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Monday, February 12, 2024 

The people who ruined superhero comics now want to return to "original" genres with Ghost Machine

ComicBook spoke with Geoff Johns and Bryan Hitch about the goal of Ghost Machine at Image, which sounds pretty laughable considering the role they played in dragging down the quality of superhero comics since a quarter century ago:
Geoff Johns and Bryan Hitch, two of the creators behind Ghost Machine, explain why the comic book company is spreading its wings beyond just superhero storytelling. Spearheaded by Geoff Johns, some of the biggest names in comics have joined on with Ghost Machine, such as Bryan Hitch, Gary Franks, Ivan Reis, Jason Fabok, Peter J. Tomasi, Francis Manapul, and more. Ghost Machine #1, a one-shot that provided readers with a glimpse of the four universes inside the publishing initiative, was recently released, and they span multiple genres. Geoff Johns and Bryan Hitch, two of the creators behind Ghost Machine #1, discussed why they're veering away from superheroes.

ComicBook.com spoke with Geoff Johns and Bryan Hitch at MegaCon last weekend, where we asked why Ghost Machine is putting a spotlight on non-superhero tales. "I think superheroes is less... It is a genre in itself, but it's very adaptable," Geoff Johns said. "So you could have a horror-based superhero, a science fiction-based superhero, you could have a Western superhero. So we're all very aware that comics is a medium, and that throughout its history, it's had everything from superheroes to romance comics. So we use the term superhero-adjacent, but they're all action, adventure, horror, science fiction stuff. It's not something that doesn't have to be differentiated from superheroes. The only thing is we're not doing capes and tights, but there's still big-budget action adventure comics.

Bryan Hitch added, "It's interesting. If you look at comic books before TV, really when TV was just getting started, they had all genres. They had superheroes, Westerns, crime, romance, everything. And then when TV started having Westerns and romance and crime, those comics started to go away because you could only get superheroes in comics. And now superheroes are all over TV and film and it felt like a chance to go back to all the different genres that comic books originally started with and just do different stuff. And we were planning this years ago now, it's just we've been doing superheroes most of our careers and we love them, but we all want to just do something new and different."
And they say all this long after they did such a loathsome job with superheroes, so why must we assume this new venture will be much different in terms of taste? Also appalling is how anybody who reduced superhero comics to such a quagmire could say they "love" them. And the way Hitch says you could only get superheroes in comicdom is also slapdash and absurd, because what happened, simply put, is that superhero adventures became far more favored by audiences going forward. But it's not like non-superhero comics vanished altogether during the Silver/Bronze/Iron Ages, and since the 1990s, if you know where to look, there are non-superhero comics that turned up. That aside, if Hitch and Johns could make superhero comics so crude, why must we expect their Image venture to be much different? There's also a certain writer on the list of contributors who's quite alienating:
Ghost Machine's mission statement reads, "Ghost Machine's groundbreaking creator collective was launched at New York Comic Con in October 2023 and features a global best-of-class lineup of artists and writers whose award-winning and iconic works include a who's who of comic book legends such as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Aquaman, Stargirl, JSA, The Flash, The Ultimates, Black Lightning, Green Arrow and countless more: Brad Anderson, Jason Fabok, Gary Frank, Bryan Hitch, Geoff Johns, Rob Leigh, Lamont Magee, Francis Manapul, Brad Meltzer, Ivan Reis, Peter Snejbjerg, Peter J. Tomasi, and Maytal Zchut. In an industry first, all of Ghost Machine's creators jointly own and run the company, sharing in all of Ghost Machine's publishing, media, merchandising and licensing. Each creator is exclusive to the company for their comic book work after completing projects already committed to."
Johns and Hitch sure know how to make this a most divisive affair, recruiting the author of Identity Crisis, who's never apologized for how crude and demeaning to women he made it. And the talk of merchandise and media strongly suggests this'll be another gimmick to create products for adapting to the silver screen by extension. But if I'd rather not buy the works of these phonies in comics, then I'd rather not associate with any adaptations to TV and film either.

And what did Johns mean by "less" regarding superhero fare? Point: he brought it down to that much, what with the way he reduced it all to a shoddy parade of jarring violence and pointless nostalgia, made additionally sour by the poor taste he injected. Exactly why I wouldn't be surprised if Ghost Machine's comics supposedly built on adventure themes turn out to be little different.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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