SDCC '08 - Keith Champagne on Ghostbusters at IDW

SDCC 08: Ghostbusters at IDW

Who ya gonna call?

In October, IDW is bringing characters from the 1984 hit movie Ghostbusters back to comic books. Written by Keith Champagne with artist Tom Nguyen, the four-issue mini-series will tell a story of Venkman, Ray, Egon and Winston as the ghosts try to get a little revenge.

Newsarama talked to Champagne about the series, what characters are going to show up, and why Champagne has no love for Slimer.

Newsarama: How did this comic come about? Did you pitch it to IDW or was it something they approached you about?

Keith Champagne: It seems like a case of being in the right place in the right time.

I like IDW as a company, I enjoy the product they put out, so I've made it a point to keep in loose contact with [Editor-in-Chief] Chris Ryall over the past year or so. He brought up a couple of properties to me in our last go round, Ghostbusters being one of them. I came up with a couple of quick ideas and we were off to the races soon after.

NRAMA: Were you a fan of the movie?

KC: I think the first Ghostbusters movie is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The second movie... maybe not. But it has some great moments sprinkled throughout.

NRAMA: Did you have a favorite part?

KC: Slimer all the way, baby! Can't get enough of that lovable green rascal...NOT.

I was so happy when I was told I didn't have to use Slimer. It's a good indication that we're going for a PG-13 adventure ride with the Ghostbusters, not a strategically commercialized kid's ride at the local amusement park.

As for as my real favorite part... Bill Murray, of course.

NRAMA: Why do you think the Ghostbusters was such a successful franchise?

KC: Is Ghostbusters a successful franchise? It's definitely generated a lot of revenue in different formats so I guess one could consider it successful in a bottom line kind of way, but creatively, I think it's been hit or miss. Granted, I'm not the target audience for the cartoon stuff so maybe I'm wrong.

I think the greatness of the first movie has more or less born the weight of the entire franchise over the years. None of the other iterations has seemed to come close although I'm hearing that the upcoming video game is really good, basically a third movie in itself. And hey, there's no shame in shooting for the stars and falling a little short. Let's face it: guys like Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis and Bill Murray firing on all cyclinders, that's a tough act to follow for us mere mortals.

NRAMA: Do you think it still translates to modern audiences? Why?

KC: I can't speak for everyone but I re-watched the first movie a little while back to get reacquainted with the Ghostbusters and it still works really well. The special effects show their age a little but that's something we don't have to worry about in comics.

Each Ghostbuster: Venkman, Ray, Egon and Winston, they're all very distinct from one another, personality wise. There's a ridiculous amount of uncharted territory when it comes to investigating the paranormal. There's nothing but potential with this property, no reason at all it can't connect with today's audience so long as it's properly handled. Everybody knows of the Ghostbusters, they've just been out of the limelight for a while.

NRAMA: But why now, Keith? Why do you think right now is a good time for a Ghostbusters comic?

KC: Part of it might be '80s nostalgia for people around my age but more than that, I think the property is enjoying a bit of a resurgence thanks to the building hype for the upcoming video game. People are starting to think about Ghostbusters again. Well, guess what? Here's an all-new adventure to check out!

NRAMA: In Ghostbusters continuity, where does this fall? And what is happening that drives the story?

KC: There have been tons of comics and cartoons and stuff over the years, but to streamline the process and bring the focus back on the original group, the first two movies are what count as far as continuity.

Basically, the Ghostbusters have taken out Gozer and slapped Vigo silly. They're riding high, completely unaware that they're noticed by and making some powerful enemies in the realm of the paranormal. Certain ghosts might have a vested interest in making sure the Ghostbusters don't start stepping on their toes. They might even put out a hit on the group before they really become a problem.

NRAMA: Are we going to see some familiar people as ghosts?

KC: The ghosts of Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Seigal, and Al Capone might be involved, among others.

NRAMA: Besides Egon, Ray, Winston and Peter, what other characters from the movie might we see showing up?

KC: Did I mention you won't see Slimer? Pretty much everyone else is fair game. It depends on how much room we have to play with. If your favorite secondary character doesn't pop up in this series, I promise they will in the next one.

NRAMA: What's your favorite thing about writing the Ghostbusters characters?

KC: Mostly, I get a kick out of the fact that I'm writing Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. This is one of those gigs that I never thought twice would even exist, let alone come my way. It's just pure fun to put the gang through their paces and try to live up to the standard set by the first movie.

NRAMA: As you write this comic, what's the biggest challenge?

KC: Honestly, in comparison to some of the projects I've written, this project is like a vacation. Which isn't to say that I don't enjoy writing larger crossover stuff; I love the challenge of it. But logistically, this is so much simpler. It's easier to keep my eyes on both the trees and the forest.

In terms of actual process, it's really hard to write funny. I don't know what makes you or anyone else out there laugh, so I can only come up with stuff that would make me laugh and go from there. The movies give me a good template, and actually knowing and being able to hear the actors voices in my head is a big help in terms of making sure they're all staying in character, no matter what situation I plot them into.

NRAMA: How has it been working with the artist, and what's the overall feel of the comic?

KC: Tom Nguyen and I finished working together on the Black Belt Hamsters a little while ago, and I feel lucky to have him back for this book. He's also a good friend so it makes working together more enjoyable.

The Ghostbusters have very human proportions, not superhuman, and Tom is playing to that, making sure these guys look like normal people. It's a different side of his art. The same great storytelling but imposed on the real world, more or less. But on the flip side, when it comes to the paranormal stuff, the ghost designs, he has more room to cut loose. It makes for a really nice contrast. It's great looking stuff. I think his work here will continue to open people's eyes to the fact that he's a great all around artist, not just one of our best inkers.

NRAMA: Anything else you want to tell people about Ghostbusters?

KC: You know that classic line from the Ray Parker theme song? "I ain't afraid of no ghosts!"

Well, guess what? Ray Parker was lying.

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