Issue #42 of “The Boys” hits stores today, and the penultimate issue of “The Innocents” arc seems to be moving the title closer to its endgame. Though, as Ennis tells us, the ultimate conclusion is still over two years away, events in the book have been accelerating with Butcher’s suspicions of Hughie, the lingering question of Starlight, and much more. We caught up with writer Garth Ennis to check up on “The Boys” and to see where things stand.Newsarama: What’s your view of how the series has gone thus far? How much of it has gone exactly to plan, and how many of the storylines have branched off in ways that you may not have intended, but nevertheless followed?
Garth Ennis: Things always go off in their own direction, that's part of what makes
writing enjoyable. What I like to do is have a rough outline in mind I can use as a base for each story. Example- the St. Patrick's day episode in We Gotta Go Now. I'd been wanting to share my thoughts on St. Pat's for some time, but it was only when I started the story that I realized a bunch of subhuman frat boys provided the perfect means to express them.
Nrama: We’re doing this interview as the SuperDuper/Malchemical storyline is just about to wrap. After many teams filled with, as you might say, right bastards, here’s a team that’s not so bad. Why include the seemingly more optimistic SuperDuper?
Ennis: I'd been thinking about the notion of real superheroes, or perhaps more accurately standard superheroes- the kind you find in 99% of superhero comic books. Develop powers, put on outfit, set out to battle evil. I was wondering where people like that would end up in the real world, and of course the answer is that they'd all be shot to death by criminals or police, or locked up in lunatic asylums. But what if they weren't? What would a corporation like Vought-American do with such innocents, how would they make money off them?
Nrama: At this point, Butcher has become very suspicious of Hughie. Is it totally outside of Butcher’s character to give anyone the benefit of the doubt?
Ennis: There's no doubt that Butcher's fond of Hughie, or at least who he initially believed Hughie to be before he got suspicious, and he wants to be absolutely sure before he acts. Almost anyone else would probably get their neck wrung on the spot.
Nrama: You’ve never been shy about frank depictions of violence, language or sexuality in your books. Occasionally, it’s drawn some critical fire. Why is important to you as a creator to present your story in precisely this way?
Ennis: Honesty. If you kick someone in the face, their jaw's going to break and send blood and teeth flying everywhere. If you're baling out of a burning tank, you're going to say more than "good gracious." And if you perform cunilingus at the wrong time of the month, you're going to get a facefull of what Hughie got. Although to be honest, that one was more for laughs.
Nrama: It’s ironic that the genre you’ve chosen to parody (that is, super-heroes) has grown increasingly violent during the actual run of “The Boys” itself. Do you find it difficult to write “The Boys” in the way that you do when, for example, members of the Teen Titans are being eaten by giant dogs and Avengers are getting ripped in half during crossover?
Ennis: Not at all, I don't read any of it.
Nrama: Another interesting turn is the fact that a reader will need more than a little super-hero knowledge to get all of the references that you’ve incorporated into the book. Is that itself a meta-comment on the frequently insular nature of mainstream super-hero comics, or is that just a side effect of taking swipes at a pretty expansive library of characters and concepts?
Ennis: The latter. Example- in terms of a mainstream readership, the Legion of Superheroes are pretty obscure characters, but you can't work in this industry for twenty years (all of which I've spent on the DC comps list) and not become vaguely aware of them. I don't think I've ever read an issue cover to cover, but I've at least seen illos of Bouncing Boy and so on. And it's hard to look at characters like that and not include them in The Boys eventually.
Nrama: From this point out, approximately how much of the series is left, and will there be any other branching mini-series like “Herogasm” before that conclusion?
Ennis: The book runs until #70. This summer we've got “Highland Laddie”, a six-
part miniseries featuring Hughie's origin- “Herogasm” artist John McCrea is drawing that now. Same time next year we'll have a similar mini starring Butcher, which I'm two episodes into and enjoying enormously.
Nrama: Do you envision “The Boys” as your final word on the super-hero style book?
Ennis: Jesus, I hope so.
Nrama: As “The Boys” wraps, are you eyeing an further long-terms projects? If so, will they include more “Battlefields”?
Ennis: Definitely more war stories, hopefully including at least one more Battlefields series. A third series of Wormwood at some point, featuring the second coming- sort of. Beyond that, plenty of ideas but nothing definite at this point. “The Boys” has two and a half years to
go, I've plenty of time yet.
Nrama: We can’t let this finish without at least a few words about [artist Darick] Robertson. On a scale of 1-10, how essential has his contribution been? What does he bring to “The Boys” that other artists might not?
Ennis: Vital. He brought his own unique vision to the Boys and their world,
provided the perfect template for other artists to work from. Butcher and Hughie in particular, I think, could only have been visualized by Darick.