Kate (and Dan) interview Erik Burnham

Kate (and Dan) Present their Halloween Interview with Erik Burnham! (Ooooh… SCARY!)

Erik, you are currently writing the GHOSTBUSTERS comic book from IDW. These are characters that all moviegoers love! How does one take these ghost busting scientists that everyone sees as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson, and make them your own? Please explain the benefits and challenges that come with writing licensed characters.

The secret is to not try and make them my own. These personalities are pretty well established in the minds of… well, anyone that’s seen the movies, for the most part – all I have to do is capture their voices. (That may be easier said than done, but luckily these guys are pretty clear in my head!)

The pros and cons of licensed characters… the biggest plus is familiarity. Like I said, people know these characters, and that’s a benefit.

The biggest con is the fact that so many readers start with a prejudice on licensed books; they think they’re going to suck. That has happened some in the past, where creators maybe didn’t give it their all, and it was enough to plant the idea. At the same time, there were also some very strong licensed books put out that for some reason didn’t even the scales.

Another con is too much meddling from the licensor before final approval, which can wind up skewing the story. Now I say this is a con, but so far, it’s only something that’s happened to other writers (knock wood). Personally, I have NEVER had a problem from editors or licensors on any of the books I’ve written; any notes given to me simply made things better. Maybe I’m lucky, but the process has been good to me.

You also have had success with a group of well-known Heroes In A Half-Shell! Tell us more.


TMNT editor Bobby Curnow came to me last year with the opportunity to pitch on one of the Micro Series – Splinter. I got to write a story that showed a different side to the character, and it even affected later stories (which was exciting for me.) The response to Splinter was good enough that Bobby brought me in to co-script the upcoming miniseries Secret History of the Foot Clan.

The story (and art!) is by Mateus Santolouco – it’s really his baby; I’m there to help with the scripting so he can have put extra focus into the art, which has been amazing, by the way.

Bobby and I have talked about the possibility of me doing more; I’m having fun playing in this sandbox. I hope to keep doing Turtle work as long as I’m allowed to!

You are both a writer and an artist. Did you start your career as a writer or as an artist? At what point did you branch out into the other?

I started doing both. The first work I did was for the Shooting Star Comics Anthology; I wrote and drew a silly little comedy character – Nick Landime – a couple of times over the run of the series. I did also write a story for another artist and draw stories for other writers during my time with Shooting Star, so I got to have a true mix.

I met Tom Waltz and Sean Taylor through SSC. These guys both enjoyed the Nick stories I did, and were instrumental in me getting work elsewhere. Tom gave me the chance to pitch for another anthology – the Gene Simmons House of Horrors, my first work at IDW. Sean got me the chance to adapt A Princess of Mars into a graphic novel at a publisher he was editing for…  I was paid for it, but it never saw the light of day (nor will it, I suspect.)

My first “writing only” that saw print came in 2009, when Tom gave me work on a small tie-in miniseries for a new toy – Nanovor – and that’s what I’ve mostly been doing ever since… writing, writing, writing.

Is comic-creating always “greener on the other side?” Which do you feel is more rewarding- writing duty or art chores?

It’s great on the rare occasion that I can get the picture in my head onto the paper. That said, writing is – and probably always be – easier. I can get more things done and out there, and getting things in front of an audience is ultimately the most rewarding part for me.

You currently live in Brainerd, Minnesota, a city a couple hours north of the Twin Cities. As a resident of out state Minnesota, has not living on the East or West coast ever proved to be a challenge to your career? And without a Local Comic Shop nearby, do you find yourself getting your own monthly books digitally?

Not since Twitter became such a juggernaut – I’ve managed a lot of networking with that, more than even the conventions I can manage to make it to. Maybe I’d be further ahead if I lived elsewhere, nestled in one of the comics pro communities that are floating around the country. Then again, maybe not… I admit, I do feel isolated, though!

And yeah, 90% of the comics I get, I have to get digitally, though the stuff I really enjoy I can (and do) pick up physical copies of in trade as well. That said, no LCS is one more way I feel like I miss out sometimes. I don’t get that regular experience of hanging out with like-minded folks.

In the spirit of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the Bernard Pivot questions asked of every guest, we have our own set of questions we ask of every interviewee.

When did you finally say, “Yeah… I’m gonna work in comics for a living. And it will be AWESOME.”

The very second I had my GHOSTBUSTERS pitch approved.

What was your favorite moment in comics? The moment that when you read it on the page, you smiled and said, “That was so cool!”

I pick this one because it’s been with me the longest: Spidey Strikes Back, from the Lee-Ditko run – Spidey drops in and fights the Sandman and the Enforcers to rescue the Human Torch. None of those names meant anything to me when I read that; I was maybe four years old. Sure, I’d read comics before, but this was the one that imprinted on my memory. That’s why it’s my favorite.

What was the moment that made you say, “Working in comics is amazing”?

My workday consists of coming up with stories for some characters I’ve known since childhood; there’s not a second I’m NOT thinking that’s amazing. But the thing that stands out even more is the people who have written to me or tweeted that something I wrote made them laugh, and that made their day better. That’s a great feeling.

Our standard Beatles or Rolling Stones question: Batman or Superman?

I like Superman a lot – he’s a rural boy, after all – but Batman’s always been my favorite. Come on, he’s a ninja detective! That was my number one job choice until a school guidance counselor burst my bubble! (Okay, maybe not number one choice, but it was top five, easy.)

Parting thoughts?

I spent the last five minutes imagining an impossible crossover between the BBC and CBS versions of Sherlock Holmes. I’m pretty sure this means there’s no hope for me to work in any other field, so I dearly hope readers will keep me working in comics, and thanks to them all for keeping me going THIS long! If I were the plugging sort – and I am – I’d mention Secret History of the Foot Clan #1 releases in December, along with Ghostbusters #16 – a Winston-centric story! Then in January, the crossover one-shot I wrote, Mars Attacks The Real Ghostbusters, will be in shops everywhere.

I think that’s it. Thanks for the interview!

All of you should be following Mr. Burnham on Twitter, where he’s known as @erikburnham. You can also visit his website www.burnhamania.com.