Love, War and Revenge: Garth Ennis on Dear Billy

Ennis on Battlefields: Dear Billy

In January, Garth Ennis kicks off his second story in Dynamite Entertainment's Garth Ennis’ Battlefields - Dear Billy. Unconnected to the three issue Night Witches arc which took place in Russia, Dear Billy moves to 1942 Singapore and India, and follows the tragic story of a nurse, her soldier, and the horrors she suffered.

Speaking to Newsarama last month, Ennis explained the story saying, “It's about a young British nurse, called Carrie Sutton, who is taken prisoner by the Japanese in the retreat from Singapore, after it fell in the early part of 1942. Carrie has a bad time at the hands of her captors, she manages to survive and after returning to India, which was still held by the British at that point, she finds herself working as a nurse, and forming a tentative relationship with a young pilot who's passed through her hospital, and that's probably where the story would end, but then fate drops the chance for revenge in Carrie's lap and she takes it in possibly ... I suppose you might say it's a rather grim, ill advised way of going about things, but when you see the social mores that someone like Carrie would have to face at that stage in, well not in that stage of the war, but in fact in that stage of British society, British Colonial society, you realize, that there really wasn't much other opportunity for her to go about getting her revenge -- she never even really expected that she would get a chance to. I suppose culturally, what you're looking at is the difference between a colonial power, the British Empire, albeit in decline, and the social standards that it set for women, and in comparison to the Night Witches, communist Russia which for all its flaws did ostensibly push the idea of equality, and gave women the chance to fight back against the invaders of their country, just as strongly as the men.”

That is to say, Ennis discussed further with Newsarama recently, Carrie isn’t given any hope of revenge – until she meets Billy. “Carrie's position as a young, unmarried, middle class woman in the last days of the British Empire meant that she was subject to certain social mores that no longer apply today,” Ennis said. “This is what causes part of her problem, in fact, as she's unable to seek help in overcoming her ordeal- in fact, she feels as if she can't even talk about it. Beyond that, Billy is able to seek revenge on his tormentors at the controls of a fighter-bomber, blasting the enemy with cannon, rockets and bombs. Carrie is given no such outlet for her anger.”

But despite the cover image by John Cassaday and the talk of the relationship between the two, Ennis isn’t about to call Dear Billy a romance.

“I'd call it a tragedy. It's about a young woman who gets swept up in events beyond her control or even understanding, who undergoes horrors she couldn't ever have imagined,” Ennis said. “Once she goes in search of revenge she ends up locked into a dreadful spiral of violence that threatens to consume her completely. “

There is romance though, Ennis says, it’s just that it’s tinged with its own quiet desperation.

“Carrie definitely believes her time with Billy to be extremely precious, a love affair during wartime being rather a precarious undertaking. He's flying ground attack missions against the Japanese in Burma, so he could be snatched away from her at any time. What she doesn't really consider is that her own actions may be making things even worse.”

Garth Ennis’ Battlefields: Dear Billy #1, drawn by Peter Snejbjerg is due in stores in January.

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