Crossovers are a common occurrence in comics, involving both characters owned by a particular publisher and those with more varied origins. Indeed, comics may be the one format where such crossovers are downright celebrated.
Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron by Eric Burnham and Dan Schoening represents one of the most recent examples of this, giving a crossover that would be unlikely in any other format. The creative team are no strangers to the crossovers, having previously produced excellent works featuring the Ghostbusters. As a result a reader can go into the story and expect not only a funny tale, but well characterized and plotted.
This volume opens on Cybertron where the Deceptecons have been successful in running the Autobots off the planet, only for Gozer the Traveller to arrive. It is a clever twist, not only because of the machine versions of the monsters from the same part of the Ghostbusters film, but also because of the subtle differences in how the characters handle such a situation, down to the form of the destructor. The form is still likely to induce laughter, however, if only for the over-the-top image it gives of the character and how that reflects upon his opinion of himself. It is a very nice sequence, down to the page-long explanation of the results which is both sad and humorous in its own right.
The story then cuts to a great deal of time later and continues in the merging of elements between the settings. The following pages include a combination of old and new elements for the Transformers franchise, with lead Autobot Ectonymous Diamtron being a slightly odd Autobot scientist whom everyone finds to have a long, complicated name. This alone provides more than a few clever bits of humor. He has found an unknown Cybertronian signal, suggesting some of the Transformers might have made it to Earth in the intervening centuries. The fact it is coming from the planet Earth leads directly to the crossover of heroic characters.
It is a good reason to get the Transformers involved in the adventures of the Ghostbusters in New York. The Ghostbusters are out on a job, but quickly find Ecto-1 pushed into a sinkhole. They are determined to finish their job and fail to notice a duplicate of the classic car at a distance. As the four capture one ghost, they quickly find that there is a difference between a ghost from their planet and the ghost of Saturday morning cartoons’ most well known traitor. The characters represent a strange mix of ideas — comedy, horror, sf, urban fantasy on one side and sf Mecha action on another. The mix works far better than it should from early on, due in no small part to the juxtaposition of the different themes and situations the two different franchises use. When Ectonymous Diamtron, soon called Ectotron, reveals himself to the Ghostbusters, he expects some mixture of fear, intimidation and awe. Instead, the group, having already dealt with large monstrosities on multiple occasions (as well as the ghost of a very similar being) are fairly unmoved, finding him strange but in no way unbelievable or shocking. Egon refuses to believe the idea he could be an alien, and the question of what to do with the ghost of Starscream comes into play.
The use of existing yet unexpected elements is impressive, with largely humorous and joke elements of the Transformers franchise becoming fairly intimidating due to their unique presentation. Continuity from the Ghostbusters comics as well as the films comes into play, and there are more than a few references to other interpretations of the franchise. While more facets of the Ghostbusters franchise are focused on, minor details from and clear love for both franchises shine through.
The cast of characters for this particular volume is relatively small on each side, the core five Ghostbusters, counting Janine, our new friend Ectotron, and a smattering of the most well-known of the Autobots and Decepticons from the Transformers franchise. Each remains relatively in character, influenced by those around them without becoming something besides what the reader will think they should be. Optimus Prime cracks a few jokes, admitting it is probably the result of being around the Ghostbusters. In turn both Egon and Ray take great interest in the new details they have learned from the Autobots, and what they could mean for science in general and paranormal research in particular.
The art by Dan Schoening continues his style from previous Ghostbusters releases, providing a sense of continuity. In an impressive feat or rendering, Schoening manages to make the Transformers resemble their classic counterparts closely without feeling at all out of place in that stylized world. Personalities are on full display, whether cowardly, brave, curious, or rather dim. Classic characters are easy to recognize yet very expressive. The new character Ectotron manages to look like he was made for this crossover while still feeling entirely appropriate to the classic 1980s “G1” Transformers aesthetic.
For those who find such details important, this story easily works within the continuity of the long-standing Ghostbusters comic books by the same creative team. Whether it works with any particular Transformers continuity is more difficult to discern, however, given that franchise has had far more different reboots, relaunches, and parallel realities, the fandom is more likely to be used to dealing with slight variations upon the characters.
The trade paperback collection of this story includes not only the tale as presented in the miniseries, but also a collection of alternate covers and related images. Even two different pictures of the limited edition toys created to promote the crossover are printed at the back of the book. It is a nice little addition for those who do not collect toys, or simply did not add this particular set to their collections. This is not the exhaustive list of extras that appear in some releases, but it is not bare bones either. Certainly there is nothing that the reader would rather not have collected inside of these pages.
Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron is a very enjoyable tale, featuring two beloved 80’s properties. The characterization is generally still strong, with the transformers being occasionally influenced by their new allies. Elements of both franchises are combined quite well, as believable as any crossover between these franchises might be and possibly more than many. Easy to recommend to Ghostbusters fans, Transformers fans, and anyone who would enjoy a good light fun adventure.