Last week, Dynamite announced that famed writer Garth Ennis — known for his bloody epics and , and a long run on Marvel's — would be writing a new ongoing series starring iconic pulp hero The Shadow. Ennis is joined on the series by artist Aaron Campbell, a Dynamite veteran whose worked on series such as and . With issue #1 — featuring covers by John Cassaday, Howard Chaykin, Jae Lee and Alex Ross — out in April, Ennis answered a few questions from Newsarama via email about his fondness for the character, how The Shadow compares to some of his previous work, and why the 1930s pulp era suits him as a writer. Newsarama: Garth, you're clearly a fan of The Shadow, and the character has managed to endure for decades. From your perspective, what are the qualities of the character that have enabled him to stick around for 80 years?
Garth Ennis: Great look, with the hat, the coat, the scarf, the twin pistols. Nice sense of mystery, and of danger — you're never sure exactly how much he knows, or how far he'll go in pursuit of his aims. And stories set in the pulp era, with its enduring appeal.
Nrama: On the other side of that, how would you respond to a reader who may be unfamiliar with The Shadow, and see the character as a relic from a bygone era?
Ennis: Aren't they all? The vast majority of the most famous comic book characters — at least in terms of those owned by corporations — were created 50-70 years ago.
Nrama: As a fan, what material was your first introduction to the character?
Ennis: That would be the Howard Chaykin '80s update, which I think still holds up rather well. It's not set in the '30s, which is the period I think the character works best in, but Howard carries it off through sheer ability.
Nrama: The Shadow is a licensed character — how does the creative freedom on this series compare to a creator-owned project like The Boys? Is there a good amount of leeway there?
Ennis: It's been pretty good. Two or three minor points in the four issues I've written to date, and those more to do with character than any sense of extreme content.
Nrama: It looks like the series will be set firmly in the pulp era that originally birthed the character. What is it about this environment that you find personally appealing?
Ennis: On the surface it seems very romantic, with the veneer of New York high society covering the seedier end of things on the waterfront and so on, and the mystique of the Fabulous Orient in places like Shanghai and Hong Kong. Air travel was beginning to open up the world, at least for the adventurous types who could afford it.
Yet at the same time, people in the know were gearing up for the massive confrontation that was coming: between Communism and Fascism, between the Democracies and the Dictatorships. Most continued in blissful ignorance, but some — especially in government — were starting to make their plans for the coming catastrophe.
Nrama: Do you see any similarities between this series and any of your past work?
Ennis: There's an obvious parallel with the Punisher, but Frank Castle is a much more straightforward character, a one-thing-at-a-time kind of guy. The Shadow sees things on a grander scale — he's an agent of Fate, putting the pieces in play, moving them around the board. Got a nice sense of the theatrical too, often engineering complex and tortuous ends for his foes.
Really, rather than my own work, what I see in the Shadow — and the Punisher and Nick Fury too, come to that — is something harkening back to the British comics characters I grew up on. He is, when all's said and done, a gunfighter.
Nrama: Aaron Campbell, who has worked on plenty of projects for Dynamite in the past, is artist of the series . At this early stage, what can you say about what he's bringing to the series, visually?
Ennis: Tremendous sense of mood and place. Very strong on research, which is vital for a period piece. Good with characters. And — my #1 concern — an excellent storyteller.
Nrama: The Shadow has been announced as an ongoing series — how long term are you thinking in terms of plotting ahead on the book
Ennis: I'm doing the first six; after that we'll see how it goes.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!