Movie Reviews

Ghostbusters' Belushi Cameo Honors the Franchise's Original Venkman

While he inspired a different character in the movies, John Belushi made a noteworthy cameo in the Ghostbusters comics. The iconic actor and SNL alum was known for his frequent collaborations with Dan Aykroyd, who originally planned to cast Belushi as Dr. Peter Venkman in his Ghostbusters proposal. While the role was ultimately portrayed by Bill Murray, Belushi’s presence was still felt within the Ghostbusters franchise, as he appeared in the IDW Ghostbusters comic in familiar clothing, acting as a spiritual advisor to Aykroyd’s Ray Stantz.

Having collaborated on SNL and on other projects like 1980’s Blues Brothers, Belushi and Aykroyd’s personal and professional partnership was to continue with Ghostbusters, Aykroyd’s supernatural comedy, which originally saw the duo (along with other comedians) traveling through space and time combating paranormal threats. However, Belushi’s unexpected death in 1982 and Aykroyd’s original script being deemed too expensive and impractical saw many changes and rewrites, especially following Harold Ramis’ involvement. Although Bill Murray was eventually cast as Peter Venkman, it’s rumored that the green ectoplasmic entity later dubbed “Slimer” was said to be inspired by Belushi.

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In Ghostbusters #1 by writer Erik Burnham and artist Dan Schoening, Dr. Raymond Stantz’s dreams go from pleasant to a nightmare very quickly as he finds himself back on top Central Park West, witnessing his teammates incapacitated and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man running rampant but wearing his face now. Lamenting that this is not how things went originally, Ray is greeted by a mysterious entity which states that the events are close enough and that he is technically still responsible for Stay Puft. This entity appears like John Belushi’s character Joliet Jake from the Blues Brothers, comforting Ray while also giving him an ominous warning about events yet to come for him and the Ghostbusters.

The IDW Ghostbusters series is full of verbal and visual references to the Ghostbusters franchise, with Easter Eggs from the video games, fan films, cartoons and even cosplayers scattered throughout its run. Much like John Candy’s unfulfilled role as Louis Tully, Burnham and Schoening make Belushi’s cameo official within Ghostbusters canon. While it’s not quite the original appearance planned in Aykroyd’s pitch, the moment honors both the intention to include Belushi in canon and the bond between the two actors, as their characters interact as friends.

This entity later dubbed “Ray’s Spirit Guide” was critical in helping defeat entities which wanted to use Ray to help Gozer change forms and finish the job the Ghostbusters stopped him from completing. He would show up in other stories, often in dreams to offer more warnings, and even made himself known to others in the Ghostbusters team. While his true purpose for helping has yet to be explored, it was great to see Belushi’s spirit live on within the Ghostbusters multiverse – a universe created by one of his best friends and collaborators.

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