It’s kind of hard being a Ghostbusters fan. You see, bigger 80s franchises like Transformers or G.I. Joe or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles get new incarnations pretty much every year, with a steady stream of merchandise and media filling the cups of thirsty followers on a regular basis. Sure, there are droughts here and there where there may not be a toyline or a cartoon or a comic for a couple of years, but those gaps are typically pretty short. And even if there isn’t a cartoon or comic at the moment, there’s almost always *something* out there in shops to keep fans occupied, to say nothing of the major convention scenes, both official and unofficial, sprouting up across America, the UK and even Japan.
Being a fan of one of those 80s properties is easy. But being a fan of Ghostbusters? That takes a little more patience.
Extreme Ghostbusters came and went during 1997 with little to no fanfare (and perhaps a lot of internet bitching) and after it was gone… nothing. For seven freakin’ years. Merchandise in that time span was scant; I remember being thrilled when I heard that Hot Topic would be carrying (get ready for this) a t-shirt with the Ghostbusters logo on it! When magazines like Wizard: The Guide to Comics would run nostalgia articles and briefly mention the Ghostbusters, that was cause to sound the alarms and let fans across the globe know that people still remembered who the damn Ghostbusters were.
Hey, when your beloved childhood obsession has been overlooked for nearly a decade, you take what you can get.
And speaking of taking what we could get, that segues nicely into the topic of this article: The Ghostbusters comic published by the thoroughly bankrupt 88 MPH Studio. In 2004, 88 MPH’s owner, Sebastian Clavet (under the internet handle “Red Ketchup”) let the fans know that he’d secured the license to publish his own Ghostbusters comic book series; a 4-issue story called “Legion”. The book was solicited for February of 2004 and there was much rejoicing.
Then February came and went with no comic. Then March. But finally, April saw issue #1’s release! Woohoo! (If that two-month delay sounds suspicious, just hold on; there’ll be plenty more on that after I review the comic-itself.)
Ghostbusters: Legion #1-4 and “The Zeddemore Factor”
Story: Andrew Dabb
Pencils: Steve Kurth
Inks: Pierre-Andre Derry, Chuck Gibson, Serge LaPointe, Michel Lacombe, Ulises Grostieto, Jimmy Reyes, Marco Galli (Really? 7 inkers for 4 issues? Are you kidding me?)
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Editor/Perpetual Screw-Up: Sebastian Clavet
As “Legion” begins, we learn some interesting facts from the lengthy “story up until now” summary on the inside cover. The events of the first Ghostbusters film happened exactly as you saw them in the movie… except they occurred in 2004 instead of 1984. “Legion” picks up six months after the conclusion of the film. Needless to say, Ghostbusters II was deemed non-canon. “But I LIKED Ghostbusters II!” you say? Shaddup. Kurth and Clavet know what’s best.
As the story begins, the Ghostbusters are all going about their daily paces while suffering their own individual dramas. Well, except for Winston. Because nobody seems to care about Winston. Anyway, Ray is in the throes of depression, as he ponders whether the work they do is really changing the world or if they’re little more than a fad. Janine is still experimenting with various Cosmo and Vogue-inspired methods of getting Egon’s attention; to no success. And Peter is having trouble with his romance with Dana Barrett, as his career and celebrity status keeps interrupting their dates (to say nothing of the now-filthy-rich Louis Tully trying to weasel in and snatch Dana for himself).
But the problems in their personal lives soon pale in comparison to their biggest threat since Gozer: Michael Draverhaven.
… Who the Hell is Michael Draverhaven?
Oh no! Michael Draverhaven has escaped! This is a big deal! Seriously! He’s, like, important and stuff! Like, you don’t even KNOW, man!
As it turns out, back in their college days, Peter, Egon and Ray had a fourth member of their paranormal investigation group: Michael Draverhaven. However, when an experiment to open a dimensional doorway to the Spirit World backfired and Draverhaven was injured in the explosion, he subsequently lost his mind, attempted to kill Ray and was permanently incarcerated in a sanitarium. Michael, however, bided his time by developing the power to summon and control ghosts.
Using a mind-controlled Slimer to break free from the asylum, Draverhaven initiates his scheme to get revenge on the Ghostbusters and overrun New York City with legions of ghosts. And once New York falls, the rest of the world will soon follow.
Andrew Dabb’s overall story for “Legion” is full of interesting ideas and stars a somewhat fascinating villain, but unfortunately the execution tends to steamroll over those better qualities. To start with the villain, Draverhaven is actually pretty cool in his basically being a human clairvoyant that uses mind-control to makes ghosts rob banks and follow various strategies for his benefit. He actually has some great moments throughout the miniseries, particularly when he confronts Ray and tells him about the dialogues he’s had with the spirits; that they actually fear the Ghostbusters the way humans fear ghosts and even tell one another “Ghostbusters stories”.
Regrettably, everything else about the bad guy is pretty dire (including his ridiculous name). His origin as basically the “Pete Best” of the Ghostbusters feels way too forced, particularly the awkward drama of “Oh no! Michael Draverhaven has escaped!” “Gasp! THE Michael Draverhaven!” “Yes! HIM! That important guy from our past we never mentioned until JUST RIGHT NOW!” It’s pretty groan-worthy. And though Dabb tries to put a lampshade on his world domination scheme in the last issue by having Peter scoff at the cliché, that doesn’t make it any less shallow. Lastly, his defeat feels rushed as all Hell (a scaffolding falls on him and puts him in a coma so he can’t control ghosts anymore).
Dabb’s handle on the characters can be pretty frustrating, too. As I joked earlier, he has positively no idea what to do with Winston (MANY writers suffer this problem, even Aykroyd and Ramis) and so Winston basically falls into the background or simply reads bland lines that could have belonged to any other character. As for the rest, Dabb seems to understand the humorous quirks to them fairly well, especially Peter’s sarcasm and laidback attitude, but he’s constantly punctuating the humor with awkward moments of heavy drama; mostly stemming from Ray.
Just what Ghostbusters was always missing: Drawn-out conversations about failure.”
The drama is the most irritating aspect of “Legion”, as Ray is constantly bathed in shadow and drooping and wondering if his life has any meaning, getting in conversations with each character about the subject throughout the course of the book. Dabb seemed to interpret Ray’s youthful enthusiasm as masking a sort of bipolar disorder, so Ray is repeatedly having highs and lows at random. This runs pretty counter to the character and seems included for no other reason than to add a layer of “gritty darkness” to the Ghostbusters. And jeez, dude, Ghostbusters was a comedy. Did you watch the same movie as the rest of us?
Then there’s Louis Tully and Dana Barrett. I was thrilled to see Dana come back, as she’s made very few appearances beyond the movies. Unfortunately, she’s just an object for Peter and Louis to fight over for a few pages in each issue and doesn’t amount to much. Louis’s characterization is the worst artifact of Dabb trying to “grimdark” the Ghostbusters universe. Where he was a silly, lovesick nerd out of his league in the first film, now he’s a millionaire womanizer that actively stalks Dana. There’s a scene at the end where he tries to buy Dana from Peter, and before that, there’s an ever worse scene where he watches Dana through a door-crack, his face bathed in shadow to look all menacing.
Because that seems perfectly in-character, sure.
Again, Dabb’s biggest flaw is trying way too hard to inject “grittiness” into the Ghostbusters universe, going so far as to completely mangle established characters in the process. And I won’t even get started on all the cigarette smoking. I know they smoked like there was no tomorrow in the first film, but it’s hardly some cornerstone of Peter and Ray’s character. Having them incessantly stuffing Marlboros into their mouths and taking drags, again, just seems like shorthand for “See? Look how MATURE our Ghostbusters comic is!”
Steve Kurth’s pencils are full of excellent layouts and probably the real selling point of this miniseries. I don’t always care for his faces, as they have this lumpy, faux-Frank Quitely style that rubs me the wrong way, but the guy’s got a great sense of action and expression and he can draw quite a lot of vehicles and architecture that sells the authenticity of the world. There’s no corner-cutting with Kurth. The colors by “Blond” also help sell the thing, as this book practically glows. I didn’t quite care for “Blond’s” habit of coloring all the ghosts with a single candy-color; all-red, all-blue, all-green, etc. While I understand that was typical for some of the ghosts in the first movie (the green Slimer, the blue subway bat-thing), the effect ends up looking like a roll of Lifesavers has come to life and seeks vengeance on humanity.
Ectoplasm hasn’t looked this delicious since Hi-C came out with Ecto Cooler.
A fifth issue was produced as a #0 of sorts and distributed at the San Diego ComiCon. It was later colorized and collected in the Titan Published trade paperback of “Legion”, published only in the UK. “The Zeddemore Factor” takes place during the events of the first film, chronicling Winston’s very first bust.
Written by Dabb and drawn by Billy Dallas Patton (a name so American I’d be disappointed if he isn’t a giant bald eagle with machine gun arms), Winston is having doubts about his new job (which he’s only 4 hours into). He joins his new teammates for a bust at the Natural History Museum, where a flock of monster bats have taken over the dinosaur exhibit. When the bats pin down the other three Ghostbusters, Winston has to pull through by showing grit and determination when it matters most (basically, he throws a bunch of traps at the same time and catches the bats all at once).
I mentioned earlier that Dabb didn’t have much of a handle on Winston in “Legion”, so “The Zeddemore Factor” seemed like his opportunity to redeem himself. Well, he doesn’t really do much with the story of “Winston’s first bust” (which had a lot of potential to be interesting) and tells a rather bland tale where the resolution really doesn’t have much to do with Winston’s unique character traits, though I guess it illustrated that he’s courageous under fire or something.
Winston isn’t the easiest character to write, I know. He’s the personification of the audience; the everyman, the new guy, the dude hired off the street and the only one with the clarity of mind to realize that their job is insane. And under the wrong writer, that can make him very boring as he’s outmuscled by the stronger personalities of Peter, Egon and Ray. But a good writer knows how to take Winston and portray him as “the practical mind in an insane world” and draw humor from it. Erik Burnham has been doing it in the current Ghostbusters on-going series from IDW, and many writers succeeded at it over the course of The Real Ghostbusters. Andrew Dabb, unfortunately, just didn’t know what to do with the guy and it really, painfully shows.
As for All-American Billy Dallas Cheeseburger Stars And Stripes Patton, his pencils are good and he definitely draws faces better than Kurth. He seems to be following the same style guide, save Winston having a moustache (which I prefer over the naked lip version). The inks, though, lack proper lineweight and the skeletal bat monsters actually blend in with the dinosaur skeletons on exhibit; you have to take a second to realize that there are ghosts in the room. I don’t own the Titan trade, so I can’t comment on the colorized version, but I imagine it helps to solve that problem.
The mediocre story was the least of this comic’s worries, I’m sorry to say.
Sebastian Clavet was an individual that had no business, um, running a business. The delays on this supposedly monthly series were beyond epic. Issue #1, cover dated February 2004, came out in April 2004. Issue #2, cover dated March 2004, came out in July 2004. Issue #3, cover dated April 2004, came out in November 2004. And issue #4, cover dated May 2004, came out in January 2005 (that’s over half a year late, by the way). This was absolutely infuriating at the time.
But Clavet’s incompetence and inability to get so much as ONE issue out on time didn’t keep him from soliciting an on-going series, down to summaries of the first three issues with promotional covers by Kurth. Obviously, that never happened. Even worse, he also took preorders through the 88 MPH Studios website for a hardcover collection of “Legion”. Not only did that product never materialize, neither did refunds for the individuals who sent him their money.
And that wasn’t some one-off fluke of Clavet’s, either. He pulled a similar stunt with preorders plus exclusive lithograph for the hardcover art book Transformers: Genesis. That product did actually get released (through the more competent comic publisher, Image), but Clavet once again never sent copies out to fill preorders made through his site and never sent refunds, either. Hasbro actually sued him for that one, to which he countersued them. No idea how that turned out.
At best, Sebastian Clavet is completely incompetent. At worst, he’s a thief. I have a feeling that those out there still waiting for their refunds to arrive in the mail have determined which.
Rereading “Legion” for the first time in many years so that I could write this article, I’ve found that elements of it have aged well while others have not. I love the art and coloring and it’s easily the best-looking Ghostbusters comic we’d gotten, at least until Dan Schoening took up art duties on IDW’s Ghostbusters on-going (which is incredible and you should be reading it). Andrew Dabb, though he had some interesting ideas, was ill-suited to execute them and they wind up being squandered in the final product. The relentless “bipolar” way of punctuating the humor with unwelcomed drama and the very awkward attempts to “grimdark” things feels insincere, artificial and just totally wrong for the Ghostbusters franchise.
“Legion” is definitely better than IDW’s initial attempts at Ghostbusters storytelling (the positively dreadful “The Other Side” and “Displaced Aggression”), but that only makes it the lesser of several evils. I don’t know if I’d really recommend it to anybody, as it’s a total footnote that ascribes to no continuity, old or new, and is utterly forgettable. However, having been published in ridiculous numbers thanks to having come out during the 80s nostalgia boom of the early 00s, you can acquire each issue for a couple bucks a piece, so it is easy to find and easy to afford.
The worst offense of “Legion”, I guess, is that it didn’t just fail, but it failed *so hard* that it took almost another 7 years to get a new Ghostbusters comic. The damn thing practically executed the brand as a viable license in the eyes of Sony.
The *other* worst offense of “Legion”? Moments like THIS:
“Shhhh. It’ll all be okay, Ray. Egon will take care of you. Now come to bed.”