Garth Ennis: More Boys, More Battlefields

Garth Ennis: More Boys & Battlefields

The Boys volume 4

For two decades now, Garth Ennis has produced hit story after hit story for pretty much every major publisher, be they UK or US, out there. And with 2010 rapidly approaching, he doesn't look like he'll be slowing down anytime soon - if anything, he seems to have more stories that he has to tell, And from superhero-hunting teams to war heroes, one of his hats is now happily hanging on the Dynamite Entertainment hatstand.

With the latest The Boys miniseries, Herogasm causing both critical acclaim and outrage in equal measure and with the latest collection hitting the store shelves, Newsarama decided to see where Garth saw his gung-ho creations going next...

Newsarama: Dynamite are bringing out another The Boys trade soon, and The Boys Definitive Edition Vol 2 Hardcover comes out in September - when you first pitched the idea to Wildstorm, did you ever imagine where you'd be a few years down the line?

Garth Ennis: I imagined it would go pretty much like Preacher, in terms of collections and miniseries etc. Obviously I wasn't expecting to replicate Preacher's level of success, which is the kind of thing that comes along once in a lifetime, but I could see The Boys following roughly the same five/six year model. What I didn't expect, of course, was that we'd be changing publishers six months down the line.

NRAMA: Now, no The Boys interview is complete without another recap about the whole Wildstorm issue - with a couple of years now away from it, what are your thoughts on the whole cancellation / migration to Dynamite? Is there anything you wish you'd done differently? Or, now you know how Dynamite's issues have done, is there anything you wish you'd done earlier?

Herogasm #5

GE: Moving to Dynamite was simply the best thing that could possibly have happened to the book. The period we spent at Wildstorm was really too brief for there to be any serious regrets, at least creatively speaking- but the move has meant avoiding the massive level of censorship that I firmly believe would have developed under DC.

NRAMA: You're writing a lot with Dynamite at the moment, including the recent Battlefields story, Tankies. How does working for Nick differ to the other creator based publishers you work with, like Image or Avatar?

GE: As to what I am doing with Dynamite, I'm happy to say we've expanded the run of The Boys to 70 rather than 60 issues, just to fit in all the stuff that's been occurring to me over the last couple of years. There'll also be two more miniseries after Herogasm, one featuring Hughie and the other Butcher. Best of all, as far as I'm concerned, is that there's going to be a second series of Battlefields next year- three more arcs of three issues each, including sequels to both The Night Witches and The Tankies, and a new story, Happy Valley, involving an Australian bomber crew over Germany in early 1942.

The relationship I have with Nick is much the same as the one I have with Avatar's William Christensen- they leave me alone to write the story the way I believe it should be written, there's no censorship or other interference, and I trust them to produce and sell the books to the best of their (considerable) abilities.

NRAMA: When you first started The Boys you were criticized on boards for being a 'hero hater' - yet over the years you've written your fair share of spandex. What made you decide to take the other side of the coin?

Battlefields: The Night Witches trade

GE: Most of the superhero appearances I've written into Hitman or Preacher (which I assume are the instances that you're alluding to) have been for the purposes of mockery, I think pretty obviously so. Regarding The Boys, I've often said that I don't hate superheroes because I can't imagine something so essentially silly evoking such strong emotion. I could do without the stranglehold that the genre has over the comic book industry, certainly- but there's a level of fascination as well as frustration, too, and you can get a good deal of material out of that if you handle it correctly. Just as my distrust of organized religion gave birth to Preacher, so The Boys developed from my feelings about superheroes- characters who, let's face it, are generally ripe for parody.

What it comes down to is this: if you discovered superheroes as a child, there's a good chance that as an adult you'll still find them charming and exciting enough to enjoy the genre. If you didn't, you won't.

NRAMA: Darick's been on The Boys since day one - how has that relationship changed, through the moving of publishers and the added freedom that you've received from that?

GE: Much the same. I imagine he finds the creative freedom involved just as liberating as I do; there's less frustration right across the board.

NRAMA: Two of your obvious loves have been Westerns and war films, as shown by your extensive collection of themed comics - what's next on the horizon? As you said, there’s more Battlefields to come, but what else – will there be more Just a Pilgrim for instance?

Just a Pilgrim

GE: No more Pilgrim. I'm doing another war book, however, a series for Avatar in the War Story/Battlefields tradition. The first story involves a rookie American B-17 gunner in the aerial battle for Europe; I've also got ideas for Israeli tankers in the Yom Kippur war and a British torpedo bomber squadron in the Mediterranean.

NRAMA: A lot of writers get judged by their earlier works - Ellis often gets told he never wrote anything good after Transmetropolitan, Moore gets the whole 'Watchmen was your best work'... And of course your later work is often compared to Preacher. What are your thoughts on this?

GE: What we're talking about here, I think, is conventional wisdom, which by its very nature is soundbite-driven and often highly reflexive. I used to handle the letter column during Preacher's monthly run, and I saw a pattern of criticism develop there in what I soon realized was a very predictable way - year two's not as good as year one, year two was wonderful but year three's lost it, this is just a lot of violence and swearing, all he's trying to do is get noticed - repeated ad infinitum. It's one of the reasons I don't bother with message boards and reviews and things, which I believe are largely a distraction.

What I look at instead are the sales figures, which answer the most important question of all: Can I keep writing the story I want to write?

All commentary is subjective, so here's some of mine: Miracleman is the best-written of Alan's ‘80s work, From Hell is probably the finest thing he's done to date, and I imagine Halo Jones will always be my favorite. As for Warren, he's done stuff in Crecy and Gravel and Ministry Of Space that matches anything in Transmetropolitan. Those are simply my opinions; Alan and Warren no doubt have their own, which they will of course listen to above all else the next time they start work.

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