The following is an interview with the creative team behind the comic book series, The Ghost System. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with writer David Wilburn, sequential artist Rafael Romeo Magat, colorist Linda Scott Campbell, cover artist Clark Bint, and letterer Tim West about their shared creative process in bringing the series to life on the page, what they hope that readers may take away from the series, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of The Ghost System! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the premise behind this story?
David Wilburn: The Ghost System is a dystopian cyberpunk comic where a personal tragedy sparks chaos, plunging a city into a terrifying siege.
Soro, an isolated and anarchistic young man, is pushed to the edge of his sanity as he wages war on a gang of robbers who attacked him in his home, and against a bigger, more sinister, and deeply personal enemy.
Set against the backdrop of Manchester in the year 2045, The Ghost System explores tyranny, both personal and systemic. It is a gripping dystopian tale which blurs the lines between ideological good and evil.
At its heart it’s a relatable story of loss and of one person’s battle against an oppressive system. Whether I set stories in the past, present, or future, I want them all to say something about how we are living now and where we could go from here.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in bringing this world and characters to life on the page?
DW: I think it’s important to find a balance between the vision in my own head and the needs of other creatives that I am working alongside. It’s easy to end up being overly prescriptive with your idea of what your writing should look like on the page, but by doing that, you not only make the work less interesting for everyone else, but you also risk missing out on the opportunity for your work to be improved. In the end, the last word on what’s right and what’s wrong is (usually) with the writer, but it’s a collaborative process and everyone involved should have the opportunity to shine.
It’s hard when you have spent countless hours crafting characters and their world, making every single choice yourself, to then suddenly let other people in and allow them to put their own stamp on things, and even (horror!) make changes! But once you get to that stage, you have to let go a little bit. Writers, trust your artists, your letterers, your colourists. Chances are that they know their jobs much better than you do.
Everyone involved in The Ghost System has brought their best work, and everyone has added something above and beyond their ‘job title’, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we have created.
Rafael Romeo Magat: I am truly grateful to David for the immense trust, patience, and freedom that he has given me. This has allowed us to have a pretty simple collaborative process.
It starts with David sharing his script with me. I then read it and ask David any questions I have to clarify things. Afterwards, I do the research, take reference photos, make my layouts (which I give to David for approval), and then I move on to digital pencils and inks.
Once I hand over the final files to David, he hands them over to Linda for colours and Tim for lettering, where they both do a splendid job of making everything sing.
Linda Scott Campbell: This is the second book I’ve had the pleasure of working on with David. I’m always so impressed by his visioning of the world he is building. He has a clear sense of the vibe he is creating. Rafael has been a thrill to work with. His artwork captures the essence and direction of the story and his understanding of the color process allows great suggestions. All this allows me to explore options for the colors to enhance the story.
Clark Bint: As the cover artist and character designer on The Ghost System, I’ve been pretty involved with Soro’s story – we explore this city through his own journey, and David and I have talked a lot about how to make sure that Manchester attitude is present, so I looked at architecture, 20th century mod/rave culture to mix in with David’s wonderful descriptions. The police robots had a similar process – a functioning machine that resembles a UK police officer, made with durable riot gear and a cold stare.
The covers reflect this; each one has a familiar Manchester location with the present future looming over it, and a sense that this story with humble beginnings will grow through the cracks and unravel, until the city itself is involved in Soro’s conflict.
Tim West: I’ve worked with Rafael in the past, so was delighted when David chose him to illustrate The Ghost System. Raf is a complete professional, and he makes my lettering job much simpler. When lettering, I pretty much followed his lead, in terms of the aesthetic, as he breathes so much detail into each page and makes it easy to see how the lettering needs to complement the art.
BD: What intrigued you about the cyberpunk aesthetic, and what (or who) were some of your creative influences?
RRM: What intrigued me most was that I had never drawn a cyberpunk story before, but as an admirer of Syd Mead (who, of course, helped design the world of Blade Runner), I saw a tremendous opportunity to finally dip my toes into the genre and add my own style to David’s dystopian story.
I also particularly enjoyed drawing all the background characters’ costumes. David wanted everyone to have a bit of an Asian influence to their dress style, so I specifically referenced Japanese street fashion and K-Pop stage costumes. I’ve always found those styles to be very forward looking and cool while still being practical and wearable.
LSC: I was really excited when David first broached the possibility of me coloring Ghost and the opportunity to explore the cyberpunk aesthetic. Coloring is about storytelling – but it’s always so fun when dramatic and strong color palettes work. Both David and Rafael liked the Jordie Bellaire Batman Detective vibe which I think resonates well with this story. My creative influences in coloring include Jordie but also Matt Hollingsworth’s Tokyo Ghost, Matt Wilson’s Paper Girls, and, as always, Dave Stewart. I’m also really blessed to be connected to many inspiring colorists who are always pushing the boundaries of what coloring can provide to a story for constant inspiration.
CB: That’s a question with a long answer! While this is a cyberpunk book, I actually try to avoid cyberpunk aesthetics when researching and drawing worlds like this, as the real world offers a more visually interesting smorgasbord. (We pretty much live in a cyberpunk world anyway.) I’d do this for any genre if the story has something greater to say, like we have with The Ghost System, because it creates a more unique visual identity. Also, “easy” research is getting harder to do – Google “cyberpunk” or “fantasy” etc., and the first results will most likely be AI-generated prompts, with no sense of culture and history outside its established aesthetic.
Alarmingly, the same goes for historical searches. It’s pretty awful. Personally, I’ve always found more inspiration in libraries, history, travel, and the world around me in general. Instead of researching cyberpunk cities, I’d rather take interesting buildings and streets I’ve seen in real life and reimagine them as part of this world. Artistically, I’m pretty influenced by British and European comics and US Underground Comix, like 2000AD and Moebius, George Herriman, and Spain Rodriguez. I also look for inspirations in theatre, music, and literature, as well as classical art movements from around the world. How do different mediums explore a narrative and how can it influence comic storytelling?
TW: Who doesn’t love a bit of cyberpunk!? Especially when it means I have to re-read/watch Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner as ‘research’
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Soro’s story may connect with and impact readers?
DW: Wherever we are on the political and spiritual spectrum, I think we all share the same sense of uncertainty about what the future holds. Uncertainty seems to be the one thing that truly unites us all right now. Somehow, the more connected the world has become the more disconnected from other people we seem to be, and at the same time we’re left wondering what jobs we are going to be doing in the age of AI. I remember being told that one day robots would do all the dirty, boring, difficult jobs, and we would be free to create art. Instead the AIs are being taught to create the art, and we’re asking where that leaves us.
Technology and connectivity both have the potential to bring benefits for us all, but they seem to be being cornered by a tiny minority and used to keep us all divided while they cement their own power and wealth, so I am trying to explore how that might look twenty years from now.
Though the book is set in the future, I’ve imagined a world where the people aren’t all that different to how we are now. Technology progresses far more quickly than society does, and we’re all just trying to keep up, but, at the heart of it, we’re still the same whether we lived a hundred years in the past or live a hundred years in the future. We still have the same drives, goals, jealousies, insecurities, joys. The world might change a lot, but we don’t change all that much. I’ve tried to reflect that in my view of Manchester in 2045.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DW: Apart from overseeing the art for the upcoming issues of The Ghost System, I’m currently finishing up a play that I’ve been writing on and off for a while, and have just finished writing the first issue of my next comic book project which I have working-titled Coming Back, though that title is very likely to change!
RRM: Ghost System 2! It begins!
LSC: Outside of working on The Ghost System, I am currently finishing the successfully Kickstarted 40-page book, The Devil Paid Men. This is a Hell-Sprawling Epic Fantasy/Action series about a group of knights that must partner with evil forces in a story about redemption, destiny, and overcoming death. This book is with Eddie Klinker (co-create\or/writer) and the fabulous Jimmy Kucaj (co-creator/artist).
CB: I’ve been working as the interior artist for Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon: House of Bloodaxe prequel comic, and that’ll be out in January.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Ghost System and your other work?
DW: I’m on Facebook as Broken Face Comics or Instagram (@brokenfacecomics), and Bluesky (@brokenfacecomics.bsky.social).
RRM: I post any updates about my projects to my Instagram (@artofrafaelromeomagat), and if anyone wants a better look at my work, I also have a Behance profile.
LSC: I’m mostly on twitter at @Lscottcampbell or bluesky (lscottcampbell.bsky.social) with my portfolio at lscottcampbell.myportfolio.com.
CB: I also have a few covers coming out all of which I’ll reveal on my Twitter, Instagram, and Bluesky (@clarkbintart).
TW: You can find me on YouTube, where I make videos about lettering comics.