All right fellow nerds and nerdettes it’s riddle time. So, what has two thumbs, an awesome blog and scored an interview with the writer of IDW’s Ghostbusters? This nerd right here, glad to meet you. I’m pretty psyched to debut the first – hopefully not the last – Behind the Pages, a profile of some of the best and brightest comic creators around and I couldn’t be happier that the spot light is on Erik Burnham. So far his run on Ghostbusters has been nothing less than superb and his sense of humor definitely flows on and off the page. Without further adieu, I give you Erik Burnham.
Have you always wanted to be a comic book creator? If not, what did you originally want to do?
Burnham: My mother likes to remind me that at the age of four I wanted to be either make comic books or become a magician. (I have no talent for illusion; best I can muster is a very clumsy back palm.) So, comics. Later on, I also got very into broadcasting and filmmaking – both of those let me deal with audiences in different ways, only a help when I finally got back around to comics!
Are there any writers that inspired you to become a writer? What was it about their work that inspired you?
Burnham: know, I’ve always loved to read – comics, screenplays, plays, novels, and nonfiction… I don’t know any writer off the top of my head that clicked into me wanting to do this… often, I feel inspired by a good story to work, or by a bad one to “do better.” So everyone I’ve read has played a part, one way or another.
This is a sneaky way of me trying not to turn this answer into a list with dozens of entries.
How did you land the job of writing Ghostbusters?
Burnham: bribed editor Tom Waltz with his weight in Spree.
No, I’ve worked with Tom before, and once he was assigned the franchise at IDW, I let him know I’d love to write it. I even sent in a pitch (pieces of which I’ve since used in the ongoing). He let me know they were planning a year’s worth of holiday one-shots (so that lets you know about how long ago it was!) Afterward, he gave me a chance to pitch the story for the first Infestation event.
The story was very well-received, and we took the plunge in pitching an ongoing based on the response of Infestation.
What was it about Ghostbusters that drew you to the comic?
Burnham: I love the movies. I love the idea of these guys who are looking at something horrifying and shrugging it off with a joke, going about their jobs. (An attitude that I hear crops up amongst cops, doctors, EMTs, firemen, and others who deal with terrible things.)
I just like the idea that these guys deal with all of this stuff and are so very blue collar about it.
Plus, really, I like writing humor.
What I like most about Ghostbusters is that it really captures the tone of the movies. I definitely feel that these are the same characters I fell in love with on the big screen, so is there anything that you do to get yourself in the zone to write these characters and stories?
Burnham:That’s my goal – that the voices of the actors pop into your brain while reading the dialogue. I don’t have anything specific I do to get into the zone, though. The voices are very clear from many years of watching movies with these folks in them. It’s easy to imagine something close to what they would say if you put, say, a demonic bear in front of them. I just have to think up stuff to throw their way.
With the Ghostbusters being such a beloved franchise do you feel any added pressure to appease all of the die-hard fans?
Burnham:I really try not to think about it, because then I’ll start to second guess myself! So no added pressure, but I’m neurotic anyway, so there’s enough to go around as is. Luckily, I’m a fan myself, so most things that would cause a major ruckus are things I’d avoid anyway… but those minor ruckuses may still pop up. Er… knock wood on smooth sailing!
Can readers anticipate some other classic characters popping up in the comics? Maybe Louis Tully or Ms. Dana Barrett?
Burnham:I’m not opposed to bringing in other characters – but those particular ones are off-the-table… I can’t directly use Louis or Dana on panel. Fans would like to see them, so on that score it’s a bummer, and if things ever change, we’ll surely bring them in for a bit… but for now, don’t expect them.
Do you have a favorite Ghostbuster character that you like writing more than another? Why?
Burnham: Peter’s the easiest because his voice is the closest to mine. That’s how I naturally think! Egon has been a surprise, though – I’ve had a lot of fun writing him.
What can we expect from our favorite paranormal investigators with you behind the wheel? Will the bonds of their brother hood be tested at all?
Burnham: I have a lot of ideas – and I started with a progression between stories that would have taken me to #16. But things change. Haunted America wasn’t part of the original plan; characters I hadn’t thought of using (like Kylie) or dynamics I hadn’t expected to enjoy so much (like Janine arguing with Walter Peck as an example) have altered the plan. So have (brilliant) suggestions from Dan Schoening, Luis Delgado, Tristan Jones, and Tom Waltz… Heck, another upcoming story I’m plotting out right now was likewise not in the original vision.
Writing these guys has become like improv, which is appropriate, so you ask a question that’s hard for me to answer because a “no” today may become a “yes” tomorrow, and things I thought I’d be doing may be backburnered or replaced with other stories!
If Dan Aykroyd walked up to you and asked you to write the third Ghostbusters movie would you take the job? Why?
Burnham: I probably would. I don’t think anything I wrote would change Bill Murray’s mind (and I just don’t know if I see the movie falling into place without him, though I admit I could be wrong there) but it sure couldn’t hurt my resume. Mercenary, right? I know.
If you only had thirty seconds to pitch your idea to Dan, what would be your vision for the third movie?
Burnham: Y’know, I started to answer this three or four times before I realized virtually all of my ideas would work for the comic and I wouldn’t want to blow any of them!
Where do you see yourself and Ghostbusters five years from now?
Burnham: God willing, still going strong on both counts! I hope to stay on the book as long as it runs, because I’m having a lot of fun, and the ideas are still coming. They’re fun voices to have in my head!
Do you have any advice you want to instill for aspiring comic book creators?
Burnham: Guys and gals, just have fun with what you do. Enjoy yourself and the work or virtually no one else will. Enthusiasm comes through!
What comics are you reading now?
Burnham: I just came in late to the party on Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery. Daredevil, The Activity, GI Joe, Doctor Who/Star Trek Assimilation2, Hoax Hunters, Atomic Robo, Winter Soldier, TMNT… there’s a short list. I have a chunk of trades and reprints I’m catching up on, too, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten several as I type this!
If you could hang out with any one celebrity, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Burnham: I’d love to have a sit down with Stan Lee. Sure, there are plenty of actors, musicians, artists, and assorted other figures from history I’d enjoy talking to, but it’d be a blast to meet Stan.
What other projects do you have in the works?
Burnham: Currently working on a one-shot for January (that I can’t talk about yet, news should hit soon… maybe by NYCC?) My next arc of Ghostbusters, and, of course, I’m pitching in on TMNT: Secret History of the Foot Clan. The story and art are by Mateus Santolouco, and I’m co-writing the scripts… he’s put together a great story, and I’m excited to be a part of it. I have a couple of other potential things out there, but nothing concrete yet. And one day, I may also get back to some of my creator owned work (like Nick Landime, or the Down Side, or any number of things I’ve jotted down that haven’t been seen yet!) Any way you slice it, though, I’m having a blast!
That’s all for this installment of Behind the Pages. If you’d like to find out more about Erik Burnham and you should, I’ve included links below to his blog and twitter account. Make sure you make your way to your LCS – for all you un-nerdy people that stands for Local Comic Book Shop – to buy IDW’s Ghostbusters and as always, may the nerd be with you!