What if you had the power to summon the cunning of Sherlock Holmes or the magical powers of Merlin? Think "Shazam", but instead of summoning the power of gods, you have literary legends at your disposal. This is Five Ghosts.Last year, writer Frank J. Barbiere and artist Chris Mooneyham's comic project Five Ghosts reached its Kickstarter goal and was soon picked up by Image. While the first issue was released at NYCC last Fall, the issue was re-released late March 2013, with the rest of the five-issue mini-series to soon follow in the coming months.
Newsarama recently spoke to Barbiere and Mooneyham about Five Ghosts, the lead protagonist Fabian Gray, the buzz surrounding it up to its re-release, the inspirations behind it, as well as where the story could go from here.
Newsarama: Frank, you might be considered as a relative unknown in the comic field, so tell us a little about yourself and your previous works.Frank J. Barbiere: I've actually been writing comics for the last six years or so, believe it or not. Most of the stuff I initially was working on were “pitches” or basically outlines for publishers, but I did a few very small books and some self-published work. In 2012 I was fortunate enough to start working with Dark Horse and my characters “The White Suits” have been featured in the pages of Dark Horse Presents.
Chris and I actually began working together almost four years ago on an independent property called “Endless West.” We did a lot of the book, but ultimately decided to move on when I came up with the concept for Five Ghosts. I was lucky enough to start working with Chris right when he got out of school (he went to The Kubert School). He's also worked on two issues of the indie horror book “Anathema” with Rachel Deering.
Nrama: So Frank, in a nutshell, how would you describe Five Ghosts and who exactly is Fabian Gray?Barbiere: The tagline I like to give to Five Ghosts is “a literary pulp adventure.” It's the story of Fabian Gray, a treasure hunter with a complicated past, who has come under the possession of five ghosts who take the form of literary characters. Fabian is a dashing, handsome, and bold pulp hero—but underneath he is also complex and has a rich history we'll slowly be revealing
Nrama: Were you both excited/nervous about the amount of hype Five Ghosts has gotten as of late?
Barbiere: It's been very surreal. We've both worked so long off the public radar and it still feels the same on our end; we do the best work we can and keep moving forward. I've been thrilled to see a positive reception to our work, though, as it assures me we're doing something that resonates with an actual audience and can hopefully continue to build a readership. I think if people enjoyed issue one then they'll really enjoy what we have in store for them, especially as we further expand and build our series mythology.
Nrama: Frank, what were some inspirations in creating Fabian Gray and this world?
Barbiere: In many ways Five Ghosts is a love letter to a lot of the things I like. I was really excited to find a project that I could infuse my love of literature and story into; I feel like creators walk a fine liine when they start exploring “the literary” and I never wanted to seem pretentious or annoying. I was really happy with the concept and really let the story grow out of it. My primary concern was also having a complex lead character that readers would care about, and if initial response is accurate, it seems I have at least started to succeed!Nrama: Chris, your style is almost like vintage Steranko mixed with a little Francesco Francavilla and Sean Murphy flair. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and the evolution of your style?
Mooneyham: I've been drawing my whole life... well, not my whole life, but for as long as I can remember. I was the kid who did poorly in school because I was always drawing on my homework or when I was supposed to be taking notes. However, I didn't start to really take it seriously until I realized I didn't want to be a hard working factory dude for the rest of my life, and enrolled in the Joe Kubert School (or The Kubert School, as I believe they're calling it now). Even then, I didn't start really taking art and comics seriously until my third and final year (which is also when I happened to make the acquaintance of a Mr. Frank J. Barbiere). From then on, it's been continuous study of "The Masters", like Joe Kubert, John Buscema, Gene Colan, Alex Toth, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, John Romita Jr., and so many more that I can't even count them on fingers and toes. All of this, of course, is nothing without the proper foundation (not that I even have that, by any means).
To make a long story short, I like old stuff, and I'm happy it's starting to make a comeback (in both story and art), with the level of sophisticated storytelling that was missing from those days.
Nrama: Who came up with the designs and imagery for the characters, as well as the ghosts themselves, and the Spider God worshipers?
Barbiere: As far as design stuff, that's Chris's wheelhouse. Clearly I provide scripts with descriptions, but he's managed to come up with some wonderful and unique designs and visuals that really give our book a distinct style. We certainly discussed having a “pulp” feel about the book, but I think Chris's style naturally meshes with that period, so it's been smooth sailing and an organic development.Nrama: So are the ghosts that Fabian summons anybody in particular? The Detective for example...
Barbiere: We'll explore the exact semantics of the ghosts and Fabian's possession in issue four. For now, I can at least say they are not necessarily the “actual” characters, but more of literary archetypes.
Nrama: Five Ghosts is only slated to be a five-issue mini-series, but how far would you like for it to go?
Barbiere: We've clearly laid the ground work for a fairly complex universe, so we're hoping we can continue as long as people will have us. I already have outlines for a second arc and I certainly know the “last” Five Ghosts story, so we're definitely inspired to keep things moving. I'm excited at seeing all the “seeds” that people are already catching—even in the first issue we've hinted at bigger pictures and a macro story. The first five issues do certainly tell a complete yarn, however, but it really leaves us open to further explore the universe.
Nrama: What are you hoping readers take away from Five Ghosts?
Barbiere: Honestly, I just hope people enjoy reading our work as much as we enjoy making it! I'm a huge comics fan and just adore the medium; to be able to participate in it is really a gift and continues to drive and inspire me to tell meaningful, fun, and original stories. Hopefully we can manage to create excitement in our readers and tell them a story that they care about.