The idea of the genre mash-up is a popular one. Just look at Edgar Wright, who has made an entire career out of it in film.
Last month, a new genre mash-up came to comics courtesy of Skybound, as Joshua Williamson and artist Goran Sudzuka brought Ghosted to life. The story brings together the “heist” genre found in Ocean’s 11 or Leverage with an unexpected twist: horror.
As a thief with unparalleled reputation, Jackson can’t turn down the biggest challenge he’s ever received: stealing a ghost from a haunted house. As he gathers a team of grifters, ghost hunters, and paranormal communicators together, the story stays shockingly grounded – it really makes you believe this can be done.
We sat down with the writer to talk about Ghosted’s origins, which character has surprised him the most so far, and what he could tease from the book’s future now that it’s moved from a mini-series to an ongoing. He even brought along some art to debut from the second issue, out Wednesday August 14, 2013.
Newsarama: So Joshua, you told me earlier that Ghosted is actually something you came up with a long time ago?
Joshua Williamson: Yeah, issue 1 I actually turned in around Halloween 2011, so it’s been a while ago. I had been pitching it around for a while and publishers just weren’t biting on it. Then, I had talked to my manager a few different times about what I could do with it, and one publisher had it for some time but decided they weren’t going to do anything, they had some problem.
My manager actually suggested we go to Skybound.
Nrama: So it was always the Skybound imprint and not Image Central in general?
Williamson: Yeah, it was always to Skybound. My manager has a relationship with Skybound, so he said “let’s do this!” and it turned out really well. I was super happy. We had talked about what kind of stuff we wanted to do with it, and I knocked the script out pretty quickly.
The ideas had been there, but it was one of those things where you see it and you just know. I knew the last page of issue 5 from page one of issue one. I always knew how it was going to be. So issue 1, I turned it in, and everyone was really happy, my manager, Skybound, they all thought it was awesome. It was one of those things where I made maybe 20% changes to it since then; from that point forward there were little notes here and there to be consistent.
I’m really happy it’s out now though! We were talking about it originally being out for Comic-Con last year, but certain things came about and we didn’t get to do that. I think it worked out for the best that it came out now, because we were able to do Image Expo, all the variant covers; last year we would’ve been going up against The Walking Dead #100, and that was not going to happen. No one would’ve cared. So this year we were able to do something a little different.
Nrama: I like the premise of Ghosted, but what I like even more is how accepted it is, that these people come together to steal a ghost.
Williamson: Well, it’s the money! Issue 2 was able to open up with a flashback to the meeting they had. Issue 1 just showed a little panel of the table. Issue 2 opens with them at the table – none of them know what they’re doing, they have no idea how to steal a ghost. But that’s what they’re being paid for. They get together and think “how would we do this.”
But they want the money, and Jackson doesn’t want to go back to jail. That’s really it. He’s a guy who has hit the bottom, is ready to call it quits in a lot of ways, so he just says, “sure why not?”
Nrama: What was initially appealing to you about taking this “crew” or "heist" archetype and putting it into this zany situation?
Williamson: Well it started with the Haunted House first. I knew I wanted to do a book that was at a Haunted House. I was kind of obsessed with the idea of scary comic books. I don’t really feel that there are a lot of scary comics – there are Horror comics, but not a lot of scary comics. I always liked a lot of horror manga, that’s actually pretty scary. So I started by talking to people about that and trying to do that first. That was my priority. But I love writing crime, and wanted to do more crime.
I liked the Ocean’s movies a lot. So one day I thought I wanted to do something like that, and somehow that merged with the Haunted House idea – “oh yeah, they’ll rob a haunted house! Awesome!” Then I thought about what a Haunted House has that you’d want to steal. I started out thinking about something else, some artifact buried in there or something. But then I realized, the main thing you’d want to have in a Haunted House is a ghost. That is the commodity.
I started working with that and it flowed after that, it came together. That’s one of the great things about working with Skybound, having Robert and everyone making sure that I wasn’t just doing cliché, that I wasn’t going down the obvious path of the story, trying to deviate a little bit. It was a mini-series, and is now an ongoing, so we’ll be able to do even more with those characters.
Well, the characters that survive the house, I should say.
Nrama: You said you have a really specific idea of how to end the first arc since the beginning. As you’ve been putting pen to paper and developing the scripts, have any of the characters or situations surprised you?
Williamson: Yeah, how can I tell you this? One character… some characters have completely changed from my original ideas in my head. Like Trick, the magician, the way he was in my head originally is very different from the way he is in the book now, the long-term plans for the character. And I’m much happier with that.
We made some decisions that weren’t working story-wise because they weren’t true to the characters. I could see the story developing and realized I needed to change it up, I needed the characters to do what they wanted to do, not what I wanted them to.
So yeah, I knew what that last page was – but the ending is actually a little different from the original idea. The last page is the same, but the ending as a whole is different from what I’d first talked about. As we were working on it, I realized that wasn’t the best way to go.
It’s Jackson’s story – it’s about him, and he was getting lost in the end a bit. So I wanted to change things around to make sure he had his arc.
Nrama: What made you decided to continue and make it an ongoing series?
Williamson: I don’t know how much I can talk about… I knew I wanted to, because as I was writing I could tell there were more stories there. As I was working on it, I’d see other stuff and know I could keep going. So I had a conversation with Robert and Sean Mackiewicz, my editor one day, I went to Skybound to talk about other projects, and they said, “well if Ghosted was an ongoing, what would you want to do?” I had a story ready and said, this is it! They liked it and said we could do that then. So I went home and immediately started writing the second arc.
Nrama: Let’s talk about your artist, Goran Sudzuka, kind of a huge artist to have on a book like this!
Williamson: Oh man, I love Goran so much. I know. When I talked to Skybound about the book, I didn’t have an artist attached on the book, and they brought up Goran. I love Goran! I love Y: The Last Man, I love Outlaw Nation…
Nrama: It’s cool how he can completely ground something but also make it seem utterly fantastic.
Williamson: Yeah, wait till you see Issue 5. The shit hits the fan in #4 really, but man, five… Seeing his art come through, it still feels real, but there is crazy stuff going on.
We met at New York Comic Con, that 2011 year, when I was still working on issue 1. He and I went out in the front. He sat there and smoked cigarettes, and we were out there for a long time just talking about the book and discussing how we saw it, what we both wanted. He was really happy to find out that I was a big fan of Outlaw Nation, so we started talking about that and the style of that. We were both on the same page, we really knew what kind of book we wanted to do.
At first he really wasn’t sure, but that time we spent at NYCC, going to bars, bs-ing about the book, I made it clear I wanted him really involved. For example, I know, page 1, and the last page of #5 are connected, and the fact I can talk with him about that kind of stuff, the design of things, it’s great. He was still unsure though, and told me he’d let me know that weekend, he’d decide that weekend. I remember I was doing a signing, and he walked by and just gave me a thumbs-up and a wink, and I knew we were in business.
He’s a good friend, we talk a lot about what we’re going to do. I couldn’t have done the book without him. He brought stuff out of the script, and the characters.
Nrama: A little tease for the future of Ghosted to close us out?
Williamson: The end of issue 2? Heh, I can’t spoil it. But Issue 2 is really about getting into these characters and showing how they’re really not nice people. At all.