EXCLUSIVE: Burnham Orchestrates "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters"

While "Ghostbusters 3" remains a pipedream, fans have been able to turn to IDW Publishing to get a regular fix of their favorite supernatural exterminators instead. This January, the team joins IDW's latest crossover "Mars Attacks" with "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters" courtesy of ongoing "Ghostbusters" scribe, Erik Burnham.

On January 16, 2013, "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters" follows in the footsteps of IDW's two "Infestation" events that saw zombies and then the Lovecraftian Old Ones infesting many of IDW's regular titles. However, instead of the supernatural, this time around the intrepid exorcists find themselves facing extraterrestrial forces straight out of the "Mars Attacks" comic books.

Burnham spoke with Comic Book Resources about his inspiration for "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters," upcoming plans for the ongoing series, his favorite Ghostbuster to write, details on back-up strips based on the '80s animated series "The Real Ghostbusters" and more.

CBR News: Erik, what's the basic premise behind "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters?"

Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters

Erik Burnham joins IDW's "Mars Attacks" crossover with "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters" one-shot in January

Erik Burnham: The simplest premise possible: it's all in the title. But, to be more specific -- after crash-landing decades ago, the ghosts of a Martian crew are roused at a small farm in New Jersey. The guys are called in to take care of the problem.

What inspired the plot for this story?

Actually, it was as simple as Tom [Waltz, my "Ghostbusters" editor] asking me if I could come up with any ideas for a "Mars Attacks"/"Ghostbusters" story. I mulled it over on a road trip, which is where I hit on the gimmick of the old broadcast bringing the Martians in -- and then the crash, making them ghostly enough to be busted. It was all that weird way things go when a train of thought starts to run wild.

That old broadcast you're talking about caused massive panic when it aired back in 1938. Do you think a "War of the Worlds" broadcast prank could work today even though everyone has constant access to news sources?

I think with our access to social media it would be even easier to pull that kind of a prank. Nothing along the lines of a full-scale Martian invasion, no, but you could easily throw a hoax into the world and watch as social media virally converted believers. Like Mark Twain said, "A lie can be halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes" -- that's more true today than ever, and would only aid a prank. (Hopefully the only pranks that succeed are good natured and don't hurt anyone, he said nervously!)

Does "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters" tie-in to your ongoing IDW "Ghostbusters" series at all?

Not in any way -- this is the Saturday morning cartoon version of the team, and doesn't have any direct connections to the continuity I've been using in the ongoing.

So the ongoing "Ghostbusters" series is based on the movies then?

Right, the ongoing is more movie-based. The characterizations in the cartoon are similar, but slightly tweaked. The cartoon also allows a lot more... stuff. Almost anything is plausible with that continuity.

The original "Ghostbusters" movie treatment, as I recall, was much more expansive (Stay Puft was first act fodder) and we've allowed for more of that kind of direction in the "movie-based" comic.

That said, some things don't "feel right" in the movie-versions of the characters that are right at home in "Real Ghostbusters." Slimer as a pet, or the containment unit containing its own "little world" which can be visited... things like that. (I guess it mostly comes down to my judgment and gut reaction at the time I write, and someone else may feel completely different. No harm, no foul!)

Will we see again this '80s cartoon incarnation of the team in an IDW comic book again or is "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters" a one-off for that incarnation of the team?

It should be out there by the time this interview hits... but "Real Ghostbusters" is going to become a backup feature in the "Ghostbusters" comic. We're starting with a story that ABSOLUTELY could NOT be done in the main, movie-version feature. We're following a ghost into the containment grid, where he'll meet some familiar faces -- I only have eight pages for this story (broken up into two page chapters) so it won't be complex, but it'll hopefully be fun. I guess I could've just said "yes" and been done with it, huh?

How do IDW's different "Mars Attacks" crossover books tie-in together?

Each stands alone -- which is cool. It allows for the Martian threat to be tailored to the specifics of the universe in which they attack, y'know? To find the proper level. Less cookie-cutter than, say, trying to make a common version fit and winding up with things too dark to feel right for a Popeye story or too whimsical to feel at home in "Zombies vs. Robots." It's a smart move.

What was it like to work with artist Jose Holder?

Jose is a fast and enthusiastic artist, and peppers in some jokes of his own to the artwork. My trend of being spoiled by my collaborators happily continues. Colorist Jeremy Colwell is, likewise, awesome!

You've said you're a big a fan of the "Ghostbusters" films in the past, but what do you think about Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks" movie?

Wow, it's been so long since I've seen it that all I'm remembering now are quick images in my mind's eye. It certainly played to Burton's love of the weird, as I recall... and... oh, no... Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" is now looping in my head.

Are there any iconic "Mars Attacks" characters or plot devices that you've tried to work in to this one-shot? Any new iconic "Ghostbusters" imagery you've worked in to "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters?"

The most iconic thing I included in the one-shot was what lured these particular Martians to Earth -- they intercepted the 1930s "War of the Worlds" broadcast and figured they'd better hustle to get in on the action. I also included something instantly familiar to anyone who has ever seen an episode of the "Real Ghostbusters" cartoon, and they will know it instantly when they see it (it happened two or three times every episode!).

What's going on with the "Ghostbusters" ongoing series at the moment?

We're wrapping up things that have built up over the first year and seeding things for the year to come! As I type this I'm working on the first installment of the opening arc of 2013, "The New Ghostbusters." Dan [Schoening] and Luis [Antonio Delgado] are currently working on issue #16, a Winston-centric issue set during Christmas. We've brought back a character from one of the 2010 holiday one-shots, and overall it's looking great.

What other projects do you have on the horizon?

I'm currently midway through co-scripting Mateus Santolouco's "Secret History of the Foot Clan" miniseries (he cooked up a great story and his art is gorgeous!) That'll start in December. Beyond that... "Ghostbusters" continues. I have a couple of other irons in the fire, but it's too soon to say anything there!

Of course, I'm a workaholic. I'm always looking for more to do.

Who's your favorite Ghostbuster or Martian to write?

Peter's the easiest to write -- his voice is closest to my own, and that puts him a step or two ahead -- but Egon is really surprising me as I write him with fun little asides, and that's bringing him up in the rankings. My favorite Martian is Ray Walston. (Wait, will everyone get that joke?)

How far ahead do you have the "Ghostbusters" ongoing planned out? Are you telling individual arcs or are they building toward something?

The arcs are generally a blend. They tell individual stories, for the most part, but I tend to drop in things that may reference or acknowledge past stories or seed future ones to build towards. I plan ahead some, but things aren't so totally in stone that I can't improvise -- the "Haunted America" arc wasn't initially planned to be the third arc -- it came from a conversation I had with Tom Waltz last winter and grew from there.

At present, I have a few more arcs jotted down to follow up on the first arc of 2013, "The New Ghostbusters," and man, do I look forward to telling them!

The "Mars Attacks the Real Ghostbusters" one-shot from IDW Publishing written by Erik Burnham and drawn by Jose Holder goes on sale January 16.

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