Friday, February 12, 2016

Ghostbusters International #1

One of my favorite comics being published today is Ghostbusters, by Eric Burnham and Dan Schoening, from IDW comics. I may have actually been a Ghostbusters fan even before the movie was released; when I was 12, my dad took me to see Stripes, starring the to-be-stars of Ghostbusters, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis, cowritten by Ghostbusters cowriter Ramis, and directed by the man who would direct Ghostbusters, Ivan Reitman. It wasn't that often that my dad took me to the movies on his own, so this was a special occasion, and it helped that the movie was not only hilarious, but that I was old enough to understand most of it.

I like Ghostbusters 2 just fine, and the animated cartoon is a lot of fun, but in recent years, my Ghostbusters interest has really been reignited by the Ghostbusters comic. Before the latest version by Burnham and Schoening, IDW had published a bunch of one-shots and miniseries by various creative teams that, while fun, didn't really grab my attention. But when IDW announced an ongoing series a few years ago, my interest was piqued, An ongoing series seemed to hold more promise than a series of individual stories, and I wasn't disappointed.

Unfortunately, last year, it looked like the ongoing series had finally come to an end after about three years. I eagerly bought the miniseries IDW published by the same creators, first teaming the Ghostbusters up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then their animated series counterparts from a parallel world, but I missed the ongoing subplots and character development. Fortunately, this month, Ghostbusters returned as a new ongoing, monthly comics series, still by Burnham and Schoening. This time, it' s called Ghostbusters International, and the first issue was great.

One of the great strengths of Ghostbusters as a comedy/fantasy concept is that, while it is full of humor, it doesn't make fun of the fantastical elements. The humor comes out of the characters, and of the concept of a likeable bunch of scientists taking on supernatural situations using methods more blue collar than HP Lovecraft or Dr Strange or Carnacki. The dialogue is funny and the situations are larger than life, but the threat and menace is real enough to give the story weight. That works in the movies, and Burnham and Schoening have captured that perfectly for the comics. (And I’m hardly the only one who believes the comic effectively captures and expands on the concepts of the movies; no less than Dan Ackroyd, co-creator and star of the movies, said so himself in an introduction to one of the comics collected volumes.)

I really love the style Schoening has chosen for the art. It's very stylized and distinctive, rather than trying to capture the actors' features in a detailed, photorealistic manner. Consequently, the more fantastical elements--the ghosts, obviously--fit in perfectly, without feeling overly-rendered and stiff. It's an aesthetic reminiscent of animated cartoons, without looking like the Real Ghostbusters cartoon (the differences are highlighted when the comics characters meet their Real Ghostbusters counterparts in the pages of Ghostbusters Get Real).

This first issue of this new series has a lengthy introductory page catching new readers up to the current status quo, but it's really not that different from the movies. Folks jumping onto the series with this new first issue will find a lot that is familiar, from the Ghostbusters trapping a monstrous spirit

to them reminding their clients that while they provide a unusual and unique service, they are still a business, run for a profit, and they are not amateurs at this.

Schoening also handles the quiet, character moments deftly. He reminds us that even a conversation between two people in an office can be visually interesting. 

This particular issue ends with a potentially interesting twist, and I'm looking forward to seeing where things go from here. Previously, it felt like the Ghostbusters comics had a pretty free hand to take things in their own directions, as long as the basic concept remained intact. The comic introduced new supporting characters with their own unique relationships to the classic quartet. I don't know if that's still the case, with a new, big-budget movie on the way to the screens, but IDW has done a great job with their licensed comics so far. (If nothing else, Ghostbusters Get Real has certainly established the notion of separate Ghostbusters in separate dimensions.) Hopefully, the new movie will bump up interest in Ghostbusters beyond nostalgia for a 30-year-old movie franchise, no matter how great, and reestablish the property as something contemporary. And hopefully, that will result in higher sales and a longer life for this comic. Either way, as long as this creative team is in charge, I'll be along for the ride.

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