It’s hard to come back to life after you’ve been murdered, and Dark Horse’s Ghost knows that all too well. But this pulp-y style hero is doing just that in a new ongoing series launching this November. Spinning out of a four-issue miniseries from earlier this year that was well-received by fans and critics alike, this new Ghost ongoing sees writer Kelly Sue DeConnick returning to her old haunt and is joined by two new faces – co-writer Chris Sebela and artist Ryan Sook. Together, this trio plans to bring this white-clad hero that’s trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead into the fore in a war against demons, devils and her own past.
“Some time has passed since the first miniseries Ghost: In the Smoke and Din, and Ghost, or more accurately, Elisa Cameron, her alter-ego, is living a life locked into a holding pattern,” Sebela, who recently co-wrote an arc on Captain Marvel with DeConnick, explains. “She hunts down demons hiding in people all across Chicago, lives hand to mouth and is trying to rebuild the puzzle of who she was before she was "killed" by being sent to the demon dimension and fighting her way through it until she came back. Everything kind of intersects one night so that Elisa is torn between her mission, her life and doing what's right.”
Newsarama asked Sebela about joining DeConnick on writing duties after she relaunched the character in that first miniseries, and also about his take on Ghost as a character.
“Luckily, Kelly Sue took care of the really hard work of building a living, breathing Elisa Cameron and her world, so getting to come in and play with all the pieces and make some new ones of my own is exciting,” says Sebela. “Ghost already established her bad-ass credentials by shooting, stabbing and beating her way through a destroyed dimension full of demons, only to come back and put her skills to work in our world, but underneath all that, she's trying to merge who she is now with who she used to be, trying to make sense of how the two match up. For me, Ghost isn't just her alter-ego, it's her lifestyle.”
Ghost has a lot to deal with now that she’s back from the dead, from fighting demons trying to cross over into the human realm to trying to find out how and why she was killed in the first place. As Sebela tells it, Cameron is up to her neck – and then some.
“Ghost has a really inconvenient present to deal with, for one. After coming back from the other side, now that she's technically "dead," Elisa has to figure out how she fits into a world where she no longer exists on paper,” he explains. “Besides that, she has a city full of secret demons in need of tracking down and destroying, she has a nemesis — the one who killed her — that's hopped bodies from the mayor to someone even more unpredictable, and a city with a full menu of terrestrial threats just as daunting as the demons she's hunting.”
On the art side, Sook is excited about drawing the various “creepy creatures” that DeConnick and Sebela have written into the new series.
“Creating cool looking demons and monsters is part of the fun of comics in general,” says the artist. “Depicting some really horrifying monster makes your hero all the more heroic. So I'm taking direction from the script and then from the darkest part of my imagination to try and do some cool stuff there. It's been really fun so far.”
This new Ghost series picks up just a few months after the ending of the aforementioned miniseries from earlier this year, picking up on loose ends from then while also giving the characters and the world a chance to breathe.
“This new series starts several months later, after the Mayor's disastrous party where he died and his demon hopscotched into Dr. October,” explains the co-writer. “Elisa's back from the dead, readjusting to life in this dimension and working to take out all the demons hidden in Chicago, who are all seemingly adrift after their leader bit it. It's nice to have that break in between books, where lots of stuff can happen off the page and life goes on while you're not looking, so we're poking our heads back to see what's happened since that first arc.”
Ghost’s history in comics goes all the way back to the character’s debut back in 1993, but Sebela assures readers that the new Ghost series isn’t mired in back issue bins and stands on its own.
“As far as older iterations of Ghost go, this is a clean slate, so anyone can hop on with the first mini without having to worry about continuity,” The High Crimes writer says. “Ghost is about the big, bad scary specter as much as it is about Elisa. Elisa's past is a big part of this series, she doesn't remember who she was, she's only read about it in articles and on the internet, this person who she apparently used to be before she got shanghai'ed off to a hell dimension to fight monsters. So while she has her mission to wipe out the demons who snuck over to our dimension, her mission to find out who she used to be and whether that's still who she is is just as important to her, sometimes to the chagrin of her friends and support squad.”
Despite being recently deceased (or perhaps because of it), Ghost has gained a number of key players in her life. This support squad as Sebela calls it are a big part of the Ghost ongoing series going forward – but no Goblins (yet).
“All of Elisa's people from the last arc — Vaughn, Caroline, Tommy — are back with at least a few more folks showing up this time around,” the writer tells Newsarama. “No Goblins or Furies are in the mix just yet, but Elisa does make a new friend of sorts who has an equally weird story to tell. If anything, she's been laser-focused on her mission and isn't really keen on socializing, but the further we go, her life is bound to get bigger and stranger.”
Elisa’s life is getting “bigger and stranger,” and doing so outside the normal setting of most superhero stories. Unlike most superhero stories that are set in New York or some fictional metropolis, this takes place in Chicago. Sebela himself grew up in the Windy City, and plans on making the character’s surroundings as real as possible – from the best pizza spot to where to bury dead bodies.
“I grew up in Chicago and spent a large chunk of my life there, which I think was one of the reasons I got asked to join the book,” Sebela reveals. “Back when Kelly Sue was working on the Ghost #0, I remember her asking offhand if I knew anywhere in Chicago that would be good to hide a body and it only took me a few minutes of thinking to be like, oh, I know lots of places you would hide a body in Chicago. So I hope I'm bringing that level of body-hiding realism to things.”
Sebela is keen to keep this supernatural series grounded in the real-world streets and avenues of the bustling city, from including specific neighborhoods and business down to stretches of the El train as it winds in and around the city. And just in case you’re wondering, he can also recommend a good pizza place for Newsarama readers who happen to be in Chicago.
“In my experience, it's a lot harder to find awful pizza in Chicago than to find good pizza,” says the longtime Chicago resident. “But I've always had a soft spot for My Pi on Clark, maybe the darkest, most atmospheric pizza place I've ever been in, perfect for a romantic dinner or a Godfather-style murder.”
While Sebela aims for accuracy in those areas, Sook says his biggest goal -- and biggest challenge – is making these characters as real as possible.
“The challenges of this book are the challenges of every book: really bringing characters to life in the way that readers can get involved is always hard but it's also the fun of it,” says Sook. “I want Elisa, Vaughn and Tommy, really all of the characters and their environment and circumstances to draw the reader in to the story. To give the quiet moments the gravity they deserve and the action the impact it needs without losing sight of the story.”
One of the big selling points of this new Ghost series isn’t just that the character is back in her first ongoing in over a decade – it’s the fact that Sook is drawing the book, his first monthly book in years.
“Our editor, Patrick Thorpe, sent us an email one day, all casual-like, asking ‘What do you guys think about Ryan Sook?’ and I think my response was ‘AHHHHHHHHH,’” Sebela tells Newsarama. “Ryan is amazing and never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever get to work with him, so having him as a collaborator is amazing for the both of us. “
Sook hasn’t penciled a regular book in several years, instead doing covers and various one-off stories at DC, Marvel and elsewhere. When asked about why Ghost was the right choice for him to make his return to monthly comics, Sook’s answer was simple.
“The simple answer, she's a cool character,” Sook says. “I had been looking for a chance to do interiors again and the timing worked well. When editor Patrick Thorpe asked if I'd be interested, I just happened to have a space in my schedule that allowed for me to consider it seriously. Once I had, I thought it might be just the book to allow me to do some cool interiors.”
In its previous incarnations, Ghost has featured a who’s who if future superstar artists drawing the book – from Adam Hughes to Terry Dodson, John Cassaday, Ivan Reis and others. Sook says he followed the title in the 1990s as a fan of Hughes’ work but dropped off after he left, and ultimately chose to do the book based on how DeConnick and Phil Noto handled the character in the earlier miniseries.
“DeConnick's version of the character is a far more interesting character with better development and has thus far achieved a lot of the potential that got lost in the original incarnation,” Sook said. “That is what is inspiring me as I draw this book now, the character and the way she's written. Not so much past artists’ interpretations.”
Character is what made the Ghost miniseries from earlier this year successful, and it’s what brought Sook, Sebela and DeConnick back together in this open-ended ongoing series. Sebela said that the multi-facet character, with all her powers and all her flaws, is drives this series forward.
“Ghost is surrounded by all these people looking out for her, helping her, and she's trying to keep them at arm's length, trying to fulfill her mission, figure herself out, hoping that there's some sort of peace at the end of it,” Sebela points out. “She's conflicted, selfish, heroic, dark and completely terrifying when she wants to be. Even without her powers, she's compelling as both a reader of the first arc and a writer on the book now.”