IDW crosses the streams with 'Ghostbusters: Get Real'

The last time IDW Publishing's Ghostbusters comic was involved in a crossover, it was a very weird pairing with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For the new event, the Ghostbusters are teamed with a more natural, but perhaps weirder franchise: another version of the Ghostbusters.

Specifically, The Real Ghostbusters, the 1986-1991 animated series that spun out of the 1984 film and spawned a popular toy line two comic book titles. The oddly applied adjective "Real" came about to further distinguish these Ghostbusters from those that starred in a 1986 Filmation cartoon based on a mostly forgotten 1975 Ghost Busters TV series.

That's why this series is called Ghostbusters: Get Real. Get it? (Now that I think of it, maybe the weirdest of all possible Ghostbusters crossovers would be one involving those from the '84 film with those from the '75 TV show.)

I have very strong, very fond memories of The Real Ghostbusters, being 9 years old when it debuted. It sated my desire for more of the cool stuff I saw in the too-scary-for-me film (I closed my eyes a lot; the Terror Dogs scared the hell out of me), even if that cartoon didn't age all that well. Trying to rewatch old episodes as an adult, I realize Ghostbusters was closer to the He-Man or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons of my youth than to the G.I. Joe or Transformers cartoons, in terms of quality. My first exposure to disappointment with Hollywood came in large part because of The Real Ghostbusters; 12-year-old me couldn't believe how bad 1989's Ghostbusters II was ... in large part because of the dozens of decent Real Ghostbusters episodes I had seen.

I can't imagine I'm the only one with more fond memories of The Real Ghostbusters than of Ghostbusters II; for a large portion of pop culture consumers, the Real Ghostbusters are probably the realest Ghostbusters, so sticking them in a crossover with their Ghostbusters is not only an inspired idea, it's probably a good business decision.

While I've read a handful of IDW's Ghostbusters comics, and found them to be competently made, they never felt entirely right. That may be simply because I am no longer 9 years old, and the franchise's unique take on the supernatural and cool proton packs aren't as fascinating to me. Or it may be that no follow-up to the original film in any media – animation, comics, video games, even another film – has really captured whatever particular magic made it work so well. Either way, this is one case where I'm OK saying that maybe it's not the comic book that's not right; maybe it's me.

The IDW comic is based directly on the '84 film, and thus is another branch of spinoff from that of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and artist Dan Schoening's designs reflect the fact that it's as much a comedy as it is anything else: The characters all look like stripped-down caricatures of the actors that played them, each exaggerated just so in just the right places.

Adding the cartoon version into this milieu really emphasizes how different they are. The Real Ghostbusters all featured personalities based on those of the film characters, but were all rather radically redesigned, to the point that it would be hard to imagine any of the actors from the film playing the characters from the cartoon; to further distinguish them from one another, each had his own hair color and color-coded uniform, too.

Get Real, written by the regular IDW Ghostbusters writer Erik Burnham, drawn by Schoening and colored by Luis Antonio Delgado, opens in an episode of The Real Ghostbusters. The first five pages are set in the universe where the Real Ghostbusters are the, um, real Ghostbusters, and Schoening does such an incredible job of aping the style of '80s cartoon that it's actually kind of scary. The characters aren't just designed to look just like they did on the show, but so too are the bystanders, the framing of the panels and even the coloring. For the most part, the first few pages appear as if they were assembled from cels of the original cartoon.

Those Ghostbusters get zapped by random bad guy Proteus, the Greek god who's so afraid of being captured one day that he preemptively attacks the only group with the means of capturing supernatural entities. As another character was casting a spell on the Ghostbusters at the same time; both spells go funny, and the Ghostbusters are sent to another dimension – that of the IDW comic, naturally.

After a few pages of finding out some of the subtle differences between the two settings – like the green ghost of the comic series isn't as friendly as the Elmo-voiced Slimer of the cartoon – the two sets of Ghostbusters do a meet and greet that is a lot smoother than the similar scene with the Ninja Uurtles.

Because the crossover with the Turtles left the Ghostbusters with a device capable of bridging dimensions, the series could end right here, but then it would be a one-shot and not a miniseries, and not a terribly interesting story. So any progress is of course interrupted by a call, and the Ghostbusters prepare to discover if eight heads are better than four when it comes to busting ghosts.

The quality of the writing and art are all high, although I can't imagine the series will be of any great interest to anyone without some degree of nostalgia for the original Ghostbusters film and/or The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. It doesn't transcend its '80s nostalgia inspiration in the way that Tom Scioli and John Barber's sublime Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe series does, in other words.

But then, it doesn't have to, as there are more than enough people with a high degree of nostalgia for one or more version of these Ghostbusters to make it worth IDW's time to publish such books.

Supergirl #26

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