Written by: Tom Sanford V, CC2K Contributor
It may be semi-lovely to be a Ghostbusters fan right now, but time hasn’t always been fair, and has often even been cruel to those big on the comedy franchise. With merely an attempted few seasons of cartoons and not so much as half hearted teases once every few years, jokes and apparent rifts between the films’ cast members constantly holding back any chance at another sequel, to give it to you in a nutshell, as I just have, doesn’t even begin to describe just how dry the well has been. Not always have there been steadily published IDW comics, mangas, nearly completed video games and open speeches from Bill Murray about Ghostbusters III curiosity. Times have certainly been far worse.
What seemed to be the beginning of something wonderfully new, however, came from a mysterious poster on a fan message board.
“It’s Coming…” a thread’s title proclaimed on Ghostbusters.Net. Started by “Red Ketchup,” a user that no regular posters recognized or knew of, speaking extremely lightly of something “new on its way.” No one had any idea of what it was, but the user did sport a spiffy avatar of what looked like Egon.
Well, it was Egon, but drawn stylistically and, more professionally it seemed as though from the pages of a comic book. Despite this being fairly obvious from the picture, speculation ran rampant, with many suggesting even a new cartoon series was on the way. A thirsty man in the desert must panic with excitement when hit in the face with a single drop of rain, so regardless of how ridiculous any fan suggestions may have been, it was an exciting 2002. Not soon after Red Ketchup’s arrival, ghostheads were presented with concept drawings amounting to this:
Red Ketchup still had not revealed his identity, but he had said fans should begin making suggestions about a new comic book. That they did, as an influx of users came to voice their opinions. Some even came from out of retirement, with the old webmaster of what is hailed by many as “the first Ghostbusters website ever” even showing up to give his two cents. Time seemed to drag as Red Ketchup would ease in and out of the thread, dropping a quick sentence here and there but still giving no official word as to what exactly we should expect. As with any fandom, whining and complaining wasn’t far behind, with many wondering “what’s taking so long?! I want my comic!!1!!” What had quickly seemed like a bright spot was slowly becoming irritating, but that had been forgotten in the spring of 2003. Coming forth one day in promotion with Ghostbusters.Net ’s owner, Sebastien Clavet of 88 MPH Studios turned out to be making a four issue mini-series to be released sooner rather than later. A change with the revelation came, though, and the Real Ghostbusters tribute concepts had gone the way of the paper shredder, making way for the official, new designs taking inspiration from the actors:
Clavet would soon after become very vocal in his interaction with Ghostbusters fans. Letting them know what direction the books would be in, he refused to neither confirm nor deny dislike for the original cartoon series and the second film, but only would say that he would include “references and lifts.” For many, this was simply not enough, and the conflict between he and the Ghostbusters community would begin. Many in the community, which has and will always be lovably, wholly, and chemically unbalanced and open mouthed, for better or worse, began to ridicule his decisions completely, with others offering with their years of fan fiction experience how they think the story should go. Professionally and luckily for us, Clavet ignored those so bold as to suggest they knew better than others how to write it, but he was still vocal on what he would and wouldn’t include in the mini series. Before things took a turn for the worse, pre-orders, he had reported, were doing well, and there was a chance of an ongoing monthly series. That may have been the last positive aspect to come from the franchise’s brief relationship with 88 MPH.
Before anyone knew it, the comic had been released, complete with a slew of variant covers, and had gone. When looking at the entire spectrum of Ghostbusters as a franchise, the release of the four issues was a long blink of an eye. With the later issues delayed and the series not finishing until January of ’05, it took time but disappeared quickly, with many most likely missing it. Regardless, soon after it was fully released, Sebastien Clavet disappeared. With reactions to the comic being mixed but mostly favorable, many wondered why it hadn’t taken off. There had been talks and even covers and a brief synopsis released for a monthly series, but nothing had happened. Hand drawn concept art from the artists was popping up on eBay, and it seemed all was gone.
Then, Sebastien returned with the release of a Legion Hardcover. Not much news, but something, it promised gorgeous penciled sketches and a foreword from “someone unknown but important,” who later turned out to be Dan Aykroyd. Pre-orders lasted for a long time. Then they lasted again. And then they lasted more. As these pre-orders had continued to be taken over the course of time, Sebastien all but disappeared, every once in a while showing up claiming printing problems were delaying the hardcover but it would come eventually, but other than that, he was missing. For months and months, people wondered if they had been unfortunately straight up gypped, as Sebastien answered no e-mails on the topic, was offering no refunds, and the 88 MPH website began to break down. Despite his strange and oft-seemed underhanded tactics, many blindly remained loyal to the man and the company, still expecting a hardcover release at some point.
Finally, fans became sick of the situation, and many opened claims and collected disputes at GhostbustersHQ.com to send to Paypal in 2006, with many eventually receiving refunds. However, too much time had passed, the damage was done and the name Sebastien Clavet, if you find the right Ghostbusters fan, will bring about wide eyes and no doubt many things to say.
With the situation running long but now over, much has changed. IDW just released its’ first issue of Ghostbusters: The Other Side and that is more a sign than any that 88 MPH obviously no longer holds the license. It seems so far that this is a good thing. But with all that had happened from the now infamous “Red Ketchup” on, was the mini-series worth it?
Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Finally after searching high and low, I was able to collect all four issues. Despite wonderful artwork, it was wholly underwhelming thanks to less than stellar writing. What often read like fan fiction, blatant references to the first film and even the cartoon series passed as weak jokes, and the mistake of completely ignoring the second movies's existence was made. It may seem clever to reference “Francine” as an ongoing tease between Egon and Peter, but what was most likely an ad-libbed line in the first movie is stretched thin and used unnecessarily to make fans feel comfortable. These situations, which definitely plagued the series, truly showed the lack of skill and originality in writing.
The story followed the Ghostbusters after their success in the first film, remaining in business and trying to do their business with brooding darkness on the horizon. It turned out that an old friend was out to seek revenge on the group for having essentially left him for dead before their business took off. Channeling the ghost of “Legion” mentioned in the bible, he’s out for blood and ready to attack. The concept as a whole simply came off as lame and with no real thought in what kind of story to tell. Not to mention the borderline terrible comedy and truly awful sounding character names like “Michael Draverhaven,” the Legion miniseries simply was not good. It seemed to me as though all the effort, difficult situations, betrayal, and even blind support by some for Sebastien Clavet was in vain, but also showed just how desperate fans of a “franchise” can be when nothing new has come their way in so long. In the day and age of Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and the vast library of Marvel and DC comic book characters and so on, many expect even the most wonderfully mundane of franchises like Ghostbusters to be immersed in science fiction. Legion is an example of both the good and the bad sides of that idea.
It seems that IDW’s Keith Champagne is taking a different approach, though, and even he who has openly stated he doesn’t particularly care for Ghostbusters II knows that the two films are what must be considered canon more than anything else. That not only points to the fact that he will give himself more room to come up with something interesting, it helps those of us fans of the films who think that the sequel is incredibly underrated.
So, next time you hear Bill Murray talk about Ghostbusters III and say he may or may not partake and it wears on your patience, just remember that there have been times where not only was Bill Murray saying nothing at all, but there were also times that as a fan, all you could grasp onto for new entertainment was four issues of a comic series spread out in development over four years. Bustin’ hasn’t always felt good.