The Boys: Herogasm #1, due in MayIt’s still leading for the superhero title whose name can barely be said in polite company.
And given the cover, there’s little question as to why.
May’s The Boys: Herogasm #1 kicks off the first spinoff miniseries from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys series published by Dynamite Entertainment. The miniseries, which is drawn by Ennis artistic partner from Hitman, John McCrea, seeks to answer the question (in the world of The Boys, of course) of what really happens during super-hero team ups.
We spoke with Ennis for more on the miniseries, and just how the hero-stomping Boys play a role in what goes on.
Newsarama: Garth, we've talked before about spinoffs to The Boys before, and which stories would be up for their own projects, outside of the main series. With the possibilities that were in front of you (Butcher's backstory, the other team members, etc) why did you go with Herogasm?
Garth Ennis: The time isn't right for Butcher's story yet; that has to come out at a specific point in the ongoing narrative. The others' stories will appear in the monthly. Herogasm is a story told largely from the supes' point of view, with minimal input from the Boys, and that change in perspective was what got me thinking a miniseries was the way to go.
NRAMA: From the solicitation, it sounds as if Herogasm is a parallel story to what's been going on in the main series, with V-A starting their outright offensive against the The Boys. When does Herogasm take place then, in relation to the main series?
GE: It's set between the two halves of the story, between #30- the aftermath of the G-Men story- and #31, when Vought begin their counterattack.
NRAMA: What brings all the heroes together in Herogasm? Obviously, there's an expectation that it's some world-altering calamity coming down, but given that this is The Boys, and you've established that what we read about heroes is only the cover story, an annual orgy on the moon sounds equally likely...
GE: An all-consuming threat to our fair planet Earth brings the world's heroes together to battle as one for our survival, just as they did around the same time last year. Once they're safely over the horizon, however, we see what they're really up to.
NRAMA: That said then, wow would you describe the Boys’ involvement in the story? Are they merely spoilers to the good time, or is there a serious situation that necessitates their appearance?
GE: The Boys have an opportunity here to gather a lot of dirt on the supes, who are relaxing with their guard down and indulging in all manner of dubious behavior. But they're ignoring that opportunity in favor of bigger and much more vital game. Our heroes play a very small but increasingly important role in the story until about the halfway point, when their involvement changes the dynamic completely. All bets are off, at that point.
NRAMA: Moving over to the art side of things, how did you wind up pairing with John on for the art?
GE: He seemed ideal for it, and we were lucky that he was available. His art has just the right combination of strength and subtlety; he can do his own take on The Boys without it being unrecognizable in terms of what's gone before, but likewise he won't get lost in the mix. You'll know it's a John McCrea book from page one.
NRAMA: Given that you're looking at another "cherished" feature of superhero comics in Herogasm, let’s touch again on your approach to writing The Boys. I think there's a split between fans in that you're writing the series with a maniacal grin saying, "Oh, and screw this idea about superheroes, too!" or you're just coldly, dispassionately deconstructing things down to the very marrow....
GE: I've said before that your reaction to superheroes comes down to how you first encounter them- if it's as a child, you've a good chance of retaining enough of a sense of wonder that you can enjoy their stories as an adult, but if you first read supe stories as an adult, you may have trouble taking them seriously. For me, obviously, it was very much the latter. So my approach with The Boys is a pretty clinical one, looking at the various traits of the characters and taking them to their logical conclusion: of course they'd be like this, this particular supe is bound to behave this way, how could anything other than x,y and z happen in this instance, etc.
Very basic example: unless you remember reading the Fantastic Four as a kid, gazing at the stories in childlike awe, there's pretty much only place you can go with Mr. Fantastic.
NRAMA: You've created a very believable world in The Boys with many - many areas to explore, it would seem. How do these areas and events, such as Herogasm.... suggest themselves to you, for lack of a better phrase? With such a wide open arena, and total freedom to tell whatever story you'd want, how do you keep yourself on the mainline that keeps the whole thing strong, and away from dilution by too many stories? We've all seen companies, and even some creators whore out their worlds to the nth degree, and one would assume that the temptation is there for something like The Boys...
GE: In the case of Herogasm, again, it's something that seems obvious. I remember working for DC in the nineties, seeing the yearly crossovers take shape- each more unimaginative and wearisome than the last, each more and more meaningless in terms of their sheer lack of effect on the world and its characters. Eventually, you can't help but think - come on, what are the supes really teaming up for? What really happens after the press conference and the promise to do our best for mankind?
I think what helps- or what will help- avoid a glut of Boys material is that we said from the get-go that it was a finite series. We'll do our sixty-odd issues, our couple of miniseries during the run, and then that'll be that. Like Transmetropolitan, or like Preacher, which finished when they finished and haven't been expanded on since. And both are all the better for it.
NRAMA: Fair enough. Larger-story wise, what does Herogasm do for the regular series?
GE: I was determined from the start that this would have a pretty major effect on the ongoing storyline. It may seem at first, particularly from the title, that this is a pretty typical Boys storyline- superhero hijinks, oh-god-my-eyes depravity, etc. That's certainly there if you want it, but once you understand why the Boys are really attending Herogasm you'll start to see that the implications of this one will go a lot further. As well as the main plot, you'll see things take a rather disturbing turn for Hughie, and you'll watch the Homelander indulge himself in a way that goes far beyond the usual supe shenanigans. So this is going to be one that counts, and the fallout from it will take us all the way to the end of the book.
NRAMA: Finally Garth, we've spoken before about your larger plan for The Boys and how it is fairly well-planned as a five-year project, but can it still surprise you? Can the characters still take things in different directions than you originally thought? Any examples that you can think of if they have or do?
GE: All the time. I just wrote origin stories for Mother’s Milk, Frenchie and the Female, and there were all sorts of spontaneous madness going on there. That's still a little far-off, but coming up soon is #30, in which you'll see Vought American's people deal with the implications of the G-Men story. How they tie up one particular loose end- in the first four pages of the issue- didn't occur to me until I actually put pen to paper.