Pulp Corner: Interview With Frank J. Barbiere
In today’s edition of the Pulp Corner we are excited to bring you an interview we conducted with writer Frank J. Barbiere for the upcoming Image Comics miniseries, Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Grey.
The first issue of Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray was originally self-published by yourself and artist Chris Mooneyham via a Kickstarter campaign and was picked up by Image Comics. Have any alterations been made to the issue #1 they will release?
Only a few little tweaks completely by us. We were a little under the gun with the NYCC deadline, so there were some tiny things that readers probably wouldn’t even notice. The content is wholly unchanged; what we released is what Image picked up!
Can you give us a little of what’s in store for Fabian in that first issue?
We start in media res and get right into Fabian’s latest adventure, a jewel heist. Then we see him return home to talk to his closest confidant, some of the downsides of his ghostly affliction, and the start of a new adventure! The issue ends on a pretty big cliffhanger with Fabian’s powers on the fritz and being captured by some dangerous tribesmen.
Each of the five ghosts haunting Fabian Gray are based on very specific, classic literary characters or ideas of characters. Was there a definitive portrayal of each of those ghosts you were trying to capture or was it more of the essence of each one?
It really is the essence, so to speak. There have been a lot of questions about whether these characters are real in our universe, etc., but I’ll go on record to say that NO, the characters the ghosts are representing are characters from stories. We’ll get into the logistics of Fabian’s haunting later in the mini, but the ghosts have chosen those shapes for specific reasons. In that light, they represent key elements of the characters they have been inspired by and draw characteristics from them.
Was there anyone whom made your shortlist that you just weren’t able to include?
I really thought about what characters would most directly benefit a thief and these were the best choices. We have a lot of characters coming down the line, and I certainly have had “free reign,” so I’ve been able to fit everyone in, one way or another. We’ve also created a lot of characters that seamlessly work in concert with the more literary characters that I’m proud of.
In the time honored pulp tradition and with Fabian being a treasure hunter is it safe to say we can expect a fair amount of globetrotting and exotic locales?
Absolutely. There will certainly be a lot of cool locales, and I was happy to get more than a few into issue one! Most of the story will actually take place in a very famous literary city that lends to the plot–but the fun of this time/setting is that globetrotting, so we’ll certainly be embracing it.
Is Fabian’s story designed to be a self-contained miniseries or is there potential for more?
There is a larger narrative at play. This mini deals directly with the fact that Fabian’s possession seems to be killing him and sets us up from there. We hope to continue the series after this mini, but can’t confirm anything as of yet…but there will be a lot of foreshadowing of things to come.
From the sample pages I’ve seen, Chris Mooneyham’s art seems to carry a dark moody vibe to it. Was Film Noir also an influence on the series?
Chris has a very classically informed style, and I think with this material, he was able to really embrace it. We had discussed doing something a lot more “pulpy,” and he really picked up the ball and ran with it.
The teaser art hooked me immediately. The font reminded me a bit of what Sergio Leone uses in some of his westerns, was that intentional?
Yes, we had discussed wanting our ad to have a very “classic film” vibe to it. I think Chris nailed it.
Image Comics isn’t known for pulp styled comics in the way that Dynamite is, do you think this is a market share they are looking to get into? Five Ghosts seems like it would sit nicely next to Fatale.
Image is very carefully curated by Eric Stephenson and he just looks for books that he feels he can get behind. I think there is a bit of a pulp resurgence that we’re catching the wave of, but overall I think our story has thankfully just been resonating with people. I think the inclusion of some classic characters has really helped people latch on.
Over the last year or two, the comic industry has been experiencing a bit of a pulp renaissance. What do you think had led to that?
I think that a group of fresh voices is looking back on some of the pulp stuff and bringing new aesthetics and sensibilities to it. I think we’re definitely looking at a bit of a renaissance because of that, but I think that’s what’s fueling the fire: a new generation looking back at what’s cool about this style and working it into their own voice.
What is it about the genre that draws you into it?
I just love the aesthetic and adventure elements. I feel like comics have shied away from a lot of pulp story elements as well, which are very “fun” and have a bit of a free wheeling element to them. I think we’ve had our share of “very serious super hero dramas” in this generation and we’re ready to explore some new ideas (informed by the old). Things like Francesco Francavilla’s BLACK BEETLE are great examples, as well as the whole of Ed Brubaker’s career work.
If you had a chance to write any older established pulp character who would it be?
I would really love to be involved with something a bit more sci-fi like Flash Gordon. I think the possibilities there for fun are infinite, as well as having a lot of amazing glitz and glamour.
Issue #1 of Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Grey will be available in stores and digital retailers on March 20th.
All images and characters depicted are copyright of their respective owners.