During the 90s, Dark Horse took a shot at creating their own branded superhero universe and created characters like X, Barb Wire, and Motorhead. One of the most successful characters to spin out of the company’s superhero line was Ghost, a female reporter, Elisa Cameron, that digs a little too deep into a story about the corruption in the city of Arcadia and is murdered in order to keep her quiet. She returns as a phantom spirit sent back to avenge her own death, while keeping her loved ones out of harm’s way.
Dark Horse has given writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (“Captain Marvel”, “Avengers”) and artist Phil Noto (“X-Men”) the job of resurrecting “Ghost” and rebooting one of their most successful properties in the new “In The Smoke & Din” mini-series. DeConnick is a weaving a tale full of mystery, intrigue and thrilling action that has keep reader’s on the edge of their seats. Phil Noto’s artwork perfectly complements the story with a elegant style that highlights the dark supernatural elements of the book with spooky precision.
We tracked down writer Kelly Sue Deconnick to discuss her resurrection of Dark Horse’s heroine. Deconnick sat down to talk about her work with the Oregon Paranormal investigators group in preparation for writing this series, her decision to move Ghost out of Arcadia, and what other Dark Horse Heroes she would bring back from the dead.
BD: Can you tell us about your approach to the character and how you see her verses how the original Ghost series?
Kelly Sue DeConnick: Oh no! Right out of the gate, I’m going to sound like an idiot! I never know what that means — “my approach to the character.” So much of this process is intuited, you know? I don’t really sit down and decide how I’m going to imagine her–does that makes sense? I just… do. I read the old books and then tried to write a story for that character that I would want to read. That was the sum total of my approach. I don’t see her as different from the first series–the details don’t all square, but the character, to me, is the same because that’s the character I was hired to write.
BD: When you pitched the series to Dark Horse were you a fan of the original and how did you go about picking and choosing what elements of the original to keep or discard?
KSD: I was not overly familiar with the original series, no. When I was invited to pitch, I got the material and binged on it a while. I tried to distill what appealed to me about it down to a few simple ideas and just let the rest of it go. My own taste was the arbiter, I guess–I kept what I wanted to chew on.
BD: This series takes place in Chicago where the original book took place in Arcadia. Why the shift in locations for the reboot?
KSD: We went back and forth on this several times — Patrick can attest. Eventually we decided we wanted her grounded in a real place… for reasons I’m not even sure are true anymore. I had this notion that that upped the stakes…But then I come back to something like James Robinson’s “Starman” series, set in a fictional location that was fully realized the argument starts to fall apart. Regardless, once we settled on Chicago, everything just clicked. It’s perfect.
BD: So far the book plunks the reader into a deep mystery about Ghost’s past and plays up the supernatural elements more than the gritty elements that the first series played into. Can we expect more of that or will it still contain the raw gritty criminal side we saw in the original?
KSD: The mini-series is a lot of mystery and set up, but once we’re done, because of what we’ve done, we’ll have a full slate of different kinds of stories we can tell. That sound cryptic, I know–come back to me after issue 4 and I’ll explain.
BD: Tommy and Vaughn are a fantastic add to the supporting cast of the book. How important was it to establish a strong supporting cast for Ghost out of the gate with this re-launch?
KSD: Thanks. I like them. It was important to me that she have a crew–people we could be invested in out of the gate. I also needed a weakness for her — because she cares about them and because they’re decidedly mortal, they are her weakness.
BD: As research for this series you went out for a ride along with the Oregon Paranormal investigators group on a case. What was that like and how did it have an impact on the way you write the book?
KSD: It was great — they’re really fabulous people. I guess it engendered in me an affection for Tommy that I’m not sure was there from the start. I suspect I only meant him to be a punching bag — maybe even part villain — but I ended up really, really liking Tommy. He’s a great guy. He’s not dumb — his, uh, dialect, makes him sound like a bit of an idiot, but he’s not. He’s not especially naive, either. He just… what’s that Fox Mulder poster? I WANT TO BELIEVE? Tommy wants to believe. He’s actually a really good guy — a much better person than Vaughn — and Vaughn knows it.
I think that was the thing I got from the OP crew — they’re not saddled with Tommy’s accent or atrocious fashion choices, happily — but they have his heart. Or, I guess, he has theirs.
The investigation I went on, they weren’t able to find anything they couldn’t explain. They were rigorous and disciplined about coming up with plausible explanations for all the phenomena reported. In the end, they couldn’t say they heard or saw anything they couldn’t explain and they were so… disappointed. Truly, sincerely disappointed. I liked being around them; I liked their willingness.
BD: Can we expect to see any other characters from the Dark Horse superhero universe show up in Ghost anytime soon?
KSD: Not soon, no.
BD: Out of Dark Horse Comics’ Greatest World line Ghost was by far the most popular character and she had the longest run for the company. Was there any pressure for you as a creator to bring her back and have this incarnation live up to the original?
KSD: Luckily, nobody told me how popular the original run was, so I was blissfully unaware of the pressure I was under to start!
BD: Dark Horse Comics’ Greatest World superhero line has an extensive library characters. If you have your pick, what other series or characters would you like to take a crack at bringing back?
KSD: REBEL! Because… Rebel. Or Mace Blitzkrieg. Because his name is Mace Blitzkrieg. Or, I dunno, maybe the Pit Bulls. I like their weird gimp suits.
BD: What books are you currently reading and is there any titles out there that you think are deserve more of a spotlight?
KSD: I get scared to answer questions like this because after a minute or so, I’m just rattling off a list of my friends’ books and I’m always terrified that I’m going to forget someone! So let me just mention one by somebody I don’t know very well — Mind Mgmt. Matt Kindt is doing some really cool stuff there.
BD: Can you give us some insight into what other projects you’re currently working on?
KSD: I’m working on Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble for Marvel, Ghost for Dark Horse and a creator-owned Western for Image with Emma Rios called Pretty Deadly.