Burnham Haunts "Ghostbusters: Infestation"

IDW Publishing has big plans for its "Infestation" event, notable for uniting several of the publisher's licensed titles together for a company-wide crossover of sorts. It kicks off this month with the first of two bookend issues written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and illustrated by David Messina. Prior to its conclusion in April's "Infestation" #2, four bi-weekly, two-issue miniseries will explore the ramifications of a plague of zombies overrunning the universes of "Transformers," "Star Trek," "G.I. Joe," and "Ghostbusters." While the invaders -- the particular brand of undead seen in IDW's "Zombies vs. Robots" and pursued by the "CVO" operatives -- present unique challenges to each cast of characters, one can't help but feel that Peter Venkman, Raymond Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddmore might just be the professionals in dealing with supernatural threats. CBR News spoke with writer Erik Burnham about "Ghostbusters: Infestation," which ships biweekly in March and is illustrated by "Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities" artist Kyle Hotz.

CBR News: Erik, what is your background with the "Ghostbusters" films, cartoons, etc. as a fan?

Erik Burnham: Oh, man. Extensive. I was a hardcore "Ghostbusters" fan from the second I saw the first film. In fact, I had that movie all but memorized in elementary school; this did not always work out in my favor. In fact I clearly remember a stern talking to over the phrase 'mother pussbucket.'

To this day, the movies are in regular rotation as background noise in my DVD player; the cartoons -- I remember when they first aired and watched them whenever I could (well, up until they started front-loading Slimer as the star of the show...) and remember several episodes fondly; an oblivious Ray on a game show run by the devil springs to mind. I just got volume one of the cartoon over Christmas and I'm enjoying seeing them for the first time in years. Also, I bought a PS3 in part to play the new game. All that said, the live-action stuff is still my favorite, hands down.

Of the various crossover titles, "Ghostbusters "is perhaps the series best suited to zombies, though the "Infestation" does represent a new threat. How do Venkman, Ray, Egon, and Winston react to what's going on around them?

See what you just did there? You used the first names for three out of the four, and tagged Pete with his surname. I only point that out because it helps illustrate how the guys look at things. Venkman, he's more cynical and a bit detached from this stuff. He views the zombies as just another day at the office. He's annoyed, slightly agitated, and full of comments. Egon is fascinated, Winston is a half step more cautious than the others, and Ray? Ray thinks zombies are cool. A little more emotion, a little less mouth.

There are rumors of a zombified Stay Puft Marshmallow Man turning up. Any comment, or is this wishful thinking?

I can think of few things that would be as weird or as much fun to put into this story. Well, I can think of one thing that would be more fun... and that'll be the big action piece in issue two.

What other ghosts or monsters might be turning up?

Nothing that's been seen before, though now that I think about it, I kind of wish I could have snuck a terror dog in... still, I got a demonic cat in there, so that kind of evens things out. Also, I hope #2 can be said to feature a couple of things that have never quite been seen before in the "Ghostbusters" universe... These things are being brought to life by Kyle Hotz, who just knocked this stuff right out of the park. I had to bring him up, I love his interpretation of the guys, too!

The nature of this crossover is interesting in that it brings together several licenses, but the different properties don't cross over or interact directly. What is the role of your story within the event?

Out of all four participating books, like you said, this is the only one where zombies aren't really that out of place. That means this book will likely be a lot closer to the typical. As that's the case, I think the place of the Ghostbusters is to be more lighthearted. The Transformers, Starfleet, and the Joe team can and will all show you the horrifying aspects of the infestation, but the Ghostbusters deal with the supernatural all the time. They'll come at it from another angle and give a little humorous contrast to the event. At least, that's my hope and intent.

I could have gone a little darker, I suppose, but that would have blunted the humor aspect that is integral to the balance of the Ghostbuster franchise. That's the difference from the other minis. Well, that and the others are mostly getting first contact with the afterlife, which is old hat in the Big Apple.

As far as tone and style, I just want it to feel like the movies. If you read this and can hear Murray and company in your head effortlessly as you go, then I'll have done it right.

"Ghostbusters" is the least-frequently published comic of the Infestation tie-ins. Does this give you a bit more freedom to tinker around with these characters?

In the sense that there isn't an ongoing developing anything, I have some latitude, so long as I don't contradict any of the established canon. But tinkering with the characters? Not much to do. They're already so fully realized I don't have to really do anything beyond bring a zombie on panel, and wait for the characters to react. Also, given that there are zombies, ghosts, the four Ghostbusters and Janine -- amongst other things -- to give panel time to in just two issues, there's not room to experiment!

"Infestation" #1 reveals that certain people may be susceptible to the force that controls the zombies. What can you tell us about the consequences of this for the guys?

There's a little bit of influence on the guys -- it's easy because they're being influenced to do something they'd do anyway, only without asking some of the questions that would maybe come to their minds. As far as consequences in general go, there are two things that happen in #2 that could have some longer-term effect on the guys and their world. I'll make no secret that I'd love to be the one exploring those potential effects!

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