Toledoan Jim Beard co-writes Ghostbusters comicWritten by Joseph F. Berenato and Matthew P. Tobias | | email@example.com
The Ghostbusters are haunting comic racks this summer, and Toledoan Jim Beard is one of the creative forces behind the book. Beard and Keith Dallas have collaborated with artist Josh Howard to create “Ghostbusters Holiday Special: CON-Volution,” available June 23 from IDW.
Beard, a merchandise manager for Tony Packo’s who contributes a weekly comic book report to Toledo Free Press Star, has written for several books, including “Hawkman Secret Files & Origins No. 1” (2002), where he collaborated with Geoff Johns on all nine profile pages. Shortly thereafter came his four-page piece “Stormchasers” in 2003’s “JLA/JSA Secret Files and Origins No. 1,” about the android Red Tornado’s oft-forgotten time in the Justice Society. In only his second outing, Beard not only got to put words in the mouth of JSA founder Jay Garrick, but also fulfilled every comic writer’s dream: he got to write for Superman. Beard‚s non-superhero work includes “Star Wars Tales No. 15” (2003), a story about Luke Skywalker’s first brush with space. He has also contributed pieces for “The All-Star Companion, Volume 3” (2008), “The Hawkman Companion” (2008) and “The Flash Companion” (2008).
It was on this last volume, “The Flash Companion,” that Beard collaborated with Dallas for the first time. Dallas was the driving force behind “The Flash Companion,” and is considered a noted comics scholar by many in the industry. In addition to his Companion work, Keith is the writer for two creator-owned comic properties, “Omega Chase” and “Argonauts.”
They recently sat with us to talk about their Ghostbusters experience.
CriticalMess: Co-writing seems like something that would be difficult. How did you hook up in the first place, and how does your process work?
Jim Beard: I went into this thinking the exact same thing: two people writing one script? How’s that work? I had heard that when Geoff Johns and David Goyer were writing JSA. They plotted the story together, then each took a half of the script, wrote them separately, and then melded the two halves together. That’s what we did. Cool thing is, and I think Keith agrees, we did it to good effect. And we didn’t kill each other. And it reads as if one person wrote it. And my jokes are superior to Keith’s.
Keith Dallas: Jim describes our collaborative process accurately (except of course that his jokes were really lame and thankfully were edited out of the final product). We plotted out the entire issue page by page over the phone (and had a lot of fun doing it), and then each of us wrote half the script. The two halves of the script came together nicely because we both know what’s happening on every page. As far as how we came to collaborate on this Ghostbusters special in the first place, Jim and I have been good friends since 2005. We’ve served as Comicbloc.com moderators together, and he contributed several articles to “The Flash Companion” book that I edited for TwoMorrows Publishing. Back in September, I told Jim I was working on some Ghostbusters pitches, and he told me he was a huge Ghostbusters fan. I then introduced Jim to IDW editor Tom Waltz, and it was Tom who encouraged me and Jim to co-write the comic book. The suggestion made sense to me since we were dealing with a comedic property. By that, I mean collaboration works particularly well for comedic writing.
CM: The Ghostbusters have had their biggest push since the movies, with a game, the comics, the toys and rumors of a third film. Is this just the cycle of nostalgia or is there something else going on in the world right now that allows for the concept to resurface?
JB: Cycle of nostalgia? Sure, absolutely, but I also very strongly believe that the power of the concept is what carries it along — and the incredible talent behind the films.
KD: I wonder if all the current (supposedly) reality television shows about “paranormal investigators” paved the way for a Ghostbusters revival.
CM: Did you find it challenging to write characters that were initially defined by some of the best comedic actors of our time?
JB: For me, yeah, it was definitely a challenge to get their “voices” right and emulate what you see on the screen. I think it’s important for a reader to feel like it’s the same characters in the comics that they know and love. I hope we give that feeling. Egon’s [Harold Ramis] my favorite, and it was a thrill to write him, but Venkman almost writes himself; you only have to picture Bill Murray’s face and the sarcasm and biting wit flows out of you. I appreciate that in the character.
KD: This is really no different than tackling any other licensed character, whether it comes from a movie, a novel, a stage play, etc. These characters get handed to you already fully rounded and developed. It becomes our job, as the writers, to remain “true” to the characters.
CM: It’s been argued that Winston [Ernie Hudson] was added to the team just to give the group a fourth member, that he didn’t serve a story purpose. Do you find that to be true? What defines him?
JB: His moustache. Oh, what defines him as a Ghostbuster? Well, he’s the “straight man,” for the most part, and that’s a hugely important role in comedy — just ask Bud Abbott. I admit that I went into this wondering what the heck I could say with Winston but I fell in love with him by the time we were done. Keith and I are currently fighting over who gets to pitch “Winston Zeddemore Saves the Universe” to IDW.
KD: He adds a different personality to the group. If Egon is the nerd and Ray [Dan Akroyd] is the geek and Peter is the con man/game show host (as Dana accurately labels him), then Winston is The Every Man.
CM: If we learned anything from “The Real Ghostbusters,” it’s that there is a whole world of stories to be told in that universe. But what is it about those characters and that universe that people find so interesting? Why is everyone so crazy for Ghostbusters?
KD: People remember Ghostbusters because of the magical comedy that’s produced from the characters’ interaction. That’s really
what it boils down to. Remove the character-produced comedy from the concept and you’re just left with a plot about ghost hunting. That’s not enough to sustain decades-long devotion.
CM: We realize that you’re keeping the plot very close to the vest, but is there anything you can tell us, without giving too much away? Why should we pick this up?
JB: Because any actual lifting is good exercise for comic book fans. Beyond that it’s a fun story about comic books and what makes the creators behind them great (except us). I also think anyone who’s ever gone to a comic convention will appreciate what Keith and I have done here — except maybe cosplayers. And demons. And those long-suffering significant others of comic fans.
KD: I feel Jim and I wrote a funny, entertaining self-contained story, and since Josh Howard is drawing it, you know it’s going to be a great-looking book!