Image Comics recently had an interview with Five Ghosts creators Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham. Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray was originally a five-issue mini-series written by Barbiere and illustrated by Mooneyham. Five Ghosts is a pulp adventure comic that started as a Kickstarter Project. The self-published comic proved successful and was picked up by Image Comics. Due to it's popularity, Image turned it into an Ongoing series with issue #6 in October 2013. Here is part of that interview.
Image Comics: Some creators have stories they've been wanting to tell since they were kids, while others describe the origins of their stories as pure inspiration one day. What was the gestation process like for FIVE GHOSTS?
Frank Barbiere: I’d say that FIVE GHOSTS is a mix of both—a moment of true inspiration and a love letter to all the different genres, stories, and ideas I’ve had storming around in my head from youth. I had met Chris when he was still a student at The Kubert School and we had been collaborating for over a year already when I thought of FIVE GHOSTS. I was an English teacher at the time, so I certainly had a lot of literary material kicking around in my head, but I was very inspired by Chris’s style. The first Parker graphic novel had come out, and Chris and I were talking about how we’d love to do something pulpy/period-driven. We had agreed we’d love to do something about a rogue/thief type character and started talking about Indiana Jones as a touchstone. I was literally in bed one night running different ideas through my head and was very focused on trying to come up with something to set our main character apart from just an adventurer. I randomly thought "what if he had detective powers, and could be hyper-attentive..." and from there I thought "What if he could channel Sherlock Holmes?" Once I locked into that, I naturally extended it into "What other literary characters would be of use to a thief?" From there, Chris started sketching and I wrote the first issue during my lunch breaks over the next week. Once we had the central conceit and knew a bit about the world, it became an exercise for me to figure out what the nature of these "ghosts" would be, how our character got these abilities, and what the opposition was. That’s when I realized we had the opportunity to throw in even more literary ideas and the controlling theme of "Where do stories come from and how do they affect our lives?" Since then, FIVE GHOSTS has been the perfect vehicle for us to put all of our different ideas, loves, and genres we’re passionate into. It’s really a dream project, no pun intended, and we’re very happy to have it at Image where we have no editorial mandates and can bounce around from genre to genre on a whim.
Chris Mooneyham: Frank pretty much nailed this one.
IC: FIVE GHOSTS is an adventure tale, which is a genre with a long history, both in comics and pop culture in general. What are you favorite entries in the genre, whether they influenced FIVE GHOSTS or not?
FB: As I mentioned, I feel like Indiana Jones was my big touchstone (and entry point) into pulp adventure. One thing I often comment on is how the current generation of writers produce really interesting work because our concepts of genre are normally informed by works such as Indy, where it was a very distilled piece of pulp that had a bunch of other of Lucas’s interests in it as well. This allows a very fresh take on genre, in our case adventure, and I think my idea of the genre is very different from someone else’s. Chris’s style, as well as Lauren Affe’s colors, really make it gel on the page and turn FIVE GHOSTS into a unique book. I’m a huge fan of a lot of adventure stuff, and particular in comics I have recently discovered Corto Maltese which is just amazing. I’d be remiss to not mention League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which our book shares a lot of DNA with. Whereas Moore’s work tends to focus a lot more on the literary, I always like to say FIVE GHOSTS wears the literary on its sleeve and is much more of an action/adventure.
CM: Indiana Jones was definitely our main source of inspiration in the adventure aspect. But I'd also throw in The Mummy, and The Phantom, too. Yes. The movies. Comics-wise, (for me, anyway), I'd say Marvel's Bronze Age titles like Tomb of Dracula and Conan The Barbarian, along with more contemporary books like Mignola's Hellboy, and as Frank has already mentioned, Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were huge influences on me, specifically, when it came to designing everything.
IC: Chris, your art is perfectly suited to this kind of story. Did it take you long to find your sea legs, so to speak?
CM: I'm not too sure. I was definitely starting to find something by the end of our first issue. And there are things I still like when I go back and look at the first volume. But there also wasn't a lot of downtime between finishing The Haunting of Fabian Gray and when we started Lost Coastlines, so it's hard to know exactly when things "clicked" for me. However, I do think it was during Lost Coastlines that we started seeing the way Fabian and co. were supposed to look. But, I'm also not "trying" to make it look pulpy. That's how I draw. I grew up with the classic masters of comics, From Kubert to Romita Jr., those are the guys that taught me how to make comics, so the pulp aesthetic was really second nature to me.
IC: One thing I enjoy about FIVE GHOSTS is that it covers a lot of ground, genre-wise. It's not just about a lantern-jawed hero in a specific setting. There are heists, magic, monsters, pirates, and even more besides. How do you describe FIVE GHOSTS to people?
FB: I really start with the general concept, "an Indiana Jones-type adventurer in the '30s who is possessed by five ghosts that take the shape of literary characters." I’ve found, thankfully I might add haha, that people tend to be intrigued by the concept and then I can start talking about how it’s a love-letter to genre and some of the more "where do stories come from" ideas. Really, that whole "love letter" idea is what allows us to bounce around—we are lucky enough to have a concept/world that is pretty encompassing and we can work what we’re excited and inspired by into every issue. I’d honestly say that FIVE GHOSTS is a project that is purely us, the creative team; it’s the comic we make in our garage that we put all of our love into.
CM: I don't. I let Frank do that. He talk good.
To read the rest of the interview click on the Image i!