I recently got the chance to talk to one of my favorite comic writers Frank J. Barbiere about his latest story Five Ghosts from Image Comics. The first issue lands on your local comic book store’s shelves on March 20, 2013 and I desperately urge you to go pick it up. It is a great mix of action, adventure, and mystery mixed with a pulp style. The main character, Fabian Gray, is quite the leading man and his powers boast some awesome literary ties.
But to drive it in further why Five Ghosts should be on your to buy list, take a gander at this interview.
All Geek to Me: First off, can you talk about the main story behind Five Ghosts?
Frank J. Barbiere: Five Ghosts is the story of Fabian Gray, an infamous thief (or treasure hunter as he prefers to say) who has been possessed by five ghosts that take the shape of famous literary characters. Fabian has a pretty complex back story (which we’ll begin to delve into in this first mini-series) and we start the book in media res; readers get the basic gist from a small bit of text on the credits page. Though we’ll see the incident in later issues, we hint that Fabian got these “powers” from interacting with an artifact known as “The Dreamstone,” and it was a “tragic encounter.” Without giving too much away, we also see his twin sister, Silvia, is catatonic and Fabian is searching for a way to cure her. We’ll learn pretty quickly that it was Fabian’s own greed that caused his sister to end up catatonic, hence his driving force to cure her is a central part of our story.
Our first arc also deals with the fact that Fabian’s possession is slowly killing him (dun dun dunnnn!)
AGtM: Were your days as an English major the main inspiration for this series?
Barbiere: As well as being a lover of comics my whole life, I really just love story in general. I was actually an English teacher (as well as a writing teacher) for a few years after school, and all of that certainly built a fondness for classic characters. More so, there are just a lot of great story archetypes out there that I’m excited to have in our book. People like Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee are as influential to me as any fiction writer as well. Spending time teaching writing, while creating comics, really helped me learn a lot about myself, my style, and sensibilities. It all just adds up to who I am and affects everything I write.
AGtM: What made you decide on the five ghosts (Wizard, Archer, Detective, Vampire, & Samurai) being who they are?
Barbiere: When I thought of the whole “literary ghosts” idea I just racked my brain to think of characters who were iconic, but would also be useful to a thief/adventurer! These five were the ones that really stuck out in my initial planning.
AGtM: Are you planning on all the villains having literary ties as well?
Barbiere: There will certainly be characters who are possessed/imbued with specific villains, but our main villains (who will remain mostly behind the scenes) are actually who I’m really excited about. They are all “arcane collectors” who are based off of a mix of real people and fictional characters, and I think they will really get the story to a cool place and excite readers. Keep your eyes open throughout this arc and you’ll spot some of them!
AGtM: Stylistically, the comic has a classic action-adventure look to it. Did you and Chris Mooneyham discuss this look for the comic? Or did Mooneyham come up with the style after reading your work?
Barbiere: I had been working with Chris for almost three years prior to this project, so I knew his style pretty well. We decided to “pulp it up” a bit after really getting into some newer stuff and him throwing some sketches down in a “pulpier,” almost more refined and simpler style. Chris’s influences are definitely much more classic than a lot of artists, and I think he naturally brings that to his work (and it helps him stand out). With this project we went in with knowing that’s what we wanted; he really just took the ball and ran with it.
AGtM: I lamented this to you on Twitter but why oh why did you choose spiders as the first creatures of the series? I’m sure it would have been just as interesting to see Fabian Gray face off against a gigantic honey badger.
Barbiere: Haha, well the answer is pretty easy: spiders are terrifying! I don’t know why the Image of Fabian fighting a giant spider jumped right into my head, but when I got into the pulpy mentality it’s what I saw. I think they have certain mythological mystique, but mainly I think they are really horrifying, haha.
AGtM: Any tidbits on what the future holds for Fabian Gray?
Barbiere: We definitely have a big arc planned for Fabian and we hope readers stick around! We will certainly get a lot of insight to his past, our universe, and exactly what these “ghosts” are. I think anyone who likes action comics, literature, or adventure will really enjoy our story.