This November, "Ghost" returns to comic shops as a new ongoing series from Dark Horse Comics. following the success of the recent miniseries, Kelly Sue DeConnick is back to write the initial arc of the new series, joined by collaborator, writer Christopher Sebela, and featuring artwork by Ryan Sook.
"Ghost" follows Elisa Cameron, a reporter in the city of Chicago who was ripped out of the land of the living by occult forces. Having been brought back to the earthly plane in not-quite-corporeal form, Cameron has set out to right the wrongs committed by those who banished her. As the first miniseries concluded, Elisa had pieced together some traces of her past, though many questions continued to linger. And though she's managed to excise a few demons from those in power, she's also learned that at least 32 beasts still walk the streets of Chicago in human guise.
Comic Book Resources spoke with DeConnick and Sebela about the announcement of the new ongoing series, their collaborative process and how to succesfully ground the supernatural in the everyday for "Ghost."
CBR News: Now that your first "Ghost" miniseries has wrapped up, what are your thoughts about the characters and story so far? Did you expect to be returning for an ongoing series?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: It would be disingenuous of me to pretend I didn't see it coming. Dark Horse went deep to support us on that book -- you don't do that if you've only got a small project in mind.
That said, I figured they were planning to do a "Ghost" ongoing, but I never took for granted that I'd be writing it. I'm glad, though -- obviously -- because I did develop a real affection for these characters.
Christopher Sebela will be joining you in writing the ongoing. The two of have worked together in the past, joining forces most recently on some "Captain Marvel" issues. How did your collaborations get started, and what's your working process like?
DeConnick: I developed such an affection for these characters, that when the ongoing became a reality and I was offered the gig, I wanted to do it even though there really wasn't room in my schedule.
Enter Christopher Sebela.
As you say, Chris and I had worked together before on "Captain Marvel." This is different, though. I don't want to downplay Chris's contributions to "Captain Marvel" -- some of the best bits of the issues we did together were his ideas -- but I felt very protective of "my voice" on that book and we were developing stories that I had already, at least roughly, sketched out. Here, on "Ghost," I've let loose of the reins significantly more. I had no plan for the ongoing -- Chris and I came into this together. In fact, the main plot line was his -- the subplot was mine -- at least in the beginning.
Christopher Sebela: Kelly Sue and I have known each for what seems like forever now, and we'd started working on a creator-owned book two years ago that sort of lost its wheels. So, when she asked if I wanted to help out on "Captain Marvel" -- I didn't have to think twice. While it was fun, it was also supremely terrifying -- that book is so much hers that I felt very odd coming onto it and did my best to contribute without getting in her way. It was a lot of fun and I'm excited to have contributed what little bits I have to the "Captain Marvel" mythos.
With "Ghost," it feels very much like our book. I got asked to join on as the first mini was in progress, so with the playing field we had in front of us, we just talked about stuff we'd like to do, things we'd like to see: locations, action scenes, whatever popped into our heads. With "Captain Marvel," plots and arcs were already established when I showed up, but here, we're both in it from the ground floor.
DeConnick: And Chris is from Chicago! I'm not. I visited once -- well, I visited more than once -- but I visited once specifically as a "Ghost" research trip, and one visit can't really compare to having lived there. Remember, "Ghost" is a book with the city of Chicago as very much a part of the story. As cliché as it is to say, it's another character.
As to how we work together, the usual structure is for us to talk out a basic plot line and break it down. Then Chris does the first draft of the script, I do the second and generally the third after notes. With the "Ghost" ongoing, there were several rounds of notes at the outline stage, most all of which Chris handled -- and deftly, I might add.
Answering questions like this is always a difficult because you want to make certain everyone gets credit for their work, but sometimes it's hard to assign credit, you know? Like, who's idea was "blank?" Sometimes you know -- sometimes you remember, sometimes you don't. Sometimes the idea went back and forth so many times that there's no honest way one of you really could claim ownership of it. That's the beauty of collaboration.
Sebela: It's very casual. I can just hit Kelly Sue up with a random idea and she'll shoot straight and tell me if it sucks or not, or how to make it work without sucking, and I try to do the same in response. We're super casual in our working process, because there's no learning curve there.
At the conclusion of the miniseries, Elisa has a few answers, and she and her team have recovered 32 crystals representing 32 demons walking the streets of Chicago. I imagine this is the seed from which the new series will grow -- what's next in Elisa's story?
DeConnick: You imagine correctly!
She's been rounding up those demons, looking for answers. What['s the] larger plan? Why are they here? She also had to find a place to live.
Sebela: The demons are definitely Ghost's main crusade, but we're also going to be charting Elisa's way in this world she got ripped out of and yanked back into. She doesn't know about herself and she [has] to relearn a lot of stuff about herself, her team members and her city, which is affected by lots of bad things that aren't demons.
What can we expect to be in store for Vaughn and the rest of the supporting cast? How are their relationships evolving?
Sebela: This new arc picks up a few months after the end of the last one -- I think I can say that, I hope I can say that, I just said that -- so there've been changes with everyone since they took out the mayor. They're teammates now, they've been in battle together -- that changes things a lot. We'll see them adjusting to all this new weirdness and dealing with their own lives outside of helping take out demons.
DeConnick: How can we answer that without spoilers? Um -- Tommy has a special lady in his life. How's that?
With the Demon excised from the mayor, it's clear that he may not be the evil mastermind -- can we expect the emergence of a new nemesis?
DeConnick: Is that clear? Really?
Sebela: The less said about all this the better, but rest assured, Elisa is going to have a lot of stuff on her plate in the coming issues.
Kelly Sue, you mentioned a couple of times the affection you've come to feel for these characters -- for each of you, what do you find compelling about Elisa's character?
DeConnick: Her doggedness. It predates her trauma and is probably the reason she survived it.
Sebela: Even after going to Hell and back, with no memories and stumbling into this mission, she's still doing the job and trying to get back who she used to be. It'd be easy for her to slip into revenge mode or just check out entirely, but that's not who she is, or it's not who she wants to be.
Ryan Sook is coming on board to handle the artwork -- what are you seeing his work bring to the story? Is there a shift in the tone of the book as you begin working with him?
DeConnick: Oh, sure. I think if your story doesn't change to suit the artist, you're doing it wrong. Ryan's work is very dynamic. I think [you'll] be excited by what you see.
Sebela: Ryan is amazing, so he's bringing suitcases full of amazement to "Ghost." Every artist brings their own sensibilities and you have to try and write with an eye towards what fits in their sandbox. We've definitely written this first arc with his strengths in mind and come up with a lot of action-packed and spooky-atmospheric stuff for him to dig into. I think when people see it, it's gonna be a whole lot of excited screaming on the Internet.
Even the most awesome plot or storyline will fall apart if the characters aren't fully realized, something "Ghost" has done very well. It seems like a lot of that character development happens in the more mundane moments of a story, when people are just hanging out and interacting with each other. I'm wondering how you think about those "regular life" moments, or how you approach grounding a supernatural story in the real world.
Sebela: "Regular life" problems are what make them fun to read and fun to write. There's nothing exciting about rooting for a hero because you're told that you're supposed to. There's nothing enjoyable about writing characters if they're just little robots that do what you say. Making characters you care about is half the battle. The other half is throwing horrible things at them and seeing how they react.
I think what's most effective in horror and supernatural stories is reeling people in with familiarity and then yanking the rug out from underneath them. Chicago is our anchor of familiarity, we want to make the most out of the city as another character in the book and look at some of the darker things that might be hiding inside it.
DeConnick: I think every story--supernatural or not--needs to be grounded in authentic characters. If you buy them, if you care about them, then the rest is cake.