This week, the cast of the original Ghostbusters will find themselves on a collision course with the team who starred in the controversial 2016 reboot, who are being called the "Answer the Call" Ghostbusters (after the film's tagline).
It's far from the first Ghostbusters crossover that IDW Publishing and writer Erik Burnham have undertaken, but this is the one that's likely to attract more attention than any other, particularly due to the love-it-or-hate-it dynamic that the "Answer the Call" version of Ghostbusters has.
The ghostbusting team of Holtzmann, Yates, Tolan, and Gilbert will cross paths with Venkman, Stantz, Zeddemore, and Spengler – in a brand new comic book series set in the long-running IDW continuity from the fan-favorite, critically-acclaimed, and prolific Ghostbusters comics creative team of Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, and Luis Antonio Delgado who have written and drawn the IDW comics for the past five years.
Burnham and Schoening joined ComicBook.com for a brief Q&A about the series, the first issue of which is in comic stores today.
You can buy it at your local shop or get it digitally on ComiXology.
You've handled dozens of Ghostbusters characters at this point. Was it just old hat bringing in the “Answer the Call” Ghostbusters, or is it still exciting?
Erik Burnham: It never stopped being exciting! I wrote my first pitch for a Ghostbusters project in 2010, and the thrill is still there for me... and every new character or situation we throw into the mix charges me up a little more. Everything new allows Peter and the original crew something fresh to react to, which keeps things fun.
Dan Schoening: It's definitely exciting to bring in the “Answer the Call” ladies into the fold. They aren't just based on the '84 Ghostbusters, but are their own individual characters. Each one brings something wonderful to the table, creating new and engaging dialog and dynamics.
When they introduced the new cast and announced that it wasn't set in the same universe as the original, fans immediately started hoping for an eventual meeting. Does that add pressure to being the guy to actually write it?
Burnham: I feel pressure every month, every comic, every issue... so yes. But beyond that, it’s been great. We’ve had a very small minority of fans (some who prefer the originals, some who are all in on the ladies from the recent film) that want no mixing -- but the overall majority of Ghostbusters fans are just looking forward to seeing what the characters might blow up, and how they’ll react to each other.
Schoening: I can only speak on behalf of the art, but I'm more excited than worried about how the fans will react to the comic versions of the characters. The whole team at IDW love Ghostbusters, and I feel we create comics we're proud of. Any art medium is subjective, and it can go many ways in the eyes of the beholder. We hope that everyone digs it as much as we enjoyed making the stories.
Why did you decide to "merge" two distinct universes instead of just playing it off like similar things had happened more than once over the years?
Burnham: In other Ghostbusters crossovers, it’s generally been two teams vs. a more powerful entity -- having the worlds overlap in this kind of way is a different problem for them to solve, which helps in keeping things from feel cut-and-paste. (Or that’s the hope!)
What can you tease about the threat that brings the teams together?
Burnham: Well, the original Ghostbusters acquired a transdimensional portal... and in this story, an error in its operation allows for an event that starts to cause another universe to drift. That’s vague, right?
But the end result is things blending together. Superhero comics do this kind of thing all the time -- making sure things stop before any real damage is done and separating the dimensions... those are the goals. The fun will be in how they interact with each other, and the changes that are made to their respective worlds and attitudes. It’s a journey of character fun!
Schoening: To be honest, I get to experience each issue one after another as Erik has them finished. I'm not sure who the antagonist is at this point. But, from what I do know, it involves a ghoul that doesn't feel quite all herself... something's missing.
Is there a way that the two teams can live together long-term? It almost seems from the first issue as though the supernatural "dam burst" is something that has to be fixed, and therefore limits the amount of time the teams can spend together.
Burnham: And that’s correct. Things will be fixed -- because all the toys need to go back into the toybox when you’re done playing, and I don’t think that’s a spoiler. But these two groups will know about the other. They can consult, seek the others’ expertise or aid. After the “Get Real” crossover, folks figured that’d be it for the Real Ghostbusters... and then, in Ghostbusters International, we borrowed the blonde Egon Spengler for several issues to stand in for Classic Egon.
In Dan Aykroyd’s original concept, the Ghostbusters were a massive organization, with plenty of franchises who operated on not just a worldwide, but a multi-dimensional scale. With the comics, we’re able to dig into something that would be way too unwieldly for film. (Or at least a first film.)
So these groups aren’t going to be in the same city, same dimension, same reality for long term… but they can still be colleagues and friends. That’s a comic book staple going back decades.
Schoening: I like the idea that both teams are in different universes, but can come together from time to time when needed. Also, we don't one one New York City to be without a team of Ghostbusters :) Every NYC needs Ghostbusters.
Given the feminist undertones of the film and the controversy surrounding it, do you have to be careful about the way the “Answer the Call” team interacts with the classic Ghostbusters? They aren't exactly students like Cait & co.
Burnham: They’re not students, no! But as far as interaction… since we’ve had as many women as men busting ghosts in the comics over the years, playing it as anything less than perfectly normal would be silly.
They’re all idiosyncratic people, though -- the ladies and the gents -- so there will be some snark and there will also be some shared enthusiasm, because scientists, at their best, love to learn from each other.
(At the end of the day, that’s how we move forward -- even in a silly book where smart-alecks with lasers shoot at ghosts!)
Schoening: I feel the key is to just stay true to the characters. Both teams are professionals at what they do, and we want that to shine beyond any controversy or negativity.
What makes the “Answer the Call” team different from the various "next generation" iterations of the Ghostbusters you've dealt with so far?
Burnham: They’re portrayed live onscreen by real people. That’s the big difference. You’re seeing more than the character. Impressions from other projects, or even to them as actresses is all in the mix. That’s different from anything possible in cartoons or comics. It’s a different sensory perception. That’s baggage. Baggage isn’t bad! But it really changes how people connect. There are fans who didn’t come to these characters because of the plot or the mythology of the film, but because they like Wiig or Jones or McCarthy or McKinnon. Or Hemsworth! Or even just the specific sense of humor built by Dippold and Feig. It’s a different kind of alchemy. Characters original to the comics, well, everyone can (and often does) have different perspective on them and different ways to bring them to life in their minds. The live action characters have already been brought to life.
I realize how obvious this all sounds, but a performance really makes a mark. Think of Tony Stark; in 50 years, he’d had several characterizations. Some that don’t feel the same. Now add the charisma of the Robert Downey Jr. performance in the Marvel movies. The character will now be judged on and against that version. Nothing wrong with earlier versions of Tony Stark. But this one was alive and so came alive.
Rambling answer, right? Sorry about that!
Schoening: I would echo Erik's thoughts that the “Answer the Call” team is based on actors, so we are starting with characters the audience knows in depth. It helps me a lot as an artist, as I can watch the movie, and take those mannerisms and visual quirks, then incorporate them into the panels.
Will the “Answer the Call” Ghostbusters ever notice that these guys they're teamed with really look a lot like people they encountered during their big-screen adventure?
Schoening: Indeed they will!
Burnham: HA! I just wrote that scene this week! In all honesty, I thought about bypassing it just because it’s been so heavily anticipated that I’d be competing with thousands of different reactions to that very idea, but no one (not my editor and not Ghost Corps) was going to let me off this particular hook. And I’m glad they didn’t -- it provided a couple of my favorite lines of the issue!