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Tobin’s Spirit Guide haunts classic Ghostbusters fans both old and new

“Tobin’s Spirit Guide” is a phrase that is etched into my brain from watching The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series and the two movies it was based on in my youth. The repeated phrase referred to a fictional guide to the spirit world that Egon and Ray were constantly referring to in Ghostbusters’ version of techno-babble. Now, decades later, on the eve of a rebooted Ghostbusters arriving in theaters, an official Tobin’s Spirit Guide has been published here in the real world. Written from the in-universe perspective of Dr. Ray Stantz and Dr. Egon Spengler, author Erik Burnham (who writes comics for IDW, including some Ghostbusters issues) provides a detailed tour through the existing Ghostbusters canon that has been compiled since the 1984 film.

Since The Extreme Ghostbusters, the last Ghostbusters cartoon, ended in 1997, there have been other official additions to the Ghostbusters canon. With the hope of a Ghostbusters 3 waning in the early years of this century, the original cast reunited to reprise their Ghostbusters roles in Ghostbusters: The Video Game. Released on multiple platforms in 2009, the game’s story is recognized as official canon and a continuation of the Ghostbusters story after their cartoon counterparts had long left the screen. Comics publisher IDW scored the rights to do Ghostbusters comics, and the two-volume run continues the story of the Ghostbusters after the events of The Video Game.

With Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters about to become the basis of a continuing Ghostbusters cinematic universe (like the Marvel model) if the film is successful, the published Tobin’s Spirit Guide ends up not being a guide to all the known ghosts of the mythology, but a comprehensive tour of it. To illustrate the point, here are a few of the ghosts referenced in the book from all over the original Ghostbusters canon.

The first section (of what Dr. Stantz informs us in the foreward is an “abridged” version of the guide) is titled “Ghosts of New York,” and has entries on some of the franchise’s’ most recognizable ghouls.

Pappy Sargassi (Ghostbusters: The Video Game)
Ghostbusters: The Video Game had the player returning often to the Hotel Sedgewick as one of the settings. Early on in the plot, you come across the Class III Roaming Animator Angry Fisherman’s Ghost, a.k.a. Pappy Sargassi. He animates a Kitchen Golem in the Hotel’s Sargassi restaurant, and the Ghostbusters, along with the player, have to defeat the Golem and trap him. Even with in-game dialogue and graphics about the ghost, there is more information about how he haunts in the Spirit Guide than in the game.

The Driver (Ghostbusters 1984)
You remember this ghost from the first movie where he is part of the containment unit blow-up montage (“I believe it’s magic… I believe it’s magic (magic)”). Memorable enough to repeat, he also shows up in a few issues of the Ghostbusters comic, Volume 2. Although Tobin’s Spirit Guide speculates on how this Class III Corporal originally died, nobody actually has the answer.

The Spider Witch (Ghostbusters: The Video Game)
Turns out Ivo Shandor did alterations to other buildings in New York City to help bring about his return. In The Video Game, it’s finally revealed that the Hotel Sedgewick is a node on Shandor’s Mandala and the Ghostbusters have to shut it down. The boss for that particular battle is The Spider Witch, a half-woman half-spider ghost who was a “professional widow” in the Hotel back in the 1920s. She ends up being the most memorable ghost from the game’s returns to the Hotel.

The Librarian, The Grey Lady (Ghostbusters 1984)
The Librarian ghost is the first spirit the three founding Ghostbusters encounter in the 1984 original movie, but the ghost makes a return in the 2009 video game where she is more often referred to as “The Grey Lady.” In the game, the Grey Lady gets more backstory than just roaring at the Ghostbusters like she did in the film. The Spirit Guide entry on her covers all of it.

Ellen Gold (IDW Comics – Vol 1, Iss. 2, Vol 2, Iss. 20)
Certainly one of the creepiest inventions from the IDW Ghostbusters comic books, Ellen Gold appears briefly, but makes an impression. It turns out she was a crazy headmistress in an orphanage that let the children burn when the building was struck by lightning rather than let them out of their rooms after bedtime. Still selfish and crazy in the afterlife, Gold throws the ghosts of dead orphans in the path of the Ghostbusters proton beams to save herself.

The second section of the book is called “Assorted Apparitions” and covers a number of different ghosts that the team encountered over the years. From “Animal Spirits” to “Spectrally Animated Clothing,” a lot of these are general, but that doesn’t stop Tobin’s Spirit Guide from dropping some Easter eggs. The entry on “Elemental Spirits” refers to the Ghostbusters’ encounter with Francis Harding, which is a story that takes place in Volume 2, Issue 8 of the IDW Ghostbusters Comic. The “Possessed Objects” illustration by Kyle Holtz is, of course, Fearsome Flush, a toy from The Real Ghostbusters action figure line that wasn’t directly featured in canon, yet is super memorable and therefore a fan favorite.

fearomeflush

Sections 3 and 4 are called “Metaspecters” and “Gods and Major Demons,” respectively. The best thing about these broad categories is that they catch a lot of the cartoon Ghostbusters content.

The “Metaspecters” section is the home for powerful demons and Kyle Holtz’s illustrations make all these beasties look mean, even though they had their beginnings in children’s fair. There’s Ravana, a demon that gives victims insatiable hunger ( it appeared in the Extreme Ghostbusters cartoon episode “Glutton For Punishment”) and Rall, a demon that can possess and take the form of animals ( from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon episode “It’s a Jungle Out There”), not to mention the many demons that don’t start with the letter “R.”

The “Gods and Major Demons” section has some genuinely terrifying fan favorites from the cartoon rendered in beautiful graphic art with short summaries of the Ghostbusters’ encounters with the entities. My favorite is Wat, a creepy possessing demon that frightened me as a child when it first appeared in The Real Ghostbusters episode “Mrs. Roger’s Neighborhood.” It’s like they knew Wat was going to be the butt of “What?” jokes so they drew it as a gigantic nightmare creature in an episode of silly looking ghosts.

Then, of course, there’s Cathulu from the season two Real Ghostbusters episode “The Collect Call of Cathulhu,” because what guide to the spirit world is complete without a tribute to the Great Old One?

cathulu

The final section of the book is dedicated to Gozer itself and its many servants. Sure, there’s the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. But did you know the complete history of Stay Puft as the destructive form Gozer’s stuck in? If you didn’t read the first volume of the IDW Ghostbusters comic, you probably don’t know the whole Stay Puft story. If you didn’t play Ghostbusters: The Video Game, you don’t have the whole story on Ivo Shandor, and if you don’t have Tobin’s Spirit Guide, you don’t really know what a Torb or a Sloar looks like (hint: actually scary, thank goodness we just saw a marshmallow man).

Tobin’s Spirit Guide isn’t going to give the hardcore Ghostbusters fan any new information (though that fan will want this book to see his/her favorite ghosts realized in spooky illustrations), but if all a reader knows about the Ghostbusters are the two movies and a few cartoon episodes, the book serves as a perfect appetizer to a deep dive into the Ghostbusters canon from June 1984 to July 2016.

Soon, Paul Feig’s universe takes over. You can buy the book right now on Amazon. 

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