UPDATE: Comments on "Ghost" from Dark Horse President Mike Richardson have been added at the end of this interview.
One of Dark Horse's greatest heroines makes her triumphant return this summer in June's "Dark Horse Presents" #13. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Phil Noto, the serieal will reintroduce the world to Ghost, the avenging spirit of a murdered journalist, in a three-part story.
The character originally debuted in 1993 as part of Dark Horse's Comics' Greatest World line, a shared superhero universe. Written by Erik Luke and illustrated by a number of artists including an up-and-comer named Adam Hughes, "Ghost" proved to be the imprint's most enduring success, remaining a regular part of Dark Horse's line-up through 1998.
Comic Book Resources spoke with DeConnick and Noto to discuss "Ghost" past, present and future, mystery boxes and new friends and environs to look for in the "Dark Horse Presents" serial.
CBR News: Were either of you familiar with the original Ghost series, or are you coming to this take on the character completely fresh?
Phil Noto: I have some early issues. It was actually one of the few books I picked up in the '90s when I was getting back into comics, due in large part to the Adam Hughes art.
Kelly Sue DeConnick: I was only superficially acquainted with the series when Patrick [Thorpe, Dark Horse editor] approached me. I have since become very familiar with it! We're starting fresh, but I'd be an idiot not to know the original material very well before embarking on something like this.
What is the appeal to you of the concept, and what are you hoping to emphasize in your take on "Ghost?"
DeConnick: I love a good mystery. That's what we're trying to do here -- produce a good, solid, satisfying mystery.
We talked a lot at our first meeting about JJ Abrams and his concept of the mystery box; about how to layer those mysteries so that we can provide satisfying answers every time we opened a box but... also have each one of those answers introducing a box.
There's nothing I enjoy more as a reader -- or, really, as a consumer of any kind of fiction, TV, movies, even games -- than genuinely having no idea where a plot is going next. That is the experience we are trying to create.
Thematically, I'm playing with the idea of "truth seekers" and the different ways in which the idea can be expressed. Also been looking at noir/femme fatale tropes and thinking about ways to turn them.
Noto: The Ghost is such a great character and this is definitely a great time to update her a bit. I have to admit, Kelly Sue writing the project was what sealed it for me. I love the combination of the retro-noir and contemporary media culture. I'm looking forward to creating a gritty modern world and characters along with stylized elements from the '40s.
So, will the "DHP" story continue on from the original "Ghost" series, or is this a reboot?
DeConnick: This will be a reboot.
The first installment will actually be told from the point of view of our second lead -- a man by the name of Vaughn Barnes, a journalist who's fallen from grace. In his second act, he's the right-hand man to a late-night cable television ghost hunter. He's gone from being one sort of truth seeker to another. He kind of hates himself right now -- and honestly, he's not wrong to do so. He has made some terrible mistakes; he's betrayed his own values. When the Ghost appears, it's like an invitation from the universe to remember the man he used to be, to try to be that man again.
What else can you tell us about the story you'll be telling in "Dark Horse Presents?"
DeConnick: The Ghost doesn't know anything more about her story the reader does. You know how fun it is to read a good mystery novel, to work alongside the detective feeling as though your putting the clues together at the same time? Or, I don't know, maybe this is just me, but I'm always in a race with the protagonist hoping that I will solve the mystery first. Maybe that speaks to my own ego, I don't know.
The Ghost and the reader will be solving this mystery together. She comes into the world without a name, this woman in white. She has these gifts, these abilities, but no idea who she was or is or what she was or is, no idea what happened to her.
In the original "Ghost," the city of Arcadia in the Comics' Greatest World universe was a character in itself. Visually and story-wise, what aspects of the city are you hoping to bring out in the "DHP" story?
DeConnick: We talked a lot about the city as a character in the development of this series. Arcadia was off the table, but we talked a lot about developing another fictional location. We even got to the point of starting to map it out and debating names, but ultimately we decided to set our "Ghost" in the real world, in a real city -- real Chicago.
I love it. I learned so much about Chicago in this process, and it just couldn't be more perfect. Chicago is very definitely another character in ghost.
Noto: And it's a perfect excuse to visit Chicago!
CBR News: Mike, What can you tell us about how Ghost began at Dark Horse?
Mike Richardson: We had always planned to introduce our own characters and I began putting ideas to paper in '90. I brought Chris Warner in to do some designs and then brought in some of the editors, particularly Randy Stradley, to work with me creatively. The idea was to create a world with a singular event that created numerous people that had been "altered." Ghost was one of them. Interesting to note that originally I had originally planned Ghost as a male hero.
Ghost was one of the real standout characters from the Comics' Greatest World line. What do you feel contributed to her lasting appeal?
Richardson: Ghost is an intriguing character from a story standpoint. She's someone who thinks herself dead, and has no memory of who she was or how she got that way. While seeking answers, she uncovers an enormous plot. There's a fun mystery box to open. It doesn't hurt that she looks good in costume.
Why revisit Ghost now?
Richardson: As with many costumed characters from a variety of companies, good titles never die, they just get revamped. Kelly Sue was right on target and Phil is a terrific artist.
"The Ghost" makes her presence known this June in "Dark Horse Presents" #13.