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SYFY WIRE Interviews

Ever wonder what the 1984 Ghostbusters did after beating Gozer? Finally, we have answers

By Jeff Spry
Ghostbusters Cover

Ever wondered what other spook-hunting gigs the original Ghostbusters team embarked on during their first year on the job? IDW Publishing has taken that intriguing concept and expanded upon it with a new four-issue series that returns to the world of 1984's Ghostbusters feature film to explore all the throwaway lines and references we know by heart with the aptly titled Ghostbusters: Year One.

Delivered by the veteran Ghostbusters creative trio of writer Erik Burnham, artist Dan Schoening, and colorist Luis Delgado, Year One looks back at the Boys In Grey after they vanquished Gozer The Gozerian and were instantly transformed into celebrity heroes of the Big Apple.

Each chapter of this limited series focuses on one member of the OG crew, though the series as a whole follows author Rebecca Morales, who has been hired by a New York publisher to interview the gang and write an in-depth book on the notorious professional paranormal eliminators.

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The premiere issue hit shelves last week and centers on Winston Zeddemore as he recalls the harrowing tale of his rookie containment case involving the Dark Bard of Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe.

SYFY WIRE spoke with Burnham and Schoening on how this backstory project originated, why Winston is such a fan favorite, what classic surprises might manifest themselves, why Poe makes such a perfect villain, and which iconic canonical corners could be visited in subsequent issues.

After the chat, douse the lights for our expanded preview in the gallery below.

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How did you come up with the documentary-style structure for this miniseries?

Erik Burnham: The genesis was from our editor Tom Waltz and he wanted to do a book with the title "Ghostwriter," which we didn't use, and have an author interviewing the Ghostbusters, and it morphed from there into something looking at the stuff not seen but suggested during the movie. So that dovetails nicely into the nostalgic feeling that the new movie is bringing. Then Dan and I built on it from there.

Dan Schoening: It's really cool to have this opportunity to visualize some of these hinted-at scenes and scenarios. To go back in and visualize them and think how that might have looked when you hear these little tidbits in the film. So here's an opportunity that we're presenting to share that with everybody and hopefully they dig the interpretation that we have. It's very faithful to the film.

What makes this IDW Ghostbusters project different than the many Ghostbusters series and one-shots you've collaborated on over the years?

Burnham: For the most part, we try to include as much as possible from the original movie. We still throw a lot more of everything else into the stuff that we've done so far. We've included tidbits from the game, and the second movie, and The Real Ghostbusters, and the crossovers that we've done, we've kept things from those like the portal from the Ninja Turtles crossover. But this one is nothing but 1984 Ghostbusters. So in that, it's different in that it's just the most stripped-down version that we've done since we've started. We're consciously using less of the toys in the toy box, which is a different feeling.

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The first issue focuses on Winston Zeddemore. What is it about this character that fans love and connect with?

Burnham: First off, Ernie Hudson has a lot of presence on screen, he's got a lot of charisma. So to make a dent with as small a screen time as he had in the first movie is amazing. Winston just seems to have more going on that's hinted that you don't see, and that grabs the imagination. It's the interest in the unknown that has drawn a lot of fans to Winston. He's not as overtly flashy onscreen as the other three and isn't quipping non-stop as much as Venkman. People want to know what it is that's going on and that's caused fans to gravitate to him.

Schoening: Yeah I think Winston's character is kind of the audience getting to know the science and what is going on with the Ghostbusters. It's really easy for readers and viewers of the films to pop yourself into his position and experience it through him. Also, he's just a really lovable character. In that interview he has with Janine, you develop this immediate bond and he's very relatable.

What iconic '80s touchstones and images of the era did you insist on injecting into the story and art when you were mapping this all out?

Burnham: I'm still trying not to write anything definitively to any specific timeline, but Dan takes care of that and I trust him to deal with all that stuff that I don't specify. I was mostly concerned with the spots we could connect within the movie that were suggested. Like in issue number three, they go to The Rose, the Casey Kasem bit in the movie. That's the kind of stuff I was more focused on, more so than the time, because Dan always gets the details right.

Schoening: When Erik writes that you've got to draw a club of people dancing that always hurts my hand before I even start doing it. [Laughs.] But it's all part of my obsessiveness to make it look as accurate as I can. It's so nice to have characters in an environment so I like to at least represent it. It helps the viewer understand what's happening.

With backgrounds, I always consider them being characters, especially New York itself, so I want to make sure I'm honoring that visually. As far as capturing that '80s essence, I listened to some '80s music to get into the rhythm and make it look like an '80s nightclub for this specific part. Lots of mohawks and lots of hot pink and neon blue!

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In working with the Sony licensor, and with so much untapped territory to explore, were there any restrictions or guidelines imposed?

Burnham: For the most part, when we started years and years ago, they told us a couple of things they wanted us to avoid, places we could go, places we could not go. On some occasions, they've turned a couple no's into yes's, but for the most part, it's been a good working relationship. I know they've had notes for Dan on art every once in a while but things have gone through with few changes. We've been in synch, which is a great place to be because everyone's happy and it all works out. They give us a wide berth. Here's the playground you have and stay in the playground, and we do and it all works out.

Schoening: I've worked in animation and comics for twenty years and Sony and IDW have been easily the best people I've worked within that time. They're very open to ideas and the critiques are always on point.

The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe is showcased as the big baddie in this premiere issue. Why did you choose Poe and what were you going for in the horror-wolf manifestation?

Burnham: Well I was Googling some stuff about some other Manhattan hauntings and I'd seen one about Poe at New York University. So that's just a fantastic image because Poe was creepy in and of himself regardless of what he's written. It seemed like the kind of thing that I hoped Dan would have fun with, and it sure looks like he had fun because I loved it. Going after Poe felt like Ghostbusters and everything else was Dan making it look appropriate.

Schoening: The ghost that appears later in the issue is a summoning of his. I'm quite familiar with a lot of Poe stories and really enjoy them, especially being read by Christopher Lee or Vincent Price. I pulled from The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, and Masque of the Red Death and tried to incorporate that into the design of the final ghost to make it look really creepy and give it that Ghostbusters flavor where it's in-between funny and scary-looking. That's the sweet spot I was trying to hit with these ghosts. Throughout the whole four-issue arc there are some really cool ghostly visuals and I think people are going to really enjoy it.

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What can you tease for the upcoming three issues, each focusing on one of the original Ghostbusters crew?

Burnham: Well, in the second issue we're going to have Ray being interviewed and he's asked straight out if he ever went back to the New York Public Library after discovering ghosts there. And yes they did go back and that's the story for Issue #2. Issue #3 is the incident at The Rose nightclub that Casey Kasem talked about. Issue #4 is another thing we didn't see. We never saw them deposit Slimer into the containment unit. What if something wasn't formatted properly and Slimer got out and they had to get him back in quick before he went back to the hotel.

One favorite thing I was happy to get in the second issue, especially how Dan and Luis rendered it, was a scene of when Egon and Ray met at college. It was a page and a half and it's one of my favorite things that we've done. It's so fun to see and Dan killed it with the looks of the Ghostbusters as they would have been in college. And he does give Egon the '70s hair. Out of all the stuff I've seen so far, I'm really happiest with how that scene turned out.

Schoening: It's a pretty iconic moment that you don't see in the movie, but you kinda hear about it a little bit in the dialogue at the beginning of the film. It's quite an honor to illustrate that and present it to the audience.