A heist in a haunted house. A simple concept? Yes, but undeniably intriguing. Joshua Williamson and artist Goran Sudzuka blend together elements of crime and horror with their new book, “Ghosted” from Image/Skybound Comics. The miniseries follows criminal mastermind Jackson T. Winters who is hired by a strange collector to steal a ghost from a haunted mansion.
Joshua Williamson sat down to talk about the development of the series, blending genres, and his favorite horror flicks. “Ghosted” #1 hits stands and digital on July 10th, 2013.
Bloody-disgusting: Alright, give us the low down on this ghost heist story. How did it land at Image?
Joshua Williamson: Ghosted is “Ocean’s 11 in a haunted house instead of a Casino.” Jackson T. Winters is a master heist planner and is hired by a mysterious collector to steal a ghost from an infamous haunted house. Instead of getting the best criminals in the world, Jackson gets the greatest supernatural experts in the world to help him steal the ghost. Chaos ensues.
Back in 2011 I was trying to find a home for the book and discussing the pitch with a few publishers, but couldn’t get any bites. Then a friend suggested I try Robert Kirkman’s Skybound. Like the rest of the world I’m a huge fan of Walking Dead, and thought that sounded like a perfect fit. And I’m happy to say it was one of the fastest green lights I’ve ever received.
BD: Tell us a bit about this haunted house itself. What can we expect from this mansion? What’s the history behind the place?
JW: The Trask Mansion was owned by a vast family filled with psychos and maniacs. Imagine with the Manson family bred with the Texas Chainsaw family. On its property the Tracks’ would kill countless people; even sometimes hunting them on the grounds like it was a game. That much death…saying that it’s haunted is probably a bit of an understatement. It has a way of controlling you. Of tricking you and showing you what you’re really afraid of. The house itself is a character in our series and one of my favorite characters to write.
But something else happened in that house making it a hot spot for the supernatural… something sinister that we will explore in the series.
BD: You’re dealing with a big cast of characters. Are they all believers or do some of them go into the house as skeptics?
JW: The ying and yang of the book is Edzia Rusnak, a medium, and Oliver King, the skeptic. Jackson wanted them both because he’s a smart guy. He wanted to explore his options. See all sides of the problem. Stealing a ghost is complicated and he wanted to make sure that he had all perspectives covered.
Some characters already have experiences with ghosts and some are new to it. But both sets will be forever changed by what they see.
BD: When we spoke at ECCC I recall you referencing The Shining as an influence on the book. Do you mean that’s how the book will feel tonally? How does this merge with crime aspect?
JW: Tonally and in pacing, but also in the sense that the house itself is alive… and Jackson’s personality. Jackson, like Jack in the Shining, is haunted by his own thoughts. Tortured by more than his past, but also the voices in his head. I thought a lot about what Jack was doing in the Overlook during The Shining, just wondering the halls… what if he wanted to try and take advantage of his situation. Take out disgruntled writer and put in a failed thief and you have Ghosted.
BD: Horror and heist are two genres that don’t cross over very often. What made you want to bring these together? How do you strike a balance between the two?
JW: It’s weird to say… “because I wanted to.” I’m a big fan of both genre’s and have always been a fan of genre mixing. It’s fun to see two groups that don’t go together, twist them up and let them spin. See what comes of it. The two ideas have become an story generator for the book. Finding a balance wasn’t hard. We made a world that was supernatural and filled it with characters, like Jackson, who were criminals and not used to that world. Let them be the eyes of the audience. Try and see it as a very simple crime story that just happens to be ghosts. It’s just another gig to Jackson.
BD: It’s an interesting blend of genres because you rarely see supernatural elements in crime stories. Did you find it difficult to create a realistic supernatural crime world?
JW: Not really. As soon as w started we made sure to stick to a grounded set of rules. Try to not go too over the top of with the supernatural. Keep it more psychological and about the characters. Jackson, a career criminal, was fun to write as he got deeper and deeper into the supernatural.
BD: You mentioned in an interview with comicosity that you weren’t happy with the comics you were writing previously. What was different this time around? Do you feel you were able to finally do a comic that you’re proud of through and through?
JW: In the past I’ve worked on a few books that just weren’t me… I like writing crime. I like writing horror. A chance to let a story breathe and do it my way with people who had faith in me was eye opening. And I especially like writing complicated characters with an edge. Jackson Winters was that character.
Ghosted #1 is the comic I’m most proud of so far in my career. Easily. Robert Kirkman and Skybound believed in me and my vision and let me have fun. If you’re not having fun making comics, what’s the point, y’know?
BD: If it’s not too hard to choose, give us your top five favorite horror flicks. And, yes, we will judge you.
JW: Psycho- Not just my favorite horror movie, but my favorite movie of all time. The sign with Norman and Marion Crane in the back office eating a late night dinner is one of my favorite scenes ever out to film.
The Shining- And my number two favorite movie of all time. First blu-ray I bought. As you can see with this interview it’s been an influence on my writing.
Silence of the Lambs- So well directed and acted. So many small touches. Anyone watching Hannibal?
Cabin in the Woods- Just watched this the other night and it fills me up with so much love. It’s always amazing to see someone take a well known story and tropes and twist them. That’s what we tried to do with Ghosted, too!
Halloween- Not a drop of blood in the whole movie but for some reason people remember it as acrazy violent. That’s a testament of the mind control that John Carpenter had over his audience. And the music! Classic!
BD: Anything else you want these horror hounds to know about Ghosted?
JW: YES! Goran Sudzuka (Outlaw Nation, Y the Last man) on art! Sean Philips (Fatale, Criminal) on covers! Sean’s cover has been kick ass!
Goran has been a godsend for this book. Obviously I couldn’t have done it without him, as there would be no art! But what Goran helped bring to the story and the look of the world was outstanding. He gave our characters flesh and blood.
Lots and lots of blood.
Hopefully people dig it and keep coming back for more.