Joshua Williamson on 'Ghosted', 'Masks & Mobsters' and digital comics

josh-williamson-ghosted-masks-and-mobsters.jpg
Joshua Williamson is a comic book writer who has been able to create for some of the most iconic properties in the history of the medium. From "Batman" and "Superman," to the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Star Wars," Williamson has had the opportunity to play around in many different worlds. What may be more interesting than those however, are the ones that he created for his own characters.

Zap2it had the opportunity to sit down with Williamson at the Skybound booth at Comic-Con 2013 to talk about two of his original works, "Ghosted" and "Masks & Mobsters," as well the emergence of comic books in a digital format.

Something that is evident from a lot of Williamson's work is he likes to take two different genres and smash them together, creating something entirely new. Never is that more evident than in "Ghosted," released by Skybound, which he describes as "'Ocean's 11' in a haunted house."

What does that mean? Well, the story centers around a convict named Jackson Winters, who is broken out of prison by a rich collector. He's broken out for a reason though, to help the man complete his collection, which consists of supernatural artifacts. There's only one thing the collection is missing, an actual ghost.

Like "Ocean's 11," Winters assembles a team to help him accomplish the task. Not just any group of people can help him, though. "Instead of getting the best criminals in the world, he gets the best paranormal people in the world. He gets a medium, a magician, ghost hunters. On top of that he gets a skeptic, somebody to keep them on their toes the whole time."

From there, the team breaks into the haunted house in an attempt to capture the spirit. Instead of relying on being overly graphic and shocking those who pick up the book, Williamson is more interesting in giving his readers a genuine thrill. "The best kind of horror is the stuff that haunts you later," he explains. 

ghosted-skybound-variant-cover.jpg
When the mission is complete, Williamson says those who survive the outing will move forward into an ongoing series, which will feature the team, led by Winters, involved in more crime that mixes in the supernatural.

Another genre-mashing title he has, "Masks & Mobsters," also deals with the with criminal tendencies, but is pretty light on the supernatural. Instead, he mingles the world of organized crime with the Golden Age of superheroes. "You have to imagine, when those superheroes started popping up, there were no supervillains," Williamson says, "So the thing they were going after most was organized crime."

That's the springboard for "Masks & Mobsters," though it might not be told the way one might expect. When putting the idea together, he had an idea, "What if you did that world, but from the mobsters perspective?" 

The possibilities open up when you shift from the point of view of the hero, to that of the story's villain. Especially when in the mafia world, as was clearly demonstrated in any number of mob films, including "The Godfather." "The mob has rules, they have a set of guidelines," he says, "They pay the police and judges off. But you can't pay off Tony Stark or Batman. That completely throws off the dynamic."

"Masks & Mobsters" is available digitally first, before being collected in a hardcover edition. Over the past couple years, comic books have been moving into the digital arena. "You want to provide your audience with as many options as possible and we don't have newsstands anymore," he says, "Digital is pretty much the new newsstand."

That doesn't mean physical copies of comics will be going anywhere, though, adding, "I hate all or nothing ideas, some people want digital, some people want single issues, some people want [collected] trade paperbacks ... It's about getting as much as you can out there to as many people as possible."
Photo/Video credit: DC, Skybound