CCI: Bustin' Makes Keith Feel Good

When there's something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

Keith Cham-pagne!

OK, maybe that isn't how the song goes, but apparently the writer and inker best known for his work on DC's superhero titles was the man to call when IDW nabbed the "Ghostbusters" license. And today at Comic-Con International, the publisher announced plans to kick off their "Ghostbusters" publishing era with a four-issue mini series titled "Ghostbusters: The Other Side" written by Champagne with art from Tom Nguyen.

"In a nutshell, the Ghostbusters are flying high after taking down Gozer and Vigo, but really, the team has no idea what the bigger picture of the ghostly world looks like. They have no idea the kind of sharks that swim in the waters they've cannonballed into," said Champagne of his series pitch. "Maybe some of those sharks - specifically ghosts like Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Seigal, and Al Capone - recognize that as naive as they are, the Ghostbusters might in time become a threat to their way of...ummm...un-life. And ghosts like that, as hard as they come, have an old school way of dealing with threats that the Ghostbusters are going to learn about first hand."

The story itself will take place shortly after the end of the second "Ghostbusters" movie, but rather than try and pin down what exact year the characters will be living in, Champagne has eyes on making sure the series stays timeless. "The decade isn't important so much as catching up to these characters at a time before the property got watered down. I don't care that the Ghostbusters don't have HDTV or email. I care about the fact that they're still in their primes."

And to ensure that the characters will look their best when the actors that played them are no longer lighting up the screwball comedy landscape, Champagne is relying on an assist from some of his artist brothers in arms. "Aside from his drafting and storytelling abilities, [Nguyen's] also got a quick sense of humor that fits this series perfectly. Throw in a heaping helping of Moose Baumann to color the book and it's a really beautiful looking package. The more I've written, the more I've started to assemble a little well of talent, guys whose work I love, people who I have a great time working with, and Moose and Tom are near the top of the list."

And with a subtitle like 'The Other Side,' expect a look into the world on the other side of the team's containment unit...but not too deep of one. "I'm trying to add new layers [to the "Ghostbusters" mythology]. I don't want to explain how the afterlife works in the Ghostbusters universe, but I do want to provide some guidelines. It's like the wild west; it's unexplored and open to a million possibilities and just as many stories."

Most importantly, Champagne wants his series to boil the characters and their world back down to the core elements that made the movies such comedy crossovers smashes. "I think that over the years, the property has drifted pretty far away from its core. What was special about it got a little watered down, and 'Ghostbusters' lost some of its wider appeal. Actually, that's not true. It didn't lose its appeal so much as it started playing directly to a younger audience, whereas the original struck gold with a much wider demographic.

"To me, what's important is to bring things back around to the four main characters: Venkman, Egon, Ray, and Winston. From there, Ghostbusters should be a roller coaster ride, equal parts adventure, horror, and comedy but it should feel true. The characters need to stay true to themselves to keep the story grounded."

Aside from the four main Ghostbusters and their ghoulish gangsters, Champagne noted that the rest of the supporting cast for the series wouldn't necessarily be built the same as previous installments in the series, but some familiar faces may make their way onto the pages. "For different reasons, you're not going to be seeing Louis Tully, Dana Barrett, or Slimer but anyone else is fair game. No promises though, because this is very much a story about the four Ghostbusters."

The final piece of the puzzle for the writer is bringing out the humor in the characters, and for that Champagne will be relying on assist from his DVD collection as he studies up on the delivery of comedy masters like Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. "It makes writing the dialogue a joy. Being able to hear the cadence of speech, the tone and inflection of each character as I write them, it's a huge tool in making sure they all stay on point, personality wise."

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