Farts from Beyond the Veil: Caleb Goellner and Wook-Jin Clark Discuss ‘Ghost FM’
Ghost FM is one of the newest and most exciting comics on Stela. Written by Caleb Goellner of Task Force Rad Squad (and Eisner-winning former editor of this very site) with art by Wook-Jin Clark of Adventure Time, Ghost FM tells the story of Wesley, a kid who finds a magical radio and gets stuck with the job of helping ghosts resolve their issues on Earth. ComicsAlliance sat down with Goellner and Clark (also known as Hunter) to discuss this fun new project.
Comics Alliance: I just read the first chapter, and it’s really fun and engaging. I’m curious if you started with “kids find a weird thing in Grandma’s basement” and decided what it would be, or if you started with “ghost radio” and worked backwards to where it comes from?
Caleb Goellner: I owe the basic pitch of Ghost FM all to my wife, Anna. I pitched Stela one idea that I thought was a total slam-dunk, but I wanted a backup in case they told me to take a hike. So I’m sitting there trying to come up with something chill and remember that earlier that day while we were eating breakfast somewhere, she’d told me about a dream she’d had about two kids who find a magical radio. I took that kernel of dream logic and applied ghosts and apathetic youth thinking it’d get shot down. But Stela liked it way more than the other thing! So I immediately had to kind of scramble to come up with a legit story. Ghost FM is the price of my hubris, paid in full.
CA: Is the dead grandfather just a device to get the radio into Wesley’s hands, or are we going to learn more about his life of weird adventures down the road?
CG: Well, the hope is AMC will option this book and we’ll get to do a prequel spin-off after season two and all the weird director/producer fallout that just happens in these kind of deals. Money just changes people, you know? But The CW would be fine too. Or FX.
I mean, if they did something about their weird soft lighting, CBS is another fine option.
CA: Wook-Jin, I love the way you depict the DJ ghost, but obviously there are more ghosts on the way. Do you have a unified aesthetic for what ghosts look like in this world, or is every one totally different?
WJC: Thanks! Each ghost has a different color attached to them separately. Aesthetically they are all quite different, and as the story progresses the ghosts reach out into the real world in different scary ways and they get more and more dangerous.
CA: But let’s talk about the real focus of this comic: fart jokes. What’s your take on the state of the fart joke in 2016?
CG: Still $mells like money.
WJC: Haha! Fart jokes will never get old to me! Caleb definitely uses the gag as a story element as well as for humor sake. Plus I just like drawing farts! Hopefully we’ll see more and more farts in more comics!
CA: Stela’s not really an app for kids, but Ghost FM has a kids’ comic aesthetic and tone. How did you think about audience going into this?
CG: We just went for it. It’s all I you can do. I feel like you gotta just work hard at making a rad comic and believe in your influences and your ‘tude and let the yokai sort things out. So I’m glad Stela was cool with our approach and I’m grateful Hunter was on the same wavelength. We’ll be taking what we learned on this story and applying it to everything else we do, so if we earn an audience, I hope they’ll stick around and things will continue to resonate.
WJC: I dunno if we actually planned it to have a kids’ comic feel. It kinda just happened naturally, and we didn’t fight it! Haha. Plus I don’t know if I could draw a super serious comic to save my life.
CA: How does the Stela format affect the way each of you plans the pacing of the story? How do you feel about the move away from the concept of a full page?
CG: I have to give Hunter all of the credit for making the best use of the vertical scrolling. I pretty much wrote my script like a normal comic, outlining just a handful of super Stela-specific formatting ideas. My goal was to keep things loose enough that he could go wild, while still having plenty of concise story information that would hit beat-by-beat while serving the gags.
What I’m saying is I wrote the entire script around a series of key farts.
WJC: I really like the long vertical format a lot! I’ll honestly admit it took a little getting used to, and as the chapters go on I felt like I got a better grasp of how to use it to my advantage. It’s freeing to not be restricted to certain criteria for format and just think about how to use the vertical format to a storytelling advantage. I really like how with this format there can be long drawn out moments and pauses created with bigger gutter space. The layout forces you to be thinking more about how things are revealed rather than page turns which is a fun challenge!
CA: Am I right in thinking this is your first collaboration? How did you come together for this project?
CG: It is! I’ve been a fan of Hunter’s comics for ages and we’ve had a chance to hang out a few times in Portland over the past few years and bond over our shared love of tokusatsu and out-of-print manga. When Stela approved my Ghost FM pitch, he was honestly the only person I’d considered for it, so I was super relieved when he I reached out and he had time in his schedule.
WJC: Exactly what Caleb said! We’d met before at conventions and it was nice to meet someone with the same humor and inclinations towards manga and tokusatsu. When Caleb reached out I was pumped we could come up with something fun! Hopefully this is just the first of many things we’ll get to do together. Caleb and Aubrey Aiese, our letterer, are the dream team! I just have to say I’ve worked with Aubrey before and she’s a true pro. Her lettering is something that adds more character and depth to the project and Ghost FM wouldn’t be what it is without her.
CA: Is Ghost FM meant to be an ongoing, or does it have a limited run? I’ll admit, I’m still figuring out how this works on Stela.
CG: We’ll see! It all just comes down to fan response -- just like in any publishing situation -- so we encourage everybody to check out the first chapter for free and to subscribe if they’re feeling it, for the full story.
I’ve got a second arc outlined and a third chapter in mind, so as long as Hunter’s down, I’d love to tell the full, farty fable. As it stands, though, I hope everybody has fun reading the first, self-contained arc.
WJC: I hope we get a chance to do more in this world! I think we’ve just scratched the surface, and from what Caleb has already come up with for the future I hope we get a chance to go further. We’ve both got similar interests in gag comics and Kamen Rider/Super Sentai stuff and there’s some fun stuff planned!
You can check out the first chapter of Ghost FM for free in the Stela app right now, and you can also subscribe to the service for $4.99 a month to access each and every comic.