Tommy and Vaughn have an antagonistic relationship, no doubt, but there’s also a bond there too,” DeConnick told CBR News. “Really, it’s Vaughn that has the furthest to go, developing as a human being, I mean. He’s not been a very good person most of his life. It’s time for him to put on the big boy pants.”
The duo unwittingly stumbles upon a device that summons the specter of a woman in white, referred to as Resurrection Mary. Trapped between a corporeal and spectral form, she is unsure who or what she is.
“She comes back with this rage that she can barely contain and no memory or understanding whatsoever of who she is or what she is or how she became that thing,” said DeConnick. “In the first issue, we liken it to Athena’s birth. She springs fully-formed into the world. Much has been written about how painful that process was for Zeus. I’m willing to bet it was no picnic for Athena either.”
As the series progresses, the relationship between Vaughn, Byers and the ghost will evolve, with pieces of their mutual pasts coming back to haunt them.
“The three of them are about to walk through fire together,” said DeConnick. “There is something about who she is — or was — that shames [Vaughn].”
In reimagining the character, DeConnick has shifted the story from its original setting in the fictional city of Arcadia to Chicago, a city she describes as characterized by three things: history, secrets and betrayals.
“It’s such a cliched thing to say, but we’re really working to have Chicago be another character in the piece,” said DeConnick. “Chicago’s history and Chicago politics are very much players.”
Phil Noto lends the characters a great deal of expressiveness and vitality through minimal line work, and according to DeConnick brings subtext to the story.
“I am such a huge fan of Phil’s work,” said DeConnick. “So much so that when I sat down to write for him, I was really, really intimidated. And his style is so uniquely his own, I didn’t really have that tool in my box, you know? I called Rick Remender and talked to him a bit because I thought Rick and Phil did some really great work together on [‘Uncanny X-Force’].
“I think Rick mostly gave me a pep talk — he made me laugh a lot.”
Several months ago, DeConnick accompanied the Portland, Oregon based paranormal investigators group Oregon Paranormal on a field investigation as research for “Ghost.” The group has been investigating Portland area reports of hauntings since 2009, offering their investigation services free of charge to homeowners who are often feeling as though they’ve run out of options.
“I’ve done things like this before — ride-alongs with the police, spent a day with a private investigator, that sort of thing,” said DeConnick. It is pretty much exactly what they say: hours of boredom, punctuated by the occasional mind-numbing adrenaline rush.
“The thing about the one — and I should emphasize that I have done only one of these — paranormal investigation that I was on was watching the emotional roller coasters of the investigators themselves. On the one hand, they’re very professional and very staid — calibrating instruments, trying to take the most skeptical approach. On the other hand, all three of them had these giant hearts, you know? What’s that line from ‘The X-Files?’ They want to believe. They’re desperate not even for evidence, for experience. And they wanted me to experience something too. It was very human. Touching.”
According to Oregon Paranormal co-founder Casey Goodwin, the case DeConnick accompanied the team on revolved around a set of perhaps coincidental occurrences. The clients had recently purchased a home and began experiencing phenomenon they felt may have been related to the home’s previous tenant, a woman who had passed away.
“At the end of the night, they had come up with plausible explanations for everything that had been reported by the home owners and found nothing unusual on their instruments,” said DeConnick. “They concluded that they could find no evidence of paranormal activity at that site, that evening. And they were genuinely bummed. Of course they were! They worked so hard, you know?
For her part, DeConnick does not describe herself as a believer in real world ghosts or hauntings and yet, she describes some lingering trepidation.
“The day we were getting ready to go on the ghost hunt I was undeniably nervous,” she said. “If I didn’t have room in my head for the possibility, what reason would I have to be on edge?
“I think when your vocation is make-believe, you’re the sort of person who really wants to believe in magic.”
“Ghost” #0 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Phil Noto hits stores September 19.