‘Ghostbusters Annual 2017′ Is More Of Everything
So let's talk for a second about Annuals. The entire point of those things is to give readers more comics, which is something that I think we as comics writers can all get behind as a pretty good idea. The thing is, they've occasionally gotten a bad reputation because "more" doesn't always translate to "good." I've written about it before, about that tricky tightrope that they need to walk just by virtue of being bigger and more expensive comics that exist just slightly outside the main publishing schedule, leading to a tendency to work as weird offshoots rather than as stories that support the ongoing narrative.
But the Annuals that IDW released this week sidestepped that problem neatly. With Jem, it was a matter of embracing that weirdness with a sci-fi take on the Holograms that exists as an in-universe fan-comic. With Ghostbusters Annual 2017, though, they've done it by embracing the concept of More.
From a purely mechanical standpoint, this thing is just loaded down with stories. Instead of using the space that's provided for a single epic, Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, Luis Antonio Delgado, Corin Howell, Erik Evensen, Rachael Stott, Tim Lattie, Anna Chher, and Tom Walz --- phew --- break almost 50 pages into nine stories, all taking on a different aspect of the comic book Ghostbusters and their world.
To be fair, there are a couple in there that are a little less consequential than others. There's a one-page parody of the old Hostess Fruit Pie ads, for instance, but even that has a little trick to it that makes it a little more interesting than it might seem --- Burnham and Schoening, the creative team behind Ghostbusters for the past few years, switch roles for a story that Schoening writes and Burnham draws.
Overall, though, there's a lot going on here, stuff that's not only dealing with the history of the franchise, but setting up what they plan to do for the future.
But I'll get back to that in a second.
The main story is probably the most satisfying from a structural standpoint. I've interviewed Burnham before about his approach to a franchise like Ghostbusters, and he's talked about how one of the interesting things about it is that there's way more to pull from than readers might realize at first glance. It's not just the two movies and the IDW comics that came before them, it's the video game, the roleplaying game, the Real Ghostbusters cartoon --- which had a full-on crossover a while back --- and even the short-lived Extreme Ghostbusters.
With all that to draw from, there's a natural temptation to patch holes in the source material and draw connections with side stories that fill in the gaps between what we see onscreen, and "Where Winston Was" takes that tactic in an interesting new direction.
The basic premise is to provide a fix for the question of what Winston Zeddemore --- who was always the most overlooked Ghostbuster in the first two movies, and became a character who really thrived with some new depth in the comics --- was doing while the other three Ghostbusters were on trial at the start of Ghostbusters 2. It's the kind of easy connection to make, and it's presented here --- in the tradition of John Byrne tagging along on the Fantastic Four's adventures --- as Burnham and Delgado going to Winston himself to find out.
The answer, of course, is that he was busy fighting another ghost in the adjacent hallway --- the Scolari Brothers' mother, who bears a striking and probably not coincidental resemblance to another criminal matriarch, Ma Fratelli from The Goonies. That's it, a simple explanation.
But that simple explanation builds to something a little more complex. The anticlimax --- and this is the kind of book where an angry ghost showing up and trying to murder one of the characters can be considered an anticlimax --- and Burnham's disappointed dialogue about how there's just not enough there to make it a whole arc is a great twist, and coming in the first story, it sets the tone for everything else that comes after.
Every story in the book is built around a twist like that. The Chicago Ghostbusters get to show off Ron's avarice, the story setting up the upcoming "Ghostbusters 101" storyline doesn't just introduce new characters, it sets them up in a solo adventure where they steal equipment to deal with a haunting of their own.
All of those clever spins on old ideas make this a book that's really rewarding for readers who have been following Ghostbusters for a while, but the sheer amount of stories here also work great as a sampler to introduce new readers to what this book's about. It's got the comedy, the spookiness, the emphasis on an expanded world that stretches beyond just Manhattan. There's even a quick primer on the status quo of the comic, so even if the fact that Ray Stanz is currently dating a ghost (not that one) doesn't show up in a comic, it still gets a mention.
And then there's this.
Ever since before the movie came out --- ever since it was announced --- the question hasn't been if, but when were going to get a crossover between Burnham and Schoening's take on the Original Recipe Ghostbusters and the 2016 reboot. I mean, they did a crossover with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and with the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, so the doors between dimensions were already open.
Now, we know for sure that it's happening, and the Annual is already taking steps to lay the foundation. It's not much, but it works as a teaser for what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest stories they can tell. The success of that movie and the new generation of fans that are being brought to the franchise through it puts the pressure on, and the tease in this annual makes it clear that Burnham and Schoening know exactly what they're getting into.
Taken all together, it's exactly what an Annual needs to be: More stories, more twists, more action, more comedy, more incentive to keep reading, and --- in a very literal sense --- more Ghostbusters. It's More Comics, and that's what I wanted to get.