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Erik Burnham, writer and artist for the Ghostbusters ongoing series from IDW Publishing Comics, has spoken with the Ghostbusters Wiki about Volume Two and provides a look back on some of the highlights of the 20 issues. Check out "Ghostbusters Annual 2015" scheduled to release on November 25, 2015. (Interview Conducted by Mrmichaelt)
1. The New Ghostbusters. When news of it first broke out online... is it fair to say you can empathize with what Paul Feig is going through today?
ERIK BURNHAM: I'm not sure I had to go through nearly as much of a hassle as Feig; for one thing, I told everyone up front that the boys would be back!
Women busting ghosts in and of itself isn't a hard thing for the fandom to get behind; at least I don't think so. Sure, there are a few who are offended by the notion, but by and large Ghostheads are a very blended group of fans. What I think Feig has been feeling the brunt of is the dislike of a reboot. (Pepper in a few loud misogynists and it really skews things.)
As a side thought, some folks (not necessarily fans) seem to be turning this into an either/or. "It's a guy franchise!" vs. "It's a franchise for women now!" Both are incorrect. It's not either/or, it's both – and when the dust settles, I think that's where things will be again... with a newly invigorated fanbase finding their way to all sorts of product (including our comics based on the prior continuity!) The movie is really energizing things on that score!
I know that's not quite the answer to the question, but like I said, I didn't get anywhere near as much grief as Feig.
2.How did aspects of this arc - Janine's team, Idulnas' revenge, The Collectors, the guys' method of escape - all coalesce? Was it taken from your original pitch for the ongoing series or was it part of the new pitch that came about as Volume 1 reached its end?
ERIK BURNHAM: Like most things on this series, everything just kind of fell into place organically. My marching orders on this one were to wrap it up in four issues or I might have stretched things out a little bit more – and there were a lot of folks who thought it was a missed opportunity that we didn’t.
As far as it goes, getting the original Ghostbusters out of the way was a fun way to introduce versions of the Peoplebusters (which Dan wanted to draw) and from there, everything came about by answering the questions. How would and why they come after the Ghostbusters? Who would use them to enact revenge? Etc.
And this wasn’t part of anything from my initial pitch; it was new stuff (though something we’d planned to do anyway, even if it had been #17.) It was a way to explore another facet of the team: how does the city get by if they’re gone?
ERIK BURNHAM: It's only a challenge if I try to work too many characters in one scene, otherwise, it's all a positive. We KNOW how the original boys will react to each other's personalities; but plugging in Mel or Kylie, and you get a slightly different dynamic. That's fun to play with, and keeps things fresh.
4. Jenny Moran was originally going to be on the new team until Ron Alexander was added for his tech expertise. Was there another plan for Ron that was scrapped or did you always intend for him to become a Ghostbuster?
ERIK BURNHAM: I had notions of him winding up where he eventually did – in Chicago, with the Rookie – but for the most part, no. Not as a "main cast" guy. It really was as simple as: he was shown to have a technical aptitude.
Also, to be blunt, with Ron being the acerbic jerk he is, it made for a more fun dynamic with the ladies. Temperamental Janine, no-nonsense Mel. Things would've been pretty harmonious with Jenny.
5. One of my favorite parts of the issue, some would brush off as filler or mundane but I liked that you took the time to show Walter Peck behind the scenes with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor -- it's a rare shift to Peck's perspective, the role of PCOC, the politics, the fallout from the Ghost Smashers -- was there any resistance to the 'talking heads' in place of more action beats?
ERIK BURNHAM: None. And honestly, I always enjoy doing the quieter scenes. It's the kind of stuff that makes up the bulk of the films, so really, it just feels like home for the franchise.
6. This issue marks IDW's third stab at The Real Ghostbusters (previously there was the Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters one shot and two omnibus collections of NOW's series). What was IDW's intent with this back up story - to test the waters with fans?
ERIK BURNHAM: Nope. It was just an experiment we decided to give a try to!
ERIK BURNHAM: I wanted just a straight up action beat for the team, and allowing Mel to identify him from her own experience as an FBI agent gave her something else to do; if I were reading, I’d expect the backstory on the ghost to come from Kylie, not Mel. So I went that way and built outward.
8. Talk about writing Jack Hardemeyer. Was it a slam dunk or did it take some trial and error to nail down his voice?
My biggest problem was the fact that I kept hearing his voice in my head speaking the lines as his character Woody the coroner (from Psych) I kept making him more insane and having to reel him back.
9. The Ghostbusters escaping the Collectors' Limbo with a controlled explosion and ripping a role in the interdimensional fabric had far reaching consequences felt during the whole run of Volume 2. How did you come up with the idea of blowing up the Proton Pack?
ERIK BURNHAM: The New Ghostbusters had a technician in Ron, but not an innovator. He could copy (and even rework) a technology – but true innovation is not in his wheelhouse. That means no one on the team would be able to find a technological solution to finding the missing Ghostbusters. (Kylie, perhaps, could have found a supernatural one, given enough research.)
Also: it's nice that the Ghostbusters were able to gamble and save themselves on this one (and then work together with the New team to keep themselves in this dimension.) It was supposed to feel like the same kind of longshot that crossing the streams was when they met Gozer: 'it'll either work, or we'll blow up real good.' That was the plan, anyway.
10. I admit I wasn't sure about Melanie until 'the Punch' and I was a fan from then on. Was 'the Punch' something you conceived early on as you plotted the arc?
ERIK BURNHAM: Given his personality, somebody was going to wind up punching Ron. That it was Mel wasn't planned – it happened as I wrote it. Ron's a haphazard guy, and Mel's training is about protecting civilians. His wide shot went against the grain for her. If the characters are whole, these kind of 'happy accidents' are just inevitable.
11. The Thunder & Lightning pack was introduced in this issue. Did you plan for it to become Janine's go to piece of equipment?
ERIK BURNHAM: It certainly fits her personality. It's another one of those things that feel right when it came together: Ron tinkers, Janine uses it. Neither I nor Dan sat around going "we need a signature piece for Janine!" (Though Danny sure loves drawing new equipment!)
More along the lines of irritation – the E+J shippers were bummed there wasn't more, and the anti-shippers were bummed it was there at all! But romantic or not, Janine has an attachment to Egon. She has an attachment to all four of the guys, but Egon was the one she started with a crush on… and she was relieved to see him alive. Volume 2 Issue #4
13. Was Idulnas' demise something you had planned from the start of the ongoing series?
ERIK BURNHAM: …Who said he's dead? He was never truly alive in the mortal, conventional sense. If the board game is considered canon, he's already back. If not, he certainly could come back.
After all, the Joker died in Batman #1 back in the forties (and how many times since)?
14. Using Janosz for this arc, it seemed similar to the use of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters: Infestation and the first arc of the ongoing - take him out of the box then put him back in. Was this the case? On the flip side, it does reaffirm the possibility of Sanctum of Slime being part of the canon and explain why Janosz was at Parkview for so long...
ERIK BURNHAM: Part of it was that Dan was looking forward to using Janosz, and yes, this also gives us a few potential connections to SoS.
The in-story idea I've been going with is being touched by these beings (Ray selecting the form of the Destructor, Janosz's will being shanghaied by Vigo) is a permanent thing. There's a part of you changed, and you stand out because of it. Maybe not in a way that a mortal would perceive, but certainly Idulnas would notice. He could manipulate Janosz.
So he filled the right role, and it gave us a little bit more of the underused GBII toys to play with.
15. This next arc was... for the lack of a better term, something of an anthology. The characters were split up into different narratives, dealing with both consequences of past choices and new threats. Was the main thrust of the arc to clean house and make sure certain things were set up for future stories?
ERIK BURNHAM: In this case it was about letting folks know that things weren't JUST going to be going back to status quo. Kylie and Peter going on a bust to show she wasn't going to shuffle back to the bookstore right off. Winston needed to have a scene with Tiyah to voice his concerns. Like I said, I like having the chance to have those quiet slice of life moments.
ERIK BURNHAM: Initially, I was going to have 6-8 a little bit more interconnected, but then Dan mentioned taking a break so I put all of the Egon and Roger stuff in one issue for consistency, leaving the John Milton stuff for 7-8. (Breaking Dan's heart, as the whole reason I'd written it was because he'd asked for an Ecto-8 story to begin with!)
And yes, an Egon/Roger story was a lot of fun to do. Readers have written and tweeted at me that Roger getting such a spotlight was a change in the perception of the character for them. He came across as a good guy instead of something potentially sinister. (A regular theory.)
17. Readers were treated to some of Janine's life story and even a 'new scene' taking place during the first movie. Did you have to specifically get permission from Sony to build on Janine's past?
ERIK BURNHAM: I did not! Not for anything like this, anyway. And that hiring scene was the only thing I really wanted to fit into the book. I didn't expect Janine's interview process to go like Winston's, but the hiring on went just as fast!
18. With Roger pointing out Janine's attraction to Egon and his response with being too busy saving the world at the time -- was this issue your definitive statement on the Egon-Janine romance sub plot?
ERIK BURNHAM: I've gone back and forth on it – right now, I think it may be better to steer clear of doing anything definitive on-panel, yea or nay. No matter what I do, half of the audience will tell me that it's unequivocally wrong! And that's not even factoring in Sony’s wishes; if I set up a relationship and they wanted it reversed to status quo, well, that would be a mess.
Maybe it’s just the RGB versions of the characters who are fated to be together? Blonde Egon seems like his head is screwed on tighter. (I bet he never tried trephination.)
19. With such a long history of ship wrecks on the east coast, how did you narrow the list and select the John Milton?
ERIK BURNHAM: I just started researching wrecks in the general area I wanted the haunting to take place, and 'John Milton' was just perfect. The name of the man who wrote Paradise Lost? Great name to connect to a haunting.
20. At Ray's Occult, Janine revealed she was visited by the Belushi-esque ghost that was exclusively talking to Ray. Was the line simply a nod or at the time were you seeding something that was never used?
ERIK BURNHAM: A bit of both. A nod, but I also liked that the Spirit Guide could appear elsewhere. Who knows if we’ll see him again... (We will!)
21. Rookie and Ron. The Chicago Ghostbusters. Thank you.
ERIK BURNHAM: Heh.
22. I'm usually adverse to the idea of a Ghostbuster going in it alone without back up but being a Marine, Winston had a really cool solo bust gone bad and had to take on one of the most inventive creations in the series - a Meat Golem then used his wits on the hotel manager. What was your favorite part of Winston's story?
ERIK BURNHAM: Twisting around the manager. It's fun to show that Winston isn't someone you can just bluster past. And that meat golem was really a great Evan Shaner design, wasn't it? As far as going it alone, he at least looked into it first. Ray thought it would be fine.
23. It's almost a given Ron would act like that with children -- is it a goal to see just how much more terrible a person you can make him out to be?
ERIK BURNHAM: Ron reacts the way so many people want to: in other words, without a filter. Even with children. I like having a character that can be that. Even Peter has some reserve. (He’s capable of manipulation. You gotta have some filter for that.)
24. Was it always going to be a Bogeyman story set during the holidays or was it a merging of two different story ideas?
ERIK BURNHAM: No, (a) Bogeyman was always going to be the big bad of the New Year's issue.
ERIK BURNHAM: Not a bit. And I liked the angle of Stingy Jack trapping himself being one more way that he beat the devil. He won, more than the Ghostbusters did.
ERIK BURNHAM: The initial idea was just a bad spirit sneaking through the Dia de los Muertas celebration. Was it Rodefhiri under the bed, or something else? Could go either way.
27. I actually rooted a little for Peck in the Tee Time Terror back up story. Was it a personal mandate to make Peck a more multi faceted character or did you realize along the way, it was better than making him a one note evil bureaucrat?
ERIK BURNHAM: I wanted to bring out more from Peck. He and Peter do not like each other. That doesn't make him automatically incompetent or evil; it just means he and Peter grate on each other's last nerve. He's talented at playing politics and he has his mission with PCOC. He'll see to his post to the best of his ability, at least until and unless he gets another one.
ERIK BURNHAM: At the end of the day I didn't want to make Santa (not Santa!) into anything evil. And the concept of ghosts evolving is an intriguing element for the Ghostbusters down the line. It could challenge what they know about dealing with the ghosts they deal with.
29. Krampus' inclusion was one of Dan Schoening's additions but is there any chance of him being used formally in a future story?
ERIK BURNHAM: There’s always a possibility. Dan did love drawing him.
30. What was the origin of the name "Rodefhiri"?
ERIK BURNHAM: It's an anagram of "horrified."
31. The 'alternate storage method' seemed to leave an open door for Rodefhiri to return or is he staying at the bottom of the river for the time being?
ERIK BURNHAM: I'd expect him to break out of there eventually. When is anyone's guess!
32. Was Tiamat always going to be the big bad for the final arc of Volume 2?
ERIK BURNHAM: Not at first; I was leaning towards a more distant being, something less likely to interact with the cast. But her curiosity lent credibility to direct encounters.
ERIK BURNHAM: I never named them! Let's call them Mot (the male) and Aetil.
34. The Mass Hysteria! arc marks the first to be more than 8 issues long officially and returned so many characters into the mix -- did everything you pitch get approved or were there some things you had to excise for whatever reason?
ERIK BURNHAM: I've seen a couple of episodes, but I wasn't shooting for it to be the same Eduardo, anyway, in the same way that our Kylie doesn't totally sync up with EGB's.
37. More an observation, but that was so spot on when even Tiamat got irritated with Louis going on and on in the bar.
ERIK BURNHAM: Thanks. It was a lot of fun to write for Louis, and I hope the warble of Rick Moranis' came through.
38. Tell us about the developing the idea of Peck and City Hall treating the Blood Rain as an epidemic instead of a supernatural phenomenom and considering a quarantine.
ERIK BURNHAM: The Ghostbusters didn't find anything supernatural about it: it was blood. Now, you could consider it supernatural still, but when a fluid that could potentially spread disease begins falling from the sky, a responsible government would consider the potential health implications. I'd hope, anyway!
39. When Future Winston admitted he wasn't going to talk to Present Winston, did that conversation affect what ultimately happened with Winston and Tiyah in Issue #19 and 20? For the better or the worse?
ERIK BURNHAM: Winston is responsible to a fault. He wouldn't change what happened, even for himself.
40. Was letting Vigo out of his painting, aside from causing a little chaos, a way for Tiamat to continue studying the Ghostusters?
ERIK BURNHAM: And also a way for Dan to get to play with the Sorrow of Moldavia, yep. One of the things Tom wanted, this being an anniversary story: celebrate the history. Bring out ALL the toys for their time in the spotlight.
41. Melanie sported a new Proton Pistol, more based on the Extreme Ghostbusters version. How did you script this new equipment - was it just another prototype Egon and Ray whipped up for an ace shot like Melanie?
ERIK BURNHAM: I asked for the pistol – like Winston, Mel has a more precise aim, after all – and Dan modified it himself, as is his wont. So yes: the Heart of the Ghostbusters took care of it!
42. Amid all the existing characters, some appearing for the first time in the comic, readers were treated to a brand new one - Kas. Tell us about coming up with her.
ERIK BURNHAM: We don't often get to see the outside lives of our cast – and again, I always want to do more with that. Taking a breather to talk with Tiyah – both for some foreshadowing AND to just give us more time with her, so we care that much more later – well, it was welcome.
As for Kas: is she psychic? Who knows! Linking her to Bridget from SOS, though, was a Dan Schoening innovation!
43. Peter and Dana's talk. It's a scene fans have wondered about for years even before the comic. That definitely added a new side to Peter and made him less of a cad.
ERIK BURNHAM: He's a cad, but he's definitely not above the occasional genuine moment of humanity.
44. Gozer was manipulated, humiliated, defeated and banished by Tiamat. Gozer is essentially back to destroying worlds. But is he banned from returning to plague the Ghostbusters again?
ERIK BURNHAM: Unless asked (or told!) to, it's highly unlikely I'll bring Gozer back for a long while.
45. The finale came down to Winston, which must have made some fans happy. Both he and Tiyah cheated certain death. Were you consciously looking for a way to wrap up the story with a hero's sacrifice that didn't lead to a very grim conclusion?
ERIK BURNHAM: Yes. I wanted something that mattered, a consequence, and something that wouldn't just be someone dying. Tiyah didn't deserve to die, and I didn't want to end this volume in an innocent death of a likeable character.
But Tiamat still won. She was there to play, and though there was a sacrifice made that she chose to abide by, she twisted it to her own interests and turned Winston's world upside down. A loss is pretty grim – but everyone lived to try again.
ERIK BURNHAM: I asked for it. (I’m sorry, Dan & Luis!)
47. When the gang is talking about forced delusions - what was the Portland line referring to?
ERIK BURNHAM: It's a sly reference to the TV show Grimm; the lead's girlfriend had all her memories of him removed (but not everyone else.) I tipped my hat to it.
48. Egon's line about forced delusion was an open ended thing but were you surprised at how some fans thought it had something to do with Janine?
ERIK BURNHAM: It was left there for people to assume whatever they wanted to by it. The romance could've maybe happened… and faltered in a similar fashion. Or maybe he's talking about something else. Egon likes to give you options!
49. Is there anything about Volume 2 you would change if you could or a story you wish you had more pages to work with?
ERIK BURNHAM: I'd expand the initial New Ghostbusters arc and give the team more "non-work" scenes, if I had more pages to play with.
50. What is the ultimate theme or lesson fans should take away from Volume 2?
ERIK BURNHAM: How easily the Ghostbusters' world can be expanded to include new people, new equipment, and new situations. That's always been true, but it's fun to play with as a concept.
51. As a writer, crafting these 20 issues, what was the most important lesson you learned yourself?
ERIK BURNHAM: The characters still know exactly what they want to do!
52. What are your top 5 favorite Dan Schoening easter eggs in Volume 2?
ERIK BURNHAM: I can’t choose! Soon as I make a list I'll come up with five different ones. (And honestly, at this point, I'm not even sure I caught them all!)
53. In closing, if there's anything else you would like to comment on - the floor is yours.
ERIK BURNHAM: Answering all these questions came in the middle of a busy time, so they took a LOT longer than I intended… and now, everyone is aware of GHOSTBUSTERS: INTERNATIONAL, our volume 3 of the ongoing. Dan, Luis, and I are all very excited to be back. I think there will be some surprises in the first issue! I hope everyone pre-orders and gives us a nice long life… issue #14 will mark #50 of the ongoing, roughly, so we hope to make it there!
There's also the annual, and some fun with a Sandman. Dan and Luis really worked some magic here. I can't stress enough how blessed I am to be working with these guys, one of the most consistent and phenomenal art teams in comics.
I also really, REALLY want to thank all the fans for the support. I expected to write 44 pages worth of Ghostbusters back in 2010, and here I've counted up my works and found I'm a good piece past 1000 pages. You guys have been there over the years, and I appreciate it. I know Tom, Dan, and Luis do as well.
SO MUCH good has come my way because of Ghostbusters, and the positive reaction from the fans.
So thank you all so much, ladies and gentlemen, it's a privilege to entertain such a classy group!
Interview Conducted by User:Mrmichaelt
See Interview with Erik Burnham for discussion about Volume One and more.
Continue to Interview with Erik Burnham Part 3 for discussion about TMNT/Ghostbusters, Get Real, Annual 2015, and more.