For five months and five issues, the Image series Five Ghosts has followed treasure hunter Fabian Gray and the gift and curse he has of being possessed by five competing spirits. July’s Five Ghosts #5 was the last of the five issue series, but Image has learned that a good ghost is hard to keep down – especially five of them.
This week, Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham’s Five Ghosts series transitions from miniseries to ongoing with a special one-off issue taking their thieving anti-hero to Japan to trace a mystical legendary samurai sword known as Masamune. For this one-off issue they’ve enlisted artist Garry Brown of Marvel’s upcoming Iron Patriot series, bringing his inky illustration style to this supernatural spelunking story.
Series writer Frank Barbiere has had quite the success with Five Ghosts, with its critical acclaim paving the way for work on Dynamite’s upcoming Solar: Man of the Atom relaunch as well as multiple titles at Dark Horse. Newsarama talked with Barbiere about Five Ghosts, his ghost-ridden lead star, and the stories he and artist Chris Mooneyham have planned next.
Newsarama: With Halloween in the air, the Five Ghosts miniseries officially turns into an ongoing with issue #6. What can you tell us about this issue, Frank?
Frank Barbiere: This issue is a stand-alone issue spinning out of our first arc. We have the wonderful Garry Brown (The Massive, Iron Patriot) on board for guest art and the issue is extra long to accommodate the complete story being told. Fabian ventures to Japan to help and old friend, and things just really take off from there! It's not necessary to have read the first arc to enjoy the issue, but it definitely builds off of the first arc.
Nrama: This issue sees Fabian going to Japan in search of a fabled sword known as the Masamune. I know the history behind the swordmaker named Masamune, but can you tell us about this sword?
Barbiere: This is a fictional incarnation of the sword — in our world it was forged by two brothers, Masa and Mune, and has a supernatural element about it. We have a fun story sequence where we explain the history of the blade and what makes it special that was wonderfully illustrated by Garry and our colorist, Lauren Affe.
Nrama: As you mentioned, you’ve got quite a guest star in this with artist Garry Brown. How’d you connect with him, and what made him good for this story set in Japan?
Barbiere: Garry has been a buddy of mine for a while, and is very close with our normal series artist Chris Mooneyham. The two went to school together at the Kubert School and were part of the same (very talented, I might add) graduating class. We always knew that if we were going to do a “guest” issue Garry was the first on our list—we asked and he had the time, so that was that! Garry definitely wanted to draw some crazy action and monsters, so this issue worked well for him. He really caught the atmosphere of the book and though having a different style than Chris still kept the book feeling like Five Ghosts. Chris has been working on our next arc and will be back with issue 7 in November.
Nrama: Although this series has proven successful enough to be transformed into an ongoing, I’d wager some people have yet to try it out. So tell us about the star of Five Ghosts, a treasure hunter named Fabian Gray. How would you describe him?
Barbiere: Fabian is a fun mix of Indiana Jones/James Bond/Han Solo/and older pulp heroes like Doc Savage. He's a thief by trade, so he's not necessarily a “hero,” which gives him a lot of fun layers to play with. This means he won't always do the “right” thing, but he's certainly on a path of redemption so we're hoping our readers will enjoy watching him grow.
Fabian was pretty quiet and brooding during the first arc, so here we see him open up a bit and talk to a friend whom he has history with. I think his actual “character” comes across much more strongly in this issue and look forward to further developing him as the series continues.
Nrama: You’re burying the lede, Frank – one of the key aspects of the series is that Fabian has the curse/gift of being possessed by ghosts. Who are they, what do they want, and what is the upside to being possessed by them?
Barbiere: The five ghosts are the Archer, the Samurai, the Detective, the Wizard, and the Vampire. We revealed in the first arc that the “ghosts” are actually spirits of creative energy from a dimension called “the Dreaming,” a place where all ideas and stories come from. The spirits are bonded quite violently to Fabian through a stone lodged in his chest, and while they grant him their abilities, he is as much a slave to them as they are to him. Using their powers also exhausts him, hence he's not a superhuman who can just be shooting lighting bolts and casting magic non-stop.
Nrama: Let’s step back and talk about the issue that we’ve been dancing around: what led to Five Ghosts being turned from a miniseries to an ongoing?
Barbiere: The concept has just been so fun and fruitful for Chris and I that we couldn't see stopping with just a mini-series. We always wanted to do a series of minis (like Hellboy), but we had the momentum and the time so we figured we'd keep chugging along. We have a lot of stories we want to tell and a rich universe to pull from, as well as a solid readership, so we figured we'd keep going until we wear out our welcome. [Laughs]
Nrama: Before we let you go, how would you describe what’s’ coming up for Five Ghosts?
Barbiere: Our next arc, “Lost Coastlines,” is a huge story that runs across 6 issues. The cast expands, the world expands, and we are definitely going to see a lot more of what makes Fabian an interesting protagonist, as well as fun new uses for his powers. There's also a lot of fun literary elements that will be making their way into the book (as it's one of our focuses) and some simply stunning work from Chris Mooneyham and Lauren Affe. If you thought the first few issues were well-drawn, well, you haven't seen anything yet! Also: pirates!