It’s a Marshmallow World in Kelly Thompson and Nelson Daniel’s ‘Ghostbusters: Deviations’ [Interview]
IDW is unleashing a wave of "Deviations" this month, taking some of its best known comics and telling stories set in worlds that deviate dramatically from the source material in order to see how fan-favorite characters would respond to a drastically changed landscape. The featured series include The X-Files, Transformers, and G.I. Joe, while the creative team of writer Kelly Thompson and artist Nelson Daniel get to introduce readers to an alternate reality Ghostbusters.
Ghostbusters: Deviations imagines a world where the team did not cross streams at the end of the movie, meaning that Gozer --- in the form of the Staypuft Marshmallow Man --- was victorious in their climactic battle. It's a sugar-spewn apocalypse, with our four heroes stuck right in the middle. ComicsAlliance spoke to Thompson and Daniel to find out what it means for the Ghostbusters to be trapped in the fluffiest end-times imaginable.
IDW also provided us with the first-look preview of the lettered pages for issue #1, which you can check out below.
ComicsAlliance: So… the Ghostbusters have failed, and it’s a marshmallow world. What is Ghostbusters: Deviations?
Kelly Thompson: Well, IDW is doing a whole month of “Deviations” stories, which, as I understand it, all pose “what if X happened instead” kind of questions. So for Ghostbusters we decided the question should be --- what if the Ghostbusters didn’t cross streams? And the great thing about that question is that it’s a lot of classic Ghostbusters fun for those die hard fans, while also being super new-reader friendly. You only have to have seen the first film to be totally up to speed on our story.
CA: How did you first get involved with this comic?
KT: I was already talking to editor Tom Waltz about another project that we were both pretty excited about and then this opportunity came up and Tom thought I might be a good fit for this --- and I obviously jumped at the chance to write classic Ghostbusters!
Nelson Daniel: I had finished String Divers with Chris Ryall, and Tom wrote me to ask if I wanted to participate in a one-shot for Ghostbusters. I said yes immediately!
CA: What were your thoughts on the Ghostbusters beforehand? Had you seen the films, and had you liked the films?
ND: Ghostbusters marked my childhood in many ways. I love the movies, especially the first. My childhood head explodes every time it sees it again, and now I did it again for this book and it was almost the same feeling even after all these years. I love that it all happens in the middle of the city. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is impossible to forget, especially when you're a kid.
KT: I love the films! I grew up with them and always loved them --- and I’m of course absolutely pumped about the new film this year.
CA: Did you choose the Deviation for the book, or was that something in-place before you came aboard?
KT: Tom was open to letting me pitch my own idea for the series, but as I recall, “What if the Ghostbusters didn’t cross streams” was one of his examples for the kind of thing we were trying to do, and I seized on it immediately. I was really interested in a story that wouldn’t feel closed off to fans that might be new, or were primarily film fans.
CA: What does it change about the characters? How did you approach them in this new world?
KT: I think the characters readers will find here are pretty classic to the film, except we obviously get a deeper and more personal look at Gozer/Stay Puft.
For the main cast I think the challenge was mostly in finding and keeping that classic voice we all know and love and just giving them a slightly different world to react to. Peter is still always looking for the angle, Ray and Egon are still (always) in it for the science, and Winston is still wondering how the hell he got himself mixed up in all of this nonsense.
That said, though they only play a very small part, there is a fun twist to both Dana and Louis that is definitely a bit of a change.
CA: Did you come out with a favorite member of the team?
KT: Well, Stay Puft/Gozer is probably my favorite just because it was a really unusual take on him that seemed really humorous and humanizing to me. But Peter is a close second of course --- he’s so fun to write.
CA: This is a strange question to ask, but… how did you get into the head of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? What’s the world like with that thing in charge?
KT: That’s definitely my favorite part of the story and what made me think this might be a particularly fun take on this world… so I don’t want to give too much away. But basically Stay Puft is Gozer… and that just cannot be the kind of form Gozer was thinking it was going to get to be in to rule the world. This absolutely adorable fluffy smiling giant form was an unexpected twist for Gozer, and one that got tiresome rather quickly… it doesn’t exactly instill the kind of fear you hope for if gunning to be an evil despot.
It also seems like it would get kinda lonely.
CA: What’s it like to draw characters who’ve been seen on the screen, Nelson? Do you have a particular way you design them, to either resemble the actors or to make them distinctly your own?
ND: It's inevitable to use the actors for reference at the beginning, but I had clear ideas about some characters, and for me the important thing was that each was recognizable and distinct from their partners, so that at this stage, the drawings are more distinguished than the actors. By the final design, it was very similar to what I had in mind before I started, though it took a few laps before arriving there.
CA: How did you find working together on the book?
KT: Nelson and I didn’t talk much actually, but I think most of that was just a function of him nailing the pages right out of the gate. He turned in these awesome roughs that had Tom and I laughing right away. We gave just a few notes and he moved onto the next step. There were very few notes at all and a lot of the visual gags --- even though they were things I asked for in the script --- he made them so much better than I imagined.
ND: It's been incredible. Kelly’s script I liked from the beginning. It’s fun on so many levels, I laughed a lot when reading it. It's very different to what I've done before, and that was even better.
CA: Am I right in thinking you do your own coloring, as well, Nelson? How did you decide the palette and style for this story?
ND: In this story we return to some familiar settings of the first film, so the reference is inevitable, but something that was clear from the beginning is that I needed to be more colorful. There is a lot of gray in Ghostbusters; the city, the costumes, the firehouse. So whenever I could add some detail with color, for balance, the result has been very positive.
CA: What did Nelson bring to the comic for you, Kelly? What did you want him to bring out of the script?
KT: We have to skate a weird line in our book, in that technically our characters are living in an “apocalyptic Manhattan,” which is a bit dark as a concept, but Ghostbusters is obviously a comedy, and that’s what we’re leaning into, regardless of circumstance. So Nelson was really pivotal in finding that line --- making it clearly a comedy, but allowing that comedy to exist in slightly darker environment.
Nelson really embraced all the visual gags with huge enthusiasm. Truly, there are several pages that just make me chuckle as soon as I look at them and that’s obviously all thanks to Nelson.
CA: When drawing comedic characters like the Ghostbusters, do you look to change your style to emphasize the humor, Nelson? What approach did you want to take, as artist?
ND: It is a mix, slightly inclined towards humor. I love the movies but also the animated series. Although different, they are also almost impossible to separate, and it is very hard to pick a side, so the best option was to combine them and use all my favorite aspects of both worlds. Egon with blonde hair, but with their traditional attire is a sign of that.
CA: You’ve written graphic novels and ongoing series, but have you had much one-shot experience prior to this? Is it difficult to manage a 20-page story, as a writer?
KT: I think that once you get into the flow of writing monthly comics, the 20-page story standing on its own isn’t so tough. Even when you’re writing a larger arc, each issue has to have a sort of rising and falling action and the necessary emotional and action-based beats to make it a satisfactory read all on its own. So this isn’t much different. Fortunately I had a few extra pages, which always helps. I wish I could have a few extra pages for every book I write forever!
CA: You’ve developed a solid working relationship with IDW over the last few years. What do you think makes them stand out as a company? What’s kept that relationship so productive?
KT: Well, I think I’ve just been very lucky. John Barber (my editor on Jem and The Holograms) and Tom are really excellent editors and fantastic people in general and I try to do my best work for them so that they’ll keep asking me back. Everyone I’ve worked with at IDW has been really phenomenal. IDW has become a trusted publisher, especially for high quality takes on licensed properties like Jem, My Little Pony, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.
Any one of them could easily have felt like a lazy cash grab, but instead IDW puts editors that care on the projects and really look for talented creative teams that are genuinely interested in the properties, and I think it makes all the difference in the final product.
ND: I'm sure everyone who works at IDW really enjoys their work and that is very difficult to say of any business today. It shows on every page of every book, I think.
My work at IDW has been amazing from the start. I really enjoy all the new projects they have and would like to participate in all of them. Sometimes I've been in more than one at a time. They have given me the opportunity to work with some of my favorite authors. IDW strives to make your work the best it can be with constant support with an emphasis on teamwork.
I love the diversity of books, authors, and styles that make up IDW, while at the same time supporting what’s going on now while valuing the classics. I mean who wouldn't be happy to work in such a place?
Ghostbusters: Deviations goes on sale this week, Wednesday 16 March.