The Tankies #1, John Cassaday coverGarth Ennis moves his theater of war from the Pacific (in the currently-running Garth Ennis’ Battlefields: Dear Billy miniseries) to France for the final of three Battlefields miniseries, The Tankies.
The three issue miniseries is set after D-Day, and focuses on events around the Battle of Normandy – particularly one British tank crew’s experiences as they find themselves cut off behind enemy lines.
Joining Ennis on this trip is his occasional collaborator Carlos Ezquerra (with coers by John Cassaday and Garry Leach). We spoke with the writer for more.
Newsarama: Garth, we've asked for Night Witches and Dear Billy, so we have to ask with The Tankies - what was the instigating event that served as the spark for this story? Was there anything specific, or just a broader view of the battle for Normandy that got this rolling?
The Tankies #1, page 2Garth Ennis: The battle for Normandy's a particular fascination of mine. Everyone's heard about D-Day, and some even know about Patton's breakout in August- but what a lot of people don't know is that the British and Canadians made that advance possible, by slowly, laboriously wearing down the German forces in two months of very bloody conflict. They took pretty dreadful casualties into the
bargain, and it was their story I wanted to highlight in The Tankies.
NRAMA: Speaking of ideas and sparks, you've said that you read a lot of military history and accounts of war. For you, what causes an account of events to hook on with you and lay down roots for what will eventually become a story?
GE: It can be all kinds of things. A particular battle, as above. An individual or group, like the Night Witches. A single incident, as in Dear Billy.
NRAMA: When it comes to characters that you place in these stories, what goes into it for you? Is it as process-driven as realizing the story you want to tell and placing the appropriate characters in as "pieces" to move the story to where it needs to be, or is it more organic and seat of your pants than that?
The Tankies #1, page 3GE: Organic. I do pretty much everything by instinct.
NRAMA: That said, what went into the construction of Corporal Stiles – the leader of the crew?
GE: Stiles has been prowling around in my head for quite some time- an angry, uptight little bald man with a Geordie accent, which is something I never get tired of listening to.
NRAMA: Generally speaking, how experienced are the soldiers you're showing in The Tankies?
The Tankies #1, page 4GE: Robbo, Ken, Bing and Hooky are all complete novices, this is their very first time in combat- although they've been pretty intensively trained over the preceding two years, like most of the British and American soldiers who saw action in Normandy. Stiles is an old hand - he has four years of bitter experience in North Africa and Italy, most of it involving baling out of tanks that were shot to bits by
superior German ones.
NRAMA: You're teaming with Carlos again on this war story. What's your working relationship with him like?
GE: Same as it is with most of the artists I work with- minimal contact, we both trust each other to get on with the job.
NRAMA: How do you go about selecting artists for your war stories? Are they all deals that you work out, or in this case, did Nick [Barrucci, President Dynamite Entertainment] secure the folks to illustrate Battlefields?
GE: I picked all three. Generally I just go for the best guy for the job, and I've been lucky so far to get exactly who I wanted.
The Tankies #1, page 5NRAMA: With your war stories, do you find that you go into them wanting to write a specific type of story, or does the setting inform the kind of story you tell?
GE: I usually have a pretty definite idea of what I want to do, though occasionally the odd idea suggests itself along the way. Example- the ending of Tankies #2 sees our heroes in the shit, in a way I'd been planning pretty much since the story's inception. How they get out of it in #3 only occurred when I was writing it, however. Likewise, while the guys in the crew were pretty well set in my head from the beginning, it wasn't until I started writing that I decided to give the opposition a little more personality too.
NRAMA: When we spoke about Battlefields initially, you said that there was going to be a hiatus between the first three stories and the next installments. How long are we looking at the wait being?
GE: I’m hoping to start later this year.