Do you know what’s happening this week?!? Ghostbusters is coming back to the big screen (in select cinemas of course). Since our local theatre is one of the lucky ones, you can bet I’ll be there – seeing it as many times as possible. Woo hoo!!! Given the fact that Ghostbusters is one of the greatest movies of all time and has continued on in an incredibly fun (and faithful) IDW comic series, I figured it was time to talk a little ghosts and ghostbusting. Call it fate. Call it luck. Call it karma…I believe I was destined to write this post.
The Ghostbusters and I go way back. One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about my return to comic books is the ability to reconnect with all these characters I loved as a kid. I’ve found Spidey, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so much more all over again. As a kid, I loved the Ghostbusters! My brother and I watched all of their cartoons. We ran around the house carrying our Proton Packs, PKE meters, and traps. And, one magical day, my Uncle Joe gave us a once-blank VHS tape on which he had recorded the original Ghostbusters from a television broadcast for us. It was a revelation! Here were Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter in real life! Slimer was there too! And the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man! It became one of those movies that played on a seemingly endless loop through my childhood.
I would meet the Ghostbusters again as an adult about fifteen years ago. Before I was a Theology teacher I was a Youth Minister. Ahh, they were good times – so many theological hijinks. Anyway, once we were taking some Youth Group students on a ski trip and were looking for movies for the bus. The other chaperon and I both loved Ghostbusters as kids and thought it would be the perfect choice. For a religious group bus trip. With middle schoolers. And a few parents too. You may’ve already guessed where this is going. That was the day I learned just how much sexual innuendo is in Ghostbusters. I had no idea! It went right over my head as a kid! But it was awkwardly obvious as we drove. I realized “Gate Keeper” and “Key Master” had a whole other meaning.
It didn’t sully my opinion of the film. In fact, it gave me a whole new dimension to appreciate as an adult! I might love Ghostbusters even more as an adult than I did as a kid – or at least I love it as much but in a brand new way. For me, it’s one of those perfect films. Every dimension of the film is perfect. It never stops begin funny, thrilling, and enjoyable, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And I’ve seen the movie a lot. It’s in the illustrious group of films I can quote line for line AND (with the exception of Dumb & Dumber) there’s no movie I quote more often than Ghostbusters. It even ranks as one of my five desert island movies. You know the situation; you’re trapped on a desert island (that has electricity and a means of projecting films albeit no feasible means of escape) for the rest of your life and can only choose five films to take with you. No question – Ghostbusters is on the list.
The Ghostbusters have even helped me in my romantic life! When I started dating Kalie I discovered she was a horror movie enthusiast. I was not. At all. Before we started dating the number of horror films I’d seen was zero. But since (apparently) you share each other’s interests in a relationship I’ve braced myself, tried to find inner bravery, and dived into the genre. Over time I’ve come to appreciate horror in its own way…but it was a long time coming. So when we’d watch horror movies I’d often play a game I called “When would I call the Ghostbusters?”
It’s an easy game. You begin by watching a horror movie. You enjoy the start of the film where everyone’s alive and part of a happy family. As things start to get weird and go south you put yourself in the character’s shoes. If you’re imagining it’s real and imagining it’s happening to you it’s not a far stretch to imagine that the Ghostbusters are also real. Then you just say, “If this was happening to my family/house/child/significant other/self/etc., when would I call the Ghostbusters?” From that point on you watch a different movie in your head, the one where the Ghostbusters arrive and save the day. They’re always ready to believe you when you call and the ghost never has a chance. Those versions of the films tend to be happier and are always funnier too.
It’s an interesting thing about horror movies, they always try to give you a deep and disturbing look at the darkness but they rarely offer a balanced force on the light side (no Star Wars pun intended) to counter or challenge the dark. All mythologies, all theologies, that present some vision of Evil offer some vision of Truth or the Good to oppose (and ultimately triumph over) it. But that’s rarely the case in horror films where the good, God, the Light, or whatever you want to call it is comically impotent at best or completely absent at worst. I get it though; that’s how those films have to function. If you have an angelic force of equal or greater power Bughuul isn’t as scary anymore. It is certainly a more accurate (not to mention healthy) theology but Sinister isn’t looking to offer a balanced theology/mythology. It’s looking to scare the shit out of me. And it did! That’s why I had to call in the Ghostbusters…at least in my head.
As big of a baby as I am in real life, I still (not so) secretly think being a Ghostbuster would be my dream job. I can’t envision myself doing anything other than/loving something more than teaching…except maybe being a Ghostbuster. How cool would that be?!? No job would be too big; no fee would be too big. I’m not talking a lame, “real life” paranormal investigator with infrared cameras and a ghost reality show on TLC or something like that. I’m not even talking the Insidious-esque movie versions of those crews that get to face off against real ghosts. I’m talking a real, live scientist with a real, live unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back. I seriously think I could do it! Right?? I’d have the tools…and I’d have the talent! ALSO ghostbusting is essentially nonviolent so I wouldn’t even have to forsake my pacifistic nature to do the job!!! This wasn’t something I understood (or even noticed) as a child, but it’s something I love as an adult. The Ghostbusters aren’t out to destroy the ghosts. They don’t even really hurt them. They contain them. If the spirits are just chillin’ and doing their thing, they leave them unmolested. The ones who are being violent or scary however, they hold with their proton streams, suck into their trap, and then deposit in their state of the art containment unit. The Ghostbusters are nonviolent superheroes. It is the greatest thing ever!
When I was a kid, Egon was my favorite. He still is actually. I would always pretend to be him when we were little. (David, loved (and still loves) Winston.) I loved that he was the brains behind the outfit. I loved that he was the one who’d build and maintain everything. I loved that he could always rationalize his way out of whatever problem they faced. I even loved the big, blonde…whatever it was on his head in the cartoon version. There was nothing he couldn’t do with his mind. Egon was my man! However, after a lengthy discussion at work with my friend Hannah (we were putting ourselves and some of our coworkers into Ghostbuster roles based on our personalities) I’ve had to accept that perhaps, in real life, I couldn’t cut it as Egon. Without hesitation (and backed by a surprisingly in-depth character analysis) she made the convincing case that I’m actually Peter. Among many other points, I was “more like a game show host” than the rest of us. Sigh. But even if Pete is more my spirit animal than Egon, I’ll take it. I’m still a Ghostbuster right?!?
However, I can’t be a Ghostbuster in real life (at least not yet!). That means I’ll have to just stick with letting people know, as best I can as a Theology teacher, that no one steps on a church in my town. That also means I have to leave ghosts and ghostbusting to Egon, Winston, Ray, and Peter. At least the job’s in capable hands! Believe me, I know how skilled they are.
I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve seen Ghostbusters. But if I had to guess I’d put it around…nowhere near enough. I can say how many times I’ve seen Ghostbusters 2 though. I’ve seen it two and a half times. The first, in the theatre, when I was seven. It scared the hell out of me! The ooze…Viggo…poor Oscar…ugh. But that’s the story for another post. I watched about ten minutes of it on Comedy Central (the courtroom scene) a few years ago and thought it wasn’t so bad…but I remained hesitant.
But Kalie, with her love of chasing fear and frights, encouraged me to watch it with her. She reasoned after Sinister, Insidious, The Shining, and the like it couldn’t still scare me. Do you know what happened? She was right!!! I actually thought it was a really fun movie and had a great message too. Of course NOTHING can compare to the original Ghostbusters but I still liked it.
But with just two movies (and no natural talent for and/or interest in video games) the story of the cinematic versions of Ray, Peter, Winston, and Egon stopped there…until I discovered IDW’s Ghostbusters comic series. I met their comic incarnations at the same time I met IDW’s version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in what literary scholars will undoubtedly end up declaring the GREATEST COMPOSITION IN HUMAN HISTORY. Did you know the Ghostbusters and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have actually teamed up????? If you didn’t know that, let me help you. Go to Amazon now and buy the trade paperback of the four issue miniseries. How good was this comic? Well I now own every Ghostbusters comic IDW’s published and I’ve collected their complete Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series as well. The quality that I found in this team-up volume was consistent across all the titles, only growing in complexity, depth, and entertainment the more I knew the characters.
IDW’s Ghostbusters title has run inconsistently since 2011 – with two regular monthly series as well as several miniseries over the course of the last five years. Currently Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston are starring in their third monthly series – Ghostbusters International – where they travel the globe to help with paranormal problems. Erik Burnham, author of the Ghostbusters titles, manages to not only perfectly capture the characters in the films (while also expanding their stories in an organic way) but anchor the ghosts they face in all manner of authentic history, mythology, fables, and folk tales.
In so doing, the Ghostbusters have faced some dark and twisted demons. Drawing from Russian folklore for example, they encounter a being who can’t die…but continues to age. They also do Krampus in a way that’s creepier than the 2015 film (which you can read about here). Their trademark humor remains intact and they good guys are there to win (unlike the traditional exploits of those who live in horror films) but there is an edge to many of their exploits. In addition to evolving the characters, Burnham also builds on the original stories of the films and then expands the mythology there as well, all while keeping with the characters’ history and personality.
One of the most exciting ways they have expanded the Ghostbusters’ story is with their expanded cast. Peter, Egon, Ray, Winston, Janine, Slimer, Dana Barrett, Louis Tully, and even Walter Peck are there. But we also meet FBI Special Agent Melanie Ortiz, occasional bureau liaison to and partner with the Ghostbusters. Then there’s Kylie Griffin, the assistant at Ray’s Occult Bookstore who proves an invaluable research assistant (and also occasional Ghostbuster). The rookie character from the video game is around too, leading a Ghostbusters branch in Chicago. And then there’s ubber douche Ron Alexander who began by creating a rival team called the Ghost Smashers (with stolen tech) before becoming an unlikely (and unlikable) ally. He often works out of the Chicago branch too. Jenny Moran, one-time Ghost Smasher and long-time Ghostbuster admirer, works as the municipal liaison to the office as well through the Paranormal Contracts Oversight Commission. There’s also the seeds of romance brewing between her and a certain “heart of the Ghostbusters”… The cast is so rich and I want to learn more about them!
From the characters to the challenges to the witty dialogue, IDW’s Ghostbusters does right by the films. It’s not just the films that are represented though. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most postmodern crossovers ever as the Ghostbusters meet…their cartoon selves. I kid you not. It was wild! Given how much I loved the cartoons though, the miniseries did not disappoint! Shortly after I first finished the Ghostbusters/Turtles crossover, I ordered the two massive volumes from Amazon that collect all of the IDW Ghostbuster comics up to the crossover with themselves. I devoured the volumes (each over 400 pages) in a week. They were so good! If you like the Ghostbusters, do yourself a favor and check out these titles at some point in time. You…you’ve earned it.
If nothing else, we all need more Ghostbusters in our lives for the sage wisdom they provide. Speaking both as wishful would-be Ghostbuster and a seasoned Theology teacher I can tell you…if someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes. Trust me, it’s just good advice.
Now, it feels like I’ve fulfilled my destiny. It feels good. I wanted to prove myself to you. You’re probably saying, “That Michael Miller is a guy who can get things done. I wonder what makes him tick? I wonder if he’d be interested in knowing what makes me tick?” I bet you’ll be thinking about me, after I’m gone. But don’t worry, another post is coming soon.