Creator's Commentary: 'Ghostbusters' #1 With Erik Burnham

This week sees Peter, Ray, Winston, and Egon getting their own ongoing series by writer Erik Burnham and artist Dan Schoening, taking place after the events of this year's infestation miniseries. The guys are back in business, ghosts sightings are on the rise, and there's slime all over the place. We spoke to Burnham about the new series, bringing a childhood favorite to the comic page, and some special guests making their way into the premiere issue.

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MTV Geek: You get 3 words or less. What comes to mind when you think of:

Ray.

Erik Burnham: Too open minded.

Peter.

Erik Burnham: Prefers cash.

Egon.

Erik Burnham: Loves his twinkies.

Winston.

Erik Burnham: Wants saner coworkers.

Slimer.

Erik Burnham: Glug Glug Burp.

And, for the sake of completion, Janine - REALLY in charge.

Geek: When did you first see Ghostbusters? How’d you react to it that first time?

Burnham: I wish I could say I saw it in the theater, but no. My family was visiting relatives up in Washington, and the relatives happened to have a copy on VHS--I’ll say we’re looking at late 1985, maybe early 1986. Anyway, the first image I saw was the very end--with Slimer racing to the screen right before it faded to credits. What was THAT? They rewound it for me and I watched the movie twice before we had to leave. And then I was hooked. We got a copy shortly thereafter (that I proceeded to wear out). Just the combination of genuinely scary and genuinely funny really captured both my attention and imagination.

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Geek: Why’d you choose this particular character to be the voice from beyond for Ray?

Burnham: A couple years back I had pitched a GB miniseries to IDW. (Something, by the way, that I’ve re-purposed for a later arc of the ongoing.) Anyway, the story opened with a scene of the guys early in the day. They’d all had a prophetic dream, and are discussing them. Ray mentions a ‘man in a dark suit and glasses, who appeared to him, singing the works of...’ (fill in a nice list of blues singers) before warning Ray about the end of the world. There’s a panel beat before Peter asks “Was he any good?”  I didn’t want to take quite that tack here, even though I still like the joke. I thought if the look of the spirit guide suggested this iconic character a little bit, there’d be a nice bit of symmetry. (Plus, I always liked it when this character and his brother showed up in comics; they were even SHIELD agents, once!)

Geek: Do you think some of the younger fans of the book will get the reference?

Burnham: Some will. Many won’t. I learned a long time ago not to worry if all the jokes or references are caught. Worst comes to worse, they’re surfing Youtube or watching late night TV, catch the right  clip and go AHA! Until then, it’s just a mysterious spirit guide in a dark suit. With killer sideburns.

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Geek: Will we see any more ramifications from the Infestation mini in Ghostbusters?

Burnham: I hope to pepper in some more ramifications and complications from the Infestation in future arcs. I was considering using an Infestation reference for... something in the third arc, if it feels organic when I start laying the script down. But even if I don’t use the connection there, I’d be a fool not to use an interdimensional breach as a plot device somewhere down the line! It’s too convenient not to--it’d be like I was running for office and didn’t make any promises.

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Geek: How free were you guys to pull from the characters in the movies? Is there any chance to referencing elements of the cartoons?

Burnham: I’m using everyone from the movies that I’m allowed to use. (No Dana, no Louis--so if folks wonder if I forgot, I didn’t.) From the cartoons--well, the movies and cartoons are considered mostly separate animals. The artist, Dan Schoening, loves him some Real Ghostbusters, so he sneaks things into the background here and there... but if we prominently used anything originally from the cartoons it would be slightly modified for the movie-verse Ghostbusters. (Until and unless I hear different, anyway!)

Geek: What kind of conversations did you have with artist Dan Schoening about getting the look right for the characters?

Burnham: Oddly enough, we didn’t really have conversations about the look of the characters; he’d already decided to modify his Janine to look more like a cartoon/first movie hybrid, and his core Ghostbusters were all individually recognizable, and that was part of what editor Tom Waltz liked, so no reason to argue for change... Instead, we stuck to how to play the world and the monsters, as well as jokes we’d like to include (things the entire creative team tends to talk about; everyone throws in ideas, and all the good ones are used! We have a lot of chain emails about gags and imagery... it makes the book even more fun to work on.)

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Geek: Why do you think Peter still sticks around? There can’t be that many cute girls with ghost problems for him to flirt with.

Burnham: They don’t really need a problem, they just need to think they have a problem. I mean, he’s a Ghostbuster! He has multiple degrees! He once had a TV show! Surely he’d be telling you the truth if he sensed a psychic or paranormal event had touched your life, right? Pulling the same scam he did with the “psychic girl” in his cinematic introduction, but on a much wider scale. (Because “you are a legitimate phenomena” is too good a line not to use more than once.)

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Geek: Discuss: the Ghostbusters are like a four-headed Spider-man—they get no respect from New Yorkers.

Burnham: Does anyone really get respect from New Yorkers? Momentary acceptance, maybe, but respect? Heh.  If I were to give this a “serious” answer? It’d be that there are so many people that any given adventure brings about some grateful folks, some irritated folks (like the kind who are drenched in slime from a monster exploding three blocks away) and some who are just tired about hearing of these guys and have no contact whatsoever. By the time an adventure moves on, the grateful folks have mostly gotten over their gratefulness and have moved into one of the other groups--irritated or oblivious.

On the other hand, nothing is more fun to write than Peter when he’s being antagonized... so I don’t think mass respect shall be forthcoming.