Johnston And Chankhamma Talk About Ghost Station Zero
Outright Geekery got the chance to talk with Antony Johnston and Shari Chankhamma about their new Image Comics series Ghost Station Zero, a follow-up to their 2015 series Codename Baboushka: The Conclave Of Death.
With Baboushka back for another mission, what can you tell readers about the new series?
AJ: With THE CONCLAVE OF DEATH, we of course had to establish who Baboushka is, how she finds herself working for a ‘dirty jobs’ division of the CIA, and so on.
With GHOST STATION ZERO, all that heavy lifting has been done, and so instead we’re focusing on turning up the action (not to mention globetrotting) — we start in China, zip over to a casino in Switzerland, then we’re off to the wilds of Canada… all in pursuit of the mysterious Ghost Stations, abandoned Soviet Cold War bases that hold a deadly secret. The only thing you can be sure of is that everywhere Baboushka goes, something’s going to blow up.
Antony, Ghost Station Zero deals with a network of Cold War bases that have been abandoned. For a story like this, what kind of research was done?
AJ: Well, the Ghost Stations, at least as they exist in this story, are complete fiction. But I’ve long been fascinated by Soviet listening stations — remote outposts around the world, where USSR technicians would monitor radio airwaves for signals. They were very real (maybe they still are!) and so for the Ghost Stations, I expanded on that concept. I also very much doubt the Soviets were the only ones doing it, too…
Does this feel like the kind of character that you could tell story after story about?
AJ: Absolutely. Baboushka was created to scratch my ‘superspy’ itch for exactly that purpose, so that I could write any outlandish spy-action story I wanted to for her. And I’m rarely short of ideas for those.
How did the two of you begin this collaboration?
AJ: Shari coloured Justin Greenwood’s art on our book THE FUSE, after I saw her work on Ed Brisson’s excellent series SHELTERED. After we’d been making THE FUSE for a while, Shari told me she’s an artist in her own right, and sent me some of her samples. She didn’t know it then, but that was at the same time while I was looking for an artist to draw Baboushka’s stories, so it felt like fate. Who better to draw a kick-ass woman than another kick-ass woman?
SC: I pretty much just sent Antony an email asking if he had anything for me to draw. I like working with him, and I was hoping he’d be open to a bit of different art style.
Shari, the art on Ghost Station Zero looks fantastic and you have some very nice page layouts incorporated into the book. How much of what the reader sees is you following script and how much is your own input into how the art looks?
SC: Antony’s script is pretty detailed in terms of what’s going on in each panel, how many panels there are per page and what should be highlighted or focused upon. The rest was up to me. I did take some liberties and changed what I thought would work better, but we always go back and forth to make sure we’re both happy with the final result.
What’s next for the creative team?
AJ: As I write this we’re anticipating the release of ATOMIC BLONDE, and so I’m busy figuring out the third book in that series. I also recently wrote a new novel, which is being shopped around at the moment; and, as always, I’m working on lots of stuff that I simply can’t talk about right now. But when I can, I will.
SC: Hopefully I’ll be drawing another comic! I’d love to tackle far future sci-fi, space travel with positive outlook. That sort of thing.
Thanks for the interview. If readers want to find more of your work online, are there places on social media for them to follow you?
AJ: Twitter is @antonyjohnston, FB is facebook.com/antonyjohnston. And if people want to see what other comics, games, and books I’ve written, there’s an actual website (I’m old-fashioned like that) at antonyjohnston.com
SC: Twitter @sharihes and my website is at sharii.com, my FB is a bit of a ghost town I’m afraid.