In September, IDW Publishing launches the first “Ghostbusters” ongoing series in twenty years. IDW has previously published several one-shots and miniseries since acquiring the license to the famous characters from Ivan Reitman’s 1984 film, most recently releasing the two issue “Ghostbusters: Infestation,” which tied into the publisher’s first crossover event. Erik Burnham wrote that series and returns to pen the ongoing series with artist Dan Schoening.
Reitman’s original supernatural comedy became an instant classic thanks to sharp writing by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and a stellar cast including Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman, Aykroyd as Dr. Raymond Stantz, Ramis as Dr. Egon Spengler and Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddmore. Together, they formed a somewhat low-budget team dedicated to containing paranormal threats — that is, ghostbusting. Two competing cartoons launched in 1986 and film sequel followed in 1989. There are currently rumors of a “Ghostbusters III.”
Comic Book Resources spoke with Erik Burnham about the new ongoing series and the fun and challenge of writing the Ghostbusters’ distinct voices.
CBR News: You first got to tackle these characters in the Infestation miniseries. How did you find that experience?
Erik Burnham: Both gratifying and terrifying. These were characters I always wanted to write, but it was also under the extra scrutiny of a huge event. I was holding my breath from the day they were solicited until the day reviews came in on the second issue! But at the end of the day, I got to put words in the mouths of the Ghostbusters. Which was a blast — 10 year old me would be insanely jealous!
You seem to have a good hold on the Ghostbusters’ voices. Were there any that were a bit more difficult for you, or that surprised you as you were writing them?
That was the thing I was most concerned about getting right. The difficult thing, mostly, is condensing verbal ticks onto the printed page. Have you ever noticed how fast Dan Aykroyd can spout off a roll of elaborate dialog? It’s trickier to make it flow in print, but I’m trying. Egon’s dry sense of humor can be a challenge as well, though when his voice starts clicking in my head, he provides the most surprises. There’s a gag in issue #2 of the ongoing — a one word response from Egon that makes me chuckle. Venkman, on the other hand, is never a problem. And now, with the ongoing series, I’ve discovered how much I love pitting Walter Peck against Janine Melnitz.
â€¨What can you tell us about the story in this opening arc?
It connects to the “Infestation” issues in that, at the beginning, they’re waiting for Stay Puft to re-form. Egon’s expecting it, and something sinister has a plan for the Marshmallow Man. Also, I’ve dropped a few breadcrumbs for future arcs — some are going to be spotted right away; some others are way too subtle — but they’re there.
â€¨With the expanded space that comes with an ongoing series, are there any particular aspects of the Ghostbusters universe you’re interested in exploring beyond the world we’ve seen in the movies?
Nothing specific, though I do plan on bringing in some new people to provide support in certain areas — unofficial staffers, if you will. I’d also like to get them out of the confines of the city every now and again. Not in the same globe-trotting sense as the cartoon, but at least they could head upstate — if not out to the creepier parts of New England. There’s a lot of possibility within driving distance! Also, thanks to the backup stories by Tristan Jones, I look forward to dealing some with P.C.O.C., the city’s paranormal oversight committee, headed by Walter Peck.
There are, of course, a few iconic ghosts from the film, but are you looking to introduce any new recurring nemeses?
I hope to. I have a one-year plan turned in and there are at least three entities that could make comebacks in the future.
â€¨There’s mention in the solicitation copy about Ray’s prophetic dreams. Is there anything you can say now about the nature or content of these visions?
Anything I say may spoil not necessarily this arc, but some stuff down the line. I will say that Ray has a spirit guide and I can’t imagine a more appropriate form for the guide than the one we picked.
â€¨The artist for this series is Dan Schoening. What does his style bring to the Ghostbusters’ universe?
Dan’s work lets the characters act, which is important in a book like this. I can name several detail-oriented, “realistic” artists with huge followings working in comics, but their characters have maybe three expressions available to them. Dan can give more than that to the characters and he’s similarly good with hiding gags in the panels. Some I ask for, some he throws in himself — it adds to the experience, trying to find all of the obvious — and subtle — gags in the panels.
“Ghostbusters” haunts comic shops everywhere on September 21