Fritz Babbles about Ghostbusters: Past, Present, and Future
Extensive Spoilers To Follow...
When I heard that IDW's Christmas one-shot would be the Ghostbusters doing Dickens A Christmas Carol
I was understandably interested. They had bit off a big one here--inviting comparisons to not only Dickens himself, but the hordes of swipes Dickens has inspired through the years.
Including, of course, J. Micheal Stracynski's brilliant episode of the Ghostbusters cartoon, "X-Mas Marks the Spot"
There's a lot of understandable similarlity here, but the story sets itself on new ground quickly by having the Scrooge figure be a figurative one instead of the literal one in the cartoon: Woodrow Wainwright Fraser III, who's already been subjected to the ghosts' spiel and is tired of it. He's a very modern version of Scrooge: completely without any guilt for not giving a flying f*** about the poor and disadvantaged, genuinely convinced that being rich makes him better than everyone else. He's a "Have More". I realize the danger of being political, but he's just the kind of guy one of America's two major political parties considers it's "base". He has money and good health care--f*** everyone else.
And instead of being intimidated by the Christmas ghosts, he's hired the experts at dealing with unwanted ghosts. You know who he called.
One other thing starts to resemble JMS's masterpiece: the weakest link in the Christmas spirit chain is Venkman. But instead of being grouchy because Christmas reminds him of how his dirtbag father was always off pulling con jobs, he's just being dickish: with the promise of a $4,000,000 payout, he cuts Winston out of an equal share, instead offering a "generous" $10,000 bonus (.25%, if you do the math). To Ray and Egon's credit, they're suitably horrified by this, but Venkman channels the spirit of too many Movie Purists who justify Winston's disappearance in the first third of GB2 by stating "He's just an employee. We're
the imporant ones."
So the Ghostbusters are there when the Ghost of Christmas Past shows up to visit Fraser. It seems kind of androgynous, compared to the more clearly female ghost in the animation--or on the cover of the comic, which at first glance made me wonder if it was supposed to be a nod to Carol Kane in "Scrooged" (you know that movie, right? Another Dickens rehash starring...hmm...who was it again? Oh, yeah, that Bill Murray dude).
Christmas Past takes everyone to Camp Wakonda, where Ray relives a fond memory of toasting Stay Puft Marshmallows with his parents. They even note what a "pudgy" kid he was; I really hope that was a small RGB nod. Egon, Winston, and Venkman trap the ghost, and the vision of Camp Wakonda vanishes, but so does Ray--he's been stuck in the memory. According to Fraser, the only way to free him is to defeat the other ghosts.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, conspicuously, does not appear, but it's effects are felt: Fraser and the three remaining Ghostbusters materialize in the firehouse, where a pissed-off Janine is working the phones. Egon (of course
) expresses displeasure at this development, but Venkman brushes it off by saying that she'd annoyed him that morning. And he was paying her time and a half. And then Janine grumbles about having to guard the $1,000,000 check, which understandably sets Winston off. Even more so when Egon makes sure to mention the other $3,000,000 to Winston, clarifying the extent to which Venkman is screwing him. Winston basically gives Venkman the f*** you he has coming, and quits. The world around them vanishes into white light.
And in a flash Fraser and the two remaining Ghostbusters are in a vision of the Future, where Gozer (Grife on a hat, aren't there any other badass demon lords allowed anymore in GB stuff?) has returned, this time in the form of a giant worm critter with tentacles. Venkman and Egon spontaneously age to their sixties, which come to think of it would make this "future" seem to be just about right now based on Ramis and Murray's ages, wouldn't it? Anyway, Egon gets smooshed by Worm Gozer.
That leaves only Venkman, Fraser, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. Venkman, Fraser explains, is the most "ambitious" of the Ghostbusters, and he's the one the Ghosts are wanting to test. This admittedly creates another echo to "X-mas Marks the Spot", where the Ghosts imply that sending the Ghostbusters back to Scrooge was part of their plan to make Venkman like Christmas again; anyway, Venkman sourly realizes that "ambitous" means "the biggest jerk", and in a flash of inspiration, shoots Fraser.
After releasing the Ghost of Christmas Past from the ghost trap--good thing Venkman had that one, huh--and thus simultaneously bringing Ray, Egon, and Winston back, we find out that Fraser has been posessed by the Ghost of Christmas Present. Fraser is such a self-assured Randian dirtbag he actually turned one of the Dickens ghosts to the Dark Side
Anyway, the Ghost of Christmas Present is removed from Fraser, rejoins his two colleagues, and Fraser gratefully threatens to sue the Ghostbusters six ways from Sunday. But at least Venkman realizes what a jerk he's been, and promises to be better. Happy Christmas to all!
I don't know if I could say I enjoyed it more than JMS's masterpiece, but it's a great story, and carries just a little more bite of current events than JMS probably would have been allowed. The art is very good, though the usual problem of having to look twice to figure out which white guy with dark hair is talking, Ray or Venkman, reared it's head a couple of times. (Insert my usual bit of preference for the animated likenesses, where you'd have to be blind to confuse Ray and Venkman, here). I give it a thumbs up.