Ghostbusters: Past, Present, and Future
December 12, 2016
There's more of gravy than of grave about this... and Slimer ate it.
(The room is decorated for Christmas and Linkara wears a Santa hat over his regular hat, along with a red scarf. He also is wearing a Ghostbusters jumpsuit)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Well, it wasn't a very long time between those "My Little Pony" reviews... sooo, why not even less time between "Ghostbusters" reviews?
(A montage of Ghostbusters comics is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Considering how long the last one was and focusing more on defending a movie adaptation, I didn't really have much time to talk about Ghostbusters in comics. Like every other popular franchise, it's been shopped around to half a dozen publishers, with the Now stuff we looked at being the first iteration and pretty much focused exclusively on The Real Ghostbusters. In addition to Now, Marvel UK was also producing additional stories and reprinting the American ones. Aside from reprints from Welsh Publishing Group, there was also a brief time on 2004 when the franchise was licensed to 88 MPH Studios. With a name like that, you'd think they'd at least have some Back to the Future comics, but nope! The only things the studio produced were a Transformers art book and the miniseries "Ghostbusters Legion", with plans for an ongoing series that never materialized due to financial issues, compounded by the company's owner, Sebastian Clavet, promising refunds for books that were never made. And said refunds never being made either.
(Cut to a clip of Ghostbusters)
Walter Peck (William Atherton): (about the Ghostbusters) These men are consummate snowball artists.
Linkara: And also like every other major franchise, it eventually landed in the hands of IDW. They've had some minis, an ongoing or two, and of course, the thing that everybody demanded: crossovers with other properties that they had nothing to do with.
(A montage of crossover comics is shown, starting with one called "Infestation")
Linkara (v/o): And to be fair, "Infestation" was fairly light on the crossover stuff, mostly just one element traveling through all the books and starting a zombie plague. But then we had a direct crossover with "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". I fully expect someone to Patreon me that at some point in the future. And yet, still not a single request for "Batman/TMNT", "Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York", or... (a shot of a comic called "Ape Nation" is shown) Wait, what the hell is that? Erm, anyway, they also released a bunch of one-shots. A few of them were holiday-themed; hence, we get to "Ghostbusters: Past, Present, and Future", a Ghostbusters Christmas comic that, of course...
(Footage of the Real Ghostbusters episode "Xmas Marks the Spot" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): ...evokes the Real Ghostbusters episode where they travel through time somehow and accidentally prevented Scrooge from learning his lesson, in turn leading to the destruction of Christmas as we know it. Scrooge even made an alternative story written for the masses instead of "A Christmas Carol" that decried the holiday.
Linkara: And yet, somehow Cricket on the Hearth wasn't up to the task of saving it.
Linkara (v/o): But that's just one way for things to go when it comes to pairing the Ghostbusters and "A Christmas Carol". What's another way?
Linkara: Well, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Ghostbusters: Past, Present, and Future" and see what happens.
(Christmas version of the AT4W theme plays, and the title card has the titular song from Ghostbusters playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Reading from a trade, but it just so happens that the trade shares the cover of the individual issues, so... why not? It's... okay, just a collage of the Ghostbusters, the Ghosts of Christmas, Scrooge... and for some reason, Slimer as acting as Jacob Marley.
Linkara: (as Slimer) Mankind should have been my business! (looks at comic and bites down on it)
Linkara (v/o): We open on Christmas Eve, one year ago.
Linkara: (laughs, then sobs) I miss 2015.
Man: No more, ghost... I beg you.
Linkara: The most melodramatic Pac-Man player ever.
Linkara (v/o): We see an elderly man being haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Future. And I guess his window is open and the room is filling with snow. Or something weird was done to his cocaine stash.
Man: You have shown me myriad visions this night. My past actions and possible future revealed.
Linkara: (as this man) Which admittedly has been kind of a weird way for us to end our board game night.
Man: All in an attempt to make me turn my back on this life. To make me return to my original destiny. To see the error of my egocentric, money-grubbing* ways.
- NOTE: The man actually says, "money-grabbing", not "money-grubbing".
Linkara: Look, Ghosts of Christmas, it's too late to save Konami. Just give it up.
Linkara (v/o): He reveals, however, that they've been doing this to him every year for a while now.
Man: Trying to make me give up that which I possess. And do I ever repent, ghost? No, I do not. And do you know why?
Linkara: (as this man) Because all of my possessions are tied up in bank loans, dammit! It is actually impossible for me to give them up!
Linkara (v/o): Actually, it's because it's only one night a year. The 364 days of the year allow him to be obscenely wealthy and be untroubled by mortal concerns. He's perfect happy with his life. It's just on Christmas Eve when the ghosts keep bugging him. And of course, he's decided to do something about it.
Man: So, try this again next Christmas and see what happens! That's right, ghost... no future for you!
(Linkara sits on the futon, wearing a cloak like the Ghost of Christmas Future. He holds up his middle finger to the camera, flipping the bird)
Linkara (v/o): We cut to Christmas Eve in the present, where Egon, Ray and Peter are all standing outside the Fred F. French Building.
Ray: It was built on slums known as Goat Hill in 1927 by Fred F. French & Co. The intention was to create a "human, residential enclave" and an "urban utopia."
Linkara: (as Ray) Or, in layman's terms, (makes a "finger quote") "no parking".
Linkara (v/o): Actually, kudos to the creators on the choice of building. Fred F. French is a bit infamous for developing Knickerbocker Village, which, aside from its goofy name, the unlivable conditions inside of it led to New York City's rent control laws. So there's a bit of Scroogian tactics on display from actual history. Naturally, the good Dr. Venkman is all into this.
Peter: And it's got an elevator, right?
Ray: Yes, Peter, it's got an elevator.
Linkara: Santa is real!
Peter: Christmas Eve, Ray. A time to be with loved ones, friends, and university colleagues you haven't quite been to shake off.
Linkara: (laughs, then becomes confused) Wasn't "Ghostbusters" your idea, dude?
Linkara (v/o): Ray reveals that Venkman was on his way to Vegas before he told him a millionaire wanted to hire him.
Peter: It's good to be here with you, Dr. Stantz. You too, Elton.
Linkara (v/o): Aaand out pops Egon with some bizarre goggles, scanning the building.
Egon: My name is Egon, Peter.
Linkara: (as Egon) And personally, I think I have more of a Kesha mystique.
Linkara (v/o): So, when I initially read this, I was actually gonna make a critique about how Peter didn't remember the name of one of his friggin' friends, but it's only now that I realize that he's actually making a reference to Elton John. Now, this may seem like a case of "Oh, the joke just flew over Linkara's head," which can happen sometimes, (sourly) as many in the comments have been so keen to point out. But as you'll see, I thought it was just another example of Peter being a colossal dickhead, because... well, there's a big example of that in a bit. For now, though, it's just mild dickish behavior, as Peter struggles to get out the words "I'm sorry" to him, which also contributed to me not realizing it was a reference, since when does Peter apologize, even mockingly, to a harmless bit of snark like that to a friend?
Ray: Are the new ectoplasmic glasses performing? Is the ionisation [sic] array holding?
Egon: Incredibly well, Raymond. Although it did take me an extra 18 minutes and 42 seconds and two minor traffic accidents to find my way here.
Linkara: (laughs) He's endangering himself and others by not just putting them on when he gets there. (laughs again, then scowls) What the hell?
Linkara (v/o): They meet our Scrooge of the story: Woodrow Wainwright Fraser, III, AKA Snooty Von Moneypants.
Fraser: It is good to know that I can count on highly skilled artisans such as yourselves, and that reliability is not a forgotten courtesy in today's tawdry society.
Linkara: Oh, he's hiring them for their painting skills. Well, they do have a flair for that, too.
(The painting from Ghostbusters II is shown briefly, then cut back to the comic)
Ray: Reliability is our middle name, Mr. Fraser.
Peter: Where else would we go on Christmas Eve, Woody? It's not like Caesar's Palace was having an "all you can eat" festive buffet incorporating erotic dance or anything.
Linkara: (as Peter) They only do that for Easter.
Linkara (v/o): He says there are two ghosts that he wants captured, and they'll appear in the penthouse at midnight. He'll pay them one million dollars now in advance, regardless of success. It's another million for each ghost, then a million-dollar bonus, equaling four million for them.
Peter: And God bless us, everyone.
Linkara: See? I told you last week the true meaning of Christmas was greed. (gives a thumbs-up)
Linkara (v/o): I'm not even kidding, either. Here's where we get to the supreme asshole moment of Peter Venkman, one completely out of character and forced for this. When they return to the firehouse, Peter neglects to tell Winston the full amount they're getting, instead simply saying that he'll get $10,000 for the job. Ray pulls Peter aside for this bullcrap.
Ray: We're going to get four million for this job and...
Ray: There's four of us. The math is pretty straightforward.
Peter: You taken a look around this place lately, Ray? It's falling apart. It was falling apart when we bought it. With four million we do it up, put in a cool foosball table, some kind of screen where I don't have to look at Janine all day.
Linkara: What the hell, comic?! Peter's a bit of a snarky prick, but he's not that much of a prick! He wouldn't screw a friend out of a million bucks for a foosball table!
Linkara (v/o): Dear Lord, even in-universe, Winston is crapped on!
Ray: But Winston...
Peter: ...is an employee.
Ray: We, my friend, are shareholders. The Great Oak Pillagers of this company.
(Cut to another clip of Ghostbusters II)
Peter: (to Hardemeyer) Can't you stop your lips from flapping for two little minutes?
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Ray shares some culpability in this by not telling Winston immediately about this. Peter might be technically correct about him being hired on later, but the four are a team. Dude swam through a river of hate slime and had a ghost train pass through him for this?! Egon, why aren't you talking about this?!
Egon: Raymond, I think my fingers have achieved light speed.
Linkara: Oh, because he's high on spores, molds and funguses. Gotcha.
Linkara (v/o): We learn more about the guy being haunted. His ancestors date back to American independence alongside Thomas Jefferson, and he comes from a loooooong line of industrialists, to the point where he even bought out his own father from the company in a hostile takeover. So what's Venkman's idea on how to handle it?
Peter: OK, so we throw a gas cannister in his mouth and shoot it. Kablooey! Job done.
Linkara: Oh, shut up! You don't get to joke about that when you're about to withhold a million bucks from someone, jackass!
Linkara (v/o): What's more, he's still being haunted and he's the one paying you a not-unsubstantial sum, dude. Maybe you shouldn't joke about murdering him if you want that four million. The first ghost arrives.
Peter: This ghost... chick or dude?
Fraser: I really have no idea.
Peter: Hate it when that happens.
Linkara: (glowering darkly) Peter, you've just earned the Dave Coulier voice! I hope you're happy!
Ray: PKE surge?
Egon: Off the charts. Ray... I think it broke my glasses.
Linkara: Eh, don't worry about it. When you're done with this job, you'll be able to afford a whole new PlayStation VR.
Linkara (v/o): Peter and Winston fire on it, but everything just turns white, shifting their location to a forest. Moneypants is not surprised.
Fraser: Try not to be alarmed. This is simply what the first ghost does. It shows the strongest, fondest memories of Christmases past for those it encounters.
Linkara: Ah, yes. When I got Star Trek: First Contact on VHS and a whole bag of Starbursts! Can't be topped.
Linkara (v/o): Speaking of junk food, they've jumped back into Ray's memories of him and his parents at Lake Waconda, toasting marshmallows.
Fraser: It wants you to draw comparisons to your adult existence and for them to be unfavorable ones. The ghost finds the one moment that will show you how carefree and innocent you were in the past.
Linkara: Like when Belle broke up with Scrooge! Oh, how carefree and innocent he was when his heart was broken.
Linkara (v/o): It's a bit of an oversimplification. The Ghost of Christmas Past is really there to show Scrooge how much he's changed and all that he's lost. It's not just about the carefree innocence, but the regrets that he has with the benefits of hindsight. While Ray is attracted to this vision of his past, the others realize what's going on.
Egon: It's the Ghost of Christmas Past. I should've known.
Linkara: (as Egon) Our proton packs will be useless. I need a cap.
Linkara (v/o): Winston is still in favor of busting it.
Egon: We're talking about an entity that, if Charles Dickens was correct, is one third of the spirit of Christmas itself. Should we trap that?
Linkara: Yeah, but Dickens also wrote that helping an escaped convict flee the law could end up helping you down the road with your romantic aspirations. Let's not assume the dude was the ultimate authority on this stuff.
Linkara (v/o): Ray wants to stay in the happy memory, and the others realize that the situation could be causing him psychological damage. So they decide to bust the ghost. The scene fades to white again before they reappear... only without Ray. Moneypants says he chose to stay in the past due to the power of the remaining ghost. He claims their only chance to get him back is to get the other ghost.
Peter: You better be on the money about getting Ray back, Woody.
Fraser: I am forever "on the money," Dr. Venkman.
Linkara: (as Fraser) I have hundred-dollar bills inserted into my shoes' sole inserts. It's surprisingly comfortable.
Linkara (v/o): They realize they're back in the firehouse in present time, as per the rules of the ghosts, but the Ghost of Christmas Present isn't around. Instead, they find Janine, whom Peter ordered to work. On Christmas Eve. Naturally, she's handling this with her usual level of calm and reserve.
Janine: Ghostbusters, whaddaya %&$@&# want?!
Linkara: This has nothing to do with Christmas; she just found out what happened to her character on The Real Ghostbusters.
Linkara (v/o): Egon is shocked to see Peter made her work on Christmas Eve, although I'm curious how nobody else noticed she was still there. He claims that he did it because he wanted a point of contact, but it's soon revealed that her job is to watch the million-dollar deposit – that she will not be seeing a dime of. Winston is equally pissed at this revelation.
Winston: There's four of us out there, day after day, night after night, putting our asses on the line. And you guys get to share $999,000*?
- NOTE: Winston actually says, "$990,000".
Egon: Actually, it's $3,999,000*. We get $4 million if we successfully complete this job.
- ANOTHER NOTE: Again, Egon says, "$3,990,000".
Linkara: (sarcastically) Gee, it's almost like if you hadn't been dicking around with those glasses, you could've informed Winston earlier! All three of you suck!
Linkara (v/o): Winston throws off his proton pack and tells them to go to hell, which is probably a bit of a dumb move, since it's not like he can interact with this vision. But then everything goes white again.
Egon: I don't understand why we didn't see the ghost. Perhaps, in the vision, Janine was the ghost. It's possible.
Linkara: (as Peter, stroking chin) Heeey... If she was the ghost, that means she didn't stick around like I told her to. Well, tomorrow, I'm gonna give her a talking-to about business responsibility!
Linkara (v/o): They arrive at the future sans Winston. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come looms over them.
Peter: Hi. Have we met before? I'm good with names but really struggle with faces.
Linkara: Oh, yeah, you've met him before.
(Cut to a clip of Scrooged, in which Frank Cross (Bill Murray) meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come)
Frank: (to the ghost) May I?
(Cross reaches out and opens the ghost's cloak, revealing its skeletal structure and a band of screaming demons. Cross closes the cloak again. Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): True story: when I was a little kid and didn't understand the concept of actors and appearing in different things, I caught that bit of Scrooged on TV and thought it was another Ghostbusters movie. Anyway, Egon notices something.
Egon: Venkman! Look at our* hands!
- YET ANOTHER NOTE: Egon actually says, "Look at your hands!"
Linkara: Aw, crap! Egon, you're tripping again!
Linkara (v/o): The two begin rapidly aging until they're in their 60s.
Peter: We've both kept our hair, though. Look on the bright side.
Linkara: Yeah, but that's because (makes a "finger quote") "World of the Psychic" thought that their host shouldn't look like Professor Xavier. Seems cliche.
Linkara (v/o): However, what's worse about their future is that there is a giant monster standing overhead raining destruction down upon New York, so that's a bit of a bummer. What's more, the creature is calling out "Gozer!", indicating that in this possible future, Gozer has returned, and it's just the two of them against it. They fire on it, but because they only have two streams, it's not enough to hold it. Egon thinks crossing the streams this time wouldn't be enough either, but it becomes a moot point, since the creature's tail slams on Egon, crushing him. Peter and Moneypants are returned to his apartment, with Peter still shaken by what he just saw.
Fraser: No little quips, Dr. Venkman? I don't blame you. It's quite an unsettling experience, isn't it?
'Linkara: (as Fraser) Don't take it personally, though. The ghost has been showing me Gozer killing Egon for years. I just didn't have context until now.
Linkara (v/o): The guy demands he bust the Ghost of Christmas Future and his friends will be restored, but Peter is confused why he's the last man standing.
Fraser: The ghosts– all three of the ghosts–wish to find and test those with the greatest... ambition.
Peter: That's another way of saying "the biggest jerk," right?
Linkara: Got it in one, Petey!
Linkara (v/o): Peter shoots his proton pack... but at Woodrow. He tosses the trap over to him, too, praying that his guess is right. Aaaand it is, as the other three return to him. Venkman was able to deduce the answer, but while they were detained, the Ghost of Christmas Past explained everything.
Egon: (narrating) The three ghosts were visiting the immorally wealthy as they do each year on Christmas Eve, trying to make them change their ways.
Linkara: (as Egon) They find it preferable to visiting their relatives during the holidays.
Egon: (narrating) During their first visit to Fraser, his wealth and opulent surroundings entranced the naturally hedonistic Ghost of Christmas Present.
Linkara: (as Egon) Turns out a festive spirit's weakness was a plasma screen TV.
Egon: (narrating) It had tired of its role and wanted to taste the best food with living lips. To enjoy the touch of the finest suits and silk sheets.
Linkara: (as Egon) But instead, he just spent all his time eating at Hardee's.
Egon: (narrating) The ghost possessed Fraser and has lived his life all these years.
Linkara: (as Egon) Fraser's gonna be a little surprised by his Internet search history in a bit.
Egon: (narrating) The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future would return to Fraser each year on Christmas Eve, trying to convince their colleague to rejoin them for the good of Christmas. But he wouldn't leave his host. Until now.
Linkara: (massaging his forehead) Okay, first of all: points for originality, creative team. That's a pretty clever and cool idea for a story, that one of the Ghosts of Christmas could go bad. (beat) However...
Linkara (v/o): A good idea does not automatically mean the story will be good, and I have a lot of problems with this. As you may have noticed by now, I'm a huge freakin' fan of "A Christmas Carol", and I don't buy this explanation. For starters, Egon says that it had grown tired of its role, but the Ghost of Christmas Present exists only for one day. Not only was he aging throughout the story, but he of course admitted he had more than 1,800 brothers, AKA all the ones who came before him. But hey, let's go with the benefit of the doubt here and assume he's reborn each Christmas or something like that. He wasn't hedonistic, he just lived for the moment because he had such a short time on Earth. But even while he may have enjoyed eating, this was the guy who also revealed Ignorance and Want and how dangerous they were. He also was responsible for both of my two favorite lines in the story: in particular, in regards to the Cratchits' meager living and the doomed Tiny Tim.
(Cut to a clip of a version of A Christmas Carol featuring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge)
Ghost of Christmas Present (Desmond Barrit): It may be that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions, like this poor man's child.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): He didn't care about opulence, he cared about kindness and decency! Forgiving even all of that, now is when he notices, "Hey, wealthy people get all the best stuff!" Didn't Egon say they do this every year? Was Woodrow the first one who actually used his money to buy nice crap? Plus, he's been in this guy for decades?! If he really is the spirit of Christmas, does that mean Christmas has sucked for this many years?! What the hell? But whatever. The other two ghosts take him away. Our heroes examine Fraser, wondering if he's all right.
Egon: He's suffering psychic withdrawal after long-term possession. He'll display overt gratitude any second...
Fraser: ...I'm going to sue you all until you bleed from orifices you don't even know you have.
Linkara: Well, after saving you from possession for however long, it's nice to know that you enjoy speaking out of said orifices.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with Peter apologizing to Winston, having learned his lesson from this experience... but Winston believing the $4 million thing was just a crazy vision the spirit was showing and that he didn't really try to withhold all that money from him. Aaaand... Peter just nervously agrees. Smooth.
Linkara: (holding up comic in frustration) This comic... is frustrating, and I'm leaning towards it sucking.
Linkara (v/o): Credit where credit is due; it's a clever idea, and it was very well-hinted at in Fraser's initial conversations with the other ghosts, but the execution is not exactly great. Peter comes off as the biggest jackass in the world for the stuff he pulls in this. He gets in some funny lines, but that charm only gets you so far when you don't pay someone the money they deserve, then lie about it! And the fact that the other two just went along with it is equally crappy. And as I explained, the motivation of the Ghost of Christmas Present embracing more earthly desires feels like a betrayal, or at the very least, gross misunderstanding of the character. If I was doing it, I'd tie it back with the theme of unrepentant dickery, that he grew tired of misers rejecting the better possible future and continuing in their evil ways, becoming gradually disillusioned with their mission until something had to give. In addition, the future vision felt very lacking and more fanservice-y. So, how does Gozer come back in the future? Why did their past actions result in this terrible future with Gozer destroying everything? It just all feels like wasted potential.
Linkara: Next time, we end the Christmas comics for this year with the most festive of subjects: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
(End credits roll)
The meta-ness of the Real Ghostbusters episode is kind of funny when you remember that "A Christmas Carol" is helped popularize Christmas traditions again for people, so undoing the story undoes Christmas in general.
Here's another idea for a Ghostbusters Christmas Carol for future writers: have the Ghosts of Christmas HIRE the Ghostbusters for some reason.
(Stinger: The panel showing the revelation of the Ghost of Christmas Present is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): In case you were wondering, my other favorite "Christmas Carol" quote...
(Cut to the clip of a version of A Christmas Carol featuring Patrick Stewart as Scrooge)
Ghost of Christmas Present: Oh, God, to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!
(Cut to a Christmas episode of The Real Ghostbusters)
Peter Venkman (voiced by Lorenzo Music): I think maybe that's a lesson we could all stand to learn.