Eisner Award-winning writer Garth Ennis returns to writing John Constantine this week, but with a very different twist as the character joins the Section 8 characters Sixpack and Dogwelder on a journey to reveal the latter's secret origin.
Dogwelder is, of course, the character whose superpower is described by his name — the ability to literally weld dead dogs onto his foes — and Sixpack is the hero who gains more skills the more he imbibes. The two unite with Constantine — encountering many other DC heroes along the way — for Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz, out this week from DC.
Section 8 is the team that debuted in Ennis and artist John McCrea's Hitman series, and the team was revived in a recent Section 8 mini-series. For the Sixpack and Dogwelder series, Ennis is working with artist Russ Braun. Newsarama talked to the pair to find out more about this outing for the Section 8 characters, why Ennis compares it to the class American Gothic comic, and whether anyone will be changed by the experience.
Newsarama: Garth, how would you describe this story? It sounds like a "road movie"-type concept, since they're "hard-travelin'." What's your description?
Garth Ennis: Frustrated by some of the team's recent failures, Sixpack is determined to shake things up a bit for Section Eight. Dogwelder, on the other hand, is having bit of a crisis: He's finding it hard to come to terms with the estrangement of his family, part of the price he pays for being Dogwelder.
Then a mysterious figure appears, promising our hero answers about his bizarre powers and legacy, and soon Sixpack and the rest of the team are dragged into the maelstrom along with Dogwelder.
The journey of discovery will take them all down a very hard road, but it may solve some of Sixpack's problems on the way.
Nrama: Your last Section Eight adventure featured appearances by various heroes of the DCU. Is this series similar?
Ennis: You'll see a few cameos scattered throughout the series, and the Spectre dominates issue #2, as he comes looking for one of Section Eight's long-time stalwarts. But front and center will be a certain trench coat-wearing chain-smoker, whose plans for our heroes will take them to some very strange places.
Nrama: Was it good to get your hands on Constantine again? A little different this time around.
Ennis: Yes, obviously the character has undergone some changes since last I wrote him, so it's been interesting taking him back to his DCU roots. Obviously I had to make a couple of little adjustments from the Hellblazer version, but I think I nailed it.
Given that the chap in question did such a good job of helping Swamp Thing discover his origins, he's just the guy to do the same for Dogwelder. Fans of American Gothic might notice a few similarities, here and there.
Nrama: People familiar with the series know Dogwelder and Sixpack well, but for our readers who might not recognize the names, how would you describe these two unusual characters? Because I think Dogwelder ranks right up there as one of my favorite powers.
Ennis: Dogwelder welds dead dogs to people's faces, which generally renders any opponent hors de combat — although, as he's about to discover, his dogwelding power is really just the tip of the iceberg.
Sixpack is more your classic superhero type, who finds that the more of his special serum he drinks — available in all bars and liquor stores — the greater a hero he becomes.
Nrama: So Russ, how did you get involved with this project? How did you hear about it?
Russ Braun: Garth mentioned the project to me at our local pub.
Nrama: That's got to be the best way to hear about a project. So you were available?
Braun: I'd been waiting on a script for another project that never materialized, and John McCrea was busy with other work, so it just kind of made sense for us to do this together. I believe Garth said something like, "how would you like to exercise your comedy chops..?"
Nrama: Yeah, let's talk about how you approach this type of comedy — and how you follow what's been done before on these characters while also adding your own style.
Braun: Section 8 is all McCrea, and I can't match his crazy, kinetic approach — be a pale imitation if I did. So I'm playing it almost completely straight and it seems to work.
There's some gloriously ridiculous stuff going on and I'm drawing it as earnestly with as much gravitas as I can, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I'm thinking about it like I'm drawing a Gene Colan Howard the Duck, with Sixpack instead of Howard. And I'm having an absolute blast doing it. Hope longtime Hitman/Section 8 fans dig it.
Nrama: Any challenges you've encountered while drawing them? Or any surprising favorites?
Braun: The main challenge is walking that tightrope between the serious and the absurd, keeping the tone consistent, drawing a scene like Dogwelder Jedi dogweld training with a bucket on his head with a straight face.
The character that breaks the mold is Sixpack, who I'm drawing as if he's right out of MAD magazine, and he's definitely my favorite. I love that little guy; he's got a lot of heart. We're obviously going for laughs here, but don't be surprised if we squeeze a couple of tears out of you too.
Nrama: Garth, both characters were part of the last Section 8 book. As we pick up their story here, have they progressed or evolved since we saw them there?
Ennis: Christ, no. Sixpack's as much of a disaster as ever, and Dogwelder if anything is regressing. By the end of the story, however, he'll have evolved into a very different character indeed.