Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Another Ghotsbusters comics project

I recently took a look at Tokyopop’s efforts to bring The Ghostbusters to comics, via the so-so 2008 anthology Ghost Busted, so I thought I’d see if other publishers had fared any better.

IDW Publishing took their turn with Ghostbusters: The Other Side, a four-issue miniseries that launch late last year and was collected into a trade paperback back in May.

It’s a more organized, accessible and straightforward effort than Tokyopop’s—rather than a multi-team anthology, it’s a single story by a single creative team. It’s story and art are far weaker than the strongest stories in Ghost Busted, but they’re also far stronger than the weakest story in Ghost Busted. So if Tokyopop’s effort was a mixed bag, IDW’s is at least consistently mediocre.

Artist Tom Nguyen, who is somewhat unevenly assisted on inks by Drew Geraci and John Alderink, does a pretty fine job on the character design of the principals though. Here are the four main characters:
As with the various Tokyopop artists, Nguyen seems to be avoiding using either the likenesses of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and the other actors from the movies or the character designs form the cartoon series.

The designs seem to be of the movie characters, but not the actors, if that makes sense.

The above panel may not be the best example of each, but it was the best one of all four (and I didn’t wanna waste too much time scanning). Ray, Peter and Egon are all easy to distinguish from one another, despite their similarities.

Ray has big ears, slightly puffy cheeks, mussed, fikle hair and a goofy, boyish look, reflecting his often over-eager attitude.

Peter’s hair is longer and pushed back, he’s either starting to bald or has a dramatic widow’s peak, and he often has the half-sleepy expression of Bill Murray, if not Bill Murray’s actual facial features.

Egon’s got glasses to distinguish him, but beyond that Nguyen gives him spiky hair and thing, pointed facial features.

His art may lack some of the personality of Maximo V. Lorenzo or Chrissy Delk in general, but his main character designs have personality to spare.

The rest of the characters that appear in the book are infinitely more blandly designed, but none are really given any personalities by the story anyway—they’re merely props for the Ghostbusters to interact with.

Writer Keith Champagne draws on the well-established characters from the films to power his narrative—Peter’s sarcastic, Ray’s enthusiastic, Egon’s smart, Winston is personality-free—and the story seems positioned as a third movie, although the specifics of the plot seem more like one of the one-off little adventures the team was always having on the cartoon show.

Apparently a life of crime can lead to an afterlife of crime, and some of America’s most notorious gangsters have continued to devote themselves to organized crime now that they’re ghosts.

Their new racket is smuggling souls from Purgatory back to the land of the living, and when the Ghostbusters try to bust them, they all end up dead and on the, um, other side (hence the title). Teamed up with some equally famous crime-fighters, they have to bust ghosts while themselves little more than ghosts.

It’s not bad work at all, and definitely has its moments, but it’s certainly not great comics, and seems sub-par compared to the films it’s based on…and even many of the cartoons that were based on those films.

Part of the problem may simply be that it’s going to take either an extremely skilled cartoonist or creative team to be able to replicate the particular charms of the half-dozen or so actors who originally brought the characters to life in addition to continuing the premise and extending it into a horror/comedy/adventure of equal size and shape. But spending so much attention on various dead historical figures instead of the protagonists certainly didn’t help any, nor did IDW’s presentation.

The Other Side is thoroughly decent, cheap, time-wasting entertainment, but the painted, off-model covers on $4, 22-page books or, in this particular case, on an $18 trade with a fancy raised logo tries telegraphs a better, more important work. It’s probably not fair to single The Other Side and IDW out for this here, as it’s a problem among a lot of comics and publishers these days—presenting mediocre entertainment as respectable art often ill-serves the material, making it seem all the more disappointing.

In other words, a $12, pulpy, paper-paper stock trade is probably what The Other Side deserves; the glossy paper and “art gallery” of shitty covers and black and white versions of certain unimpressive pages just makes the trade collection seem arrogant. That would be fine…provided it had a reason to be arrogant. It doesn’t.

Yes, I know I am projecting human emotions into an inanimate trade paperback collection. Shut up.


Randal said...

Ok, so I know how to identify Ray, Peter, and Egon...how do I know which one is Winston?

Say it....

Say it....

caleb said...

He's the one with the mustache, obviously.

Anonymous said...

I really have to disagree with you. There is more than one part where I actually had to pay attention to tell Egon and Ray apart, I didn't find any of the humor I expect out of the movies and cartoon, or the old NOW Comics run--granted, they were exactly fall down laughing, but it did make you chuckle at parts--and the rather gory elements was the final call to exorcise it from my pull list before the series finished.

Not that Ghost Busted impressed me enough to buy, either.