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DF Interview: Frank Barbiere takes Five Ghosts to horrific horizons
By Byron Brewer
An all-new arc will be coming to Five Ghosts in October courtesy of co-creators Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham. “Monsters and Men” will bring this acclaimed Image Comics series to The Continent (Europe for you yanks) and render it with a renewed sense of horror.
To get all the beastly details, Dynamic Forces held a séance, summoned the spirit of Barbiere and quizzed his ectoplasm about these new Five Ghosts developments.
Dynamic Forces: First, congrats on the success of your creator-owned Five Ghosts, Frank. Does it feel good fans have embraced this creation of you and Chris Mooneyham?
Frank Barbiere: It’s immensely humbling to be able to continue Five Ghosts as an ongoing series. Chris, Lauren [Affe, colorist on Five Ghosts] and I love the book and are really excited we get to keep pushing ourselves and bringing it to new places—both visually and in terms of story. With a few small exceptions, it was our “first” big book … it means the world that we can continue to put it out and have it be a signature title for who we are as creators.
DF: The big news: Five Ghosts has been optioned by Universal for development as a television series! What can you tell us about this?
Frank Barbiere: We’re very happy as we’ve managed to surround ourselves with people in the TV realm who are incredibly excited about the project. It’s not the case of the book getting optioned and thrown into a pile of possible projects—we’re in active development and already putting the show out to possible networks. If it all goes well, the show could be on as early as next summer/fall, which is insane considering how slow media normally works. Everyone involved loves the source material and is being extremely respectful—I feel like it will be an honest and exciting adaptation and could really spark a whole new era for Five Ghosts.
We’re also very excited to say we’ll be launching a number of new media endeavors with our partners, Black Mask Studios. We’ve been developing some really cool stuff that we have total control of with them, and for fans looking something that ties directly into the comic this will be very exciting. We’ll have more to talk about with that in the fall, but it’s wonderful to be working on so many things.
DF: Just in time for Halloween (AND the New York Comic Con, wink-wink), issue #13 takes our Image Comics series to Eastern Europe and establishes a new element of horror. Tell us about it.
Frank Barbiere: The last arc of Five Ghosts had a decidedly more “tropical” setting and a large cast. With our new arc, we’re refocusing back mainly on Fabian and taking it to a more gothic/horror infused space. Clearly we’re all big fans of Hellboy and it’s really been one of our major touchstones for the project … we wanted to tap into that headspace and really deliver a fun, exciting horror tale. Of course, being Five Ghosts, we’ll have plenty of literary Easter eggs in there and continue to develop and explore the character of Fabian Gray.
I’ve experimented a lot with fractured timelines recently and decided we’re going to play this arc relatively straightforward—it’s going to be a fun adventure with lots of cool stuff, but a linear story that serves as an homage to the adventure stories that inspired us to create Five Ghosts in the first place.
DF: This new story arc reportedly features an assortment of famous monsters and literary figures. Can you ID just a few for us?
Frank Barbiere: Really the only figure we’re ready to reveal is Van Helsing as he’s on more than a few of the covers, haha. We do have Fabian fighting some monstrous figures and a cool guy in a plague mask on the cover of #15 … so there’s them too. We’ll definitely be adding our own Five Ghosts twist to everything, so expect to be surprised!
DF: I would think #13 would serve as a great jump-on point for the elusive “new reader,” eh?
Frank Barbiere: We are really making a concerted push to bring people on to the book. We have a great, dedicated readership but any chance to get people excited and increase awareness is something we have to jump at. We’ll have a nice recap section to bring anyone who picks the book up right up to speed and ready to dive in, and while the story connects to our larger form story, anyone who is reading for the first time will be able to enjoy it. We’re also making it returnable for retailers—it’s our way of putting our money where our mouth is. We want retailers to take a chance and try to get more people in their shops into the book … any way we can facilitate that, we’ll try. Retailers are a very important part of this industry and we pride ourselves on being communicative and appreciative of them.
DF: Just in case there are “new readers” reading … er uh … anyhoo, tell us about your protagonist here, the very entertaining Fabian Gray, his “abilities” and his world.
Frank Barbiere: Fabian is a master thief with a dark past trying to find his way to redemption. He’s possessed by the spirits of five literary archetypes—the archer, the detective, the samurai, the wizard, and the vampire—and is able to use each of their abilities. Our world is an “amorphous” 1930s setting with lots of mystery, intrigue and adventure to be had. A big part of the book is the idea “where does story come from and how does it affect us”—we just manage to condense that into a pulp homage that’s a love letter to action and genre.
DF: How is it working with your co-creator, artist Chris Mooneyham?
Frank Barbiere: Chris is an amazing collaborator. The stuff he comes up with on the fly and his command of the page is just extraordinary. I am so lucky to have partnered with him early on, before anyone else, as I’m sure he has a very long career ahead of him. As a co-creator of Five Ghosts it’s great to know his heart is equally in there and it’s his … we both strive to make it a signature piece that we’ll always be proud of. Lauren Affe, our colorist, is also amazing. She’s given the book such a unique look and truly has a style that is able to push what Chris does even further. She’s one of the best colorists in the business and we’re so happy to have her as a collaborator. It’s so important for us to keep this team together and keep Five Ghosts true to our vision—readers can rest assured that other than special issues we’ll always be the team behind Five Ghosts. It’s our baby.
DF: A successful comic, a new TV op. Where to from here for Five Ghosts?
Frank Barbiere: Hopefully we’ll just be able to keep the book running forever! All joking aside, it’s a project that’s near and dear to the whole team and we have complete autonomy—how could we not want to do it forever? We’re confirmed through issue #25 before we take any kind of extended break, and we’re hoping with the TV stuff in the works we’ll get our audience even stronger and continue telling the story of Fabian Gray until we find a natural conclusion. We sincerely thank anyone who reads the book … it means the world to us.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Frank Barbiere for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Five Ghosts #13 arrives in stores October 15th!
Don't forget to get Black Market #1-4 Master Set signed by Frank Barbiere!
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