Remembering 'Just a Pilgrim' with Garth Ennis

Hi there - Dynamite Entertainment Associate Editor Joe Rybandt here, back again with the ever-reclusive Garth Ennis to spend a bit of time here on the virtual pages of Newsarama talking in two parts. Part the first, here below, covers Dynamite’s release of the Ennis-written Just A Pilgrim coming in December. I pause now for an intrusion that tells you what it is we’re doing exactly.

THE COMPLETE JUST A PILGRIM HARDCOVER

DIAMOND ORDER CODE: OCT08 4032

ISBN: 9781606900031 160690003X

Writer: Garth Ennis

Penciller: Carlos Ezquerra

Collected in hardcover for the first time ever, the Complete Just a Pilgrim Hardcover features the signature anti-hero as created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Carlos Ezquerra!

Return to Ennis' hopeless, yet fascinating, post apocalyptic world brilliantly illustrated by Ezquerra!

Featuring both the original mini-series and the sequel ("Garden of Eden") mini-series together for the first time in one hardcover collection, this volume also contains a complete cover gallery featuring the work of Tim Bradstreet, JG Jones, Glenn Fabry, and many more!

That said, let’s do this thing, shall we? (and come back in a few days for Part the Second where Garth and I talk about the Battlefields series, the first issue of which - “The Night Witches” hits stores shelves on October 29th, and funny enough, so does The Boys #24 and what you’re really find side-splittingly hilarious is that Garth will be available to sign both for those in the New York metropolitan area, over at Hanley’s.

Onward.

Joe Rybandt: How did you get involved with the original Pilgrim publisher Black Bull and where did the character of Pilgrim come from?

Garth Ennis: I think it was Jimmy Palmiotti who got me involved with Black Bull. He was working on something for them at the time, a book with Mark Waid and Amanda Conner, I think called Gatecrasher. Anyway, Jimmy and I have been good friends for quite some time now. He, I think, passed on a request from the Black Bull people just to see if I would like to do something for them and they seemed like a good bunch and I was happy enough to give it a go. The character I think I really just sort of dreamed up to suit Carlos Ezquerra. I wanted him to be well, obviously a tough guy, also extremely handy with firearms and so on… and your classic kind of lone. post-apocalyptic. almost Western figure. What I added to that was the religious fanaticism because I thought… I think at the time I was kind of wondering how far I could push the notion of a kind of a lone hero. Partly it comes from writing the Punisher and taking the notion of the violent gunman to its logical conclusion. This isn't really the kind of character who simply takes his coat and hat and guns off at the end of the day and has a perfectly ordinary life.

JR: Now were you writing the Punisher when this was coming out or was this before your Punisher run?

GE: I think it was right around the same time.

JR: It was after Preacher though?

GE: Yeah, it was. It was probably 'round about the summer Preacher was ending. I wanted to push the idea of the classic Western or action anti-hero a little bit more than I normally would, and that is where the religious fanaticism came from and also where the cannibalism came from. That was pushing that particular notion as far as it could possibly go, I would say. People actually seem to be happy enough to accept both once people got involved in the story. I think you actually find out what he's been up to as of about issue #3, but once people found out what he'd been up to they seemed to stick with the story anyway. I don't remember anyone, or any letters from people throwing up their hands in horror saying this was too much.

JR: Well it seems kind of tame - I just read Crossed #1 which was out last week - I just read that over the weekend and I think Pilgrim seems tame in comparison, but I think also the time that has passed for you as a writer, it's been what ten years since Pilgrim, or so almost? Eight?

GE: It must be almost that.

JR: It’s interesting, because, not that the series are related, but they are both dealing with kind of endtimes, right?

GE: There is a post-apocalyptic aspect to both. In the case of Pilgrim, it's an almost literal apocalypse because the planet has been burned to a crisp. Earth is, what we know as Earth, is effectively gone. In Crossed, the Earth is pretty much the same, it's the people that have changed -- the population has been reduced probably to a fraction of what it was by the actions of other people. So yeah, you're right, Pilgrim and Crossed are as far from one another as it's possible to be… they're very, very different but there is an overlap in the genre.

JR: Yeah, do you find - and obviously the subject matter is different and Pilgrim plays more as a comic book story and Crossed plays as more of a pure horror - but again, they both deal with reaction to the endtimes. Is Pilgrim just a comic book story dealing with endtimes and Crossed something that maybe you feel we've shifted closer to? In other words the sun burns the earth out in Pilgrim but in Crossed people lose their f###ing minds.

GE: Yeah.

JR: [LAUGHS] Is that where you see us more as a society or are they both just stories to you.

GE: I think Pilgrim is high adventure more than anything else. It's a classic Mad Max-ish, post-apocalyptic adventure with the little band of survivors, the lone hero who comes to save them and the band of avaricious pirate scum who really are rogues… freebooters on land, vehicles take the place of ships but you are effectively talking about pirates. Crossed is, as you say, it's much more of a horror book, it also looks a lot harder, I think, at what's in people. You could argue that there is a little of that in Pilgrim, with the religious mania aspect, but Crossed looks at the notion of human behavior, or human impulses, boiled down to their most primal and most awful. The desire to fight, feed and f### accelerated and magnified times a thousand, until the human beings, well it isn't a human being anymore, because the most primal part of its brain has been accessed and overridden any notion of morality or restraint. I think that is the main difference between the two. Crossed is quite a vicious brutal horror book, Pilgrim is, if anything kind, of an old-fashioned adventure.

JR: Besides The Duke [note, I saw John Wayne in the character, I was wrong as you’ll see], who else is in the genetic make-up of the Pilgrim and your creation of him?

GE: I think visually you're looking more at Clint Eastwood, or perhaps Lee Marvin, not really a John Wayne sort of character-- and in terms of his personality rather than his actual visual appearance, I don't really think he has anything to do with those characters. He's almost like a warrior monk, a self-appointed one, but I think his religious zealotry takes him much further away from simply his visual appearance.

JR: Pilgrim happened after Preacher, at least in terms of publication, and while Preacher is incredibly “American” in scope and execution and reaction, Pilgrim could have been at home in a series like 2000AD, and not just because of Carlos on art. Pilgrim feels very much -- maybe it's just Carlos, it might be just as simple as that -- but Pilgrim feels like a 2000AD book, almost in a way with its humor and all that. Was that intentional or was that just what you brought to it at the time?

GE: I think it’s very much the kind of material I tend to do when I'm working with Carlos. I grew up reading his work and when I had a chance to work with him in those days like with Bloody Mary or with Adventures in the Rifle Brigade or with Pilgrim, it was very much a kiss of violence, humor, larger than life characters and again, a science-fiction adventure story. So yes, I think that Pilgrim is heavily influenced by my having grown up reading 2000AD. It's interesting I think, that the work I'm doing now with Carlos is quite different. In recent years, the war stories I've been doing with him, like Condors in the second round of Vertigo War Stories and the Tankies in Battlefields, don't really depend on our shared history in working for, and reading 2000AD; they're perhaps the kind of material that Carlos would not normally have been asked to do, but I think he enjoyed himself immensely.

Check back on Monday to read the full first issue of Just a Pilgrim.

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