It's been a long time coming, but this January, the Dynamite Entertainment published series "The Boys" reaches its fifty issue milestone with a flashback to the aftermath of 9/11 and the climax of the first encounter between the Seven and the Boys. Along with giving fans a look at the initial Boys roster, the flashback will also have quite a few payoffs for longtime readers with a couple surprises along the way. "You'll be learning all manner of secrets, from the past right up to the very end of the book," said series writer Garth Ennis. "#52 begins a new storyline called 'Barbary Coast,' in which Hughie finally meets team founder Colonel Greg Mallory - and hears a few things that leave him more unsettled than ever."
While Ennis has spent time giving readers a look at the origins of Mother's Milk, the Frenchman and the Female, this will be the first look at the team's original lineup and their initial encounter with Voight-American's superpowered creations, though Ennis started fleshing out the backstory over two years ago. "I knew from the start that there'd been some sort of disastrous initial confrontation between the two, but the specifics filled themselves in as I went along," he said. "It was when I was writing #19-22 that I started to seed hints, like the blood-splattered aircraft in the hangar. That was my starting point when I began to flesh out the current storyline.
"The most challenging [thing] has probably been the stuff I enjoyed the most, and always enjoy most in these long series - looking back into the past and the origins," Ennis continued. "That said, I'm really looking forward to writing the last year's worth of stories and bringing everything together, taking each character to the end of his or her trail. I never felt stuck. I don't recall ever enjoying writing one of these long series as much as I have 'The Boys' - although if you asked me the same question around this stage in 'Preacher' or 'Hitman,' I'd probably have said exactly the same thing."
While the issue's entire story takes place in the past, the current storyline has brought home a plethora of problems for the Boys. Homelander is slowly going mad, Hughie is off on a journey of self-discovery (as seen in the "Highland Laddie" miniseries) and the Boys are in jeopardy of losing their status as a governmentally sanctioned initiative. Fans shouldn't pick up the anniversary issue expecting a fill-in story, however - Ennis told CBR News that the events of the past all relate to the current conflicts. "The Homelander's curious mental instability - and more to the point, his apparent inability to act on it once and for all - has been developing for a long time," Ennis explained. "The events in #50 are really just the first flashpoint in a gradual disintegration. The issue itself is actually completely told in flashback, so what you'll actually see is how it affected the characters - and the make-up of the team - back in 2002."
Ennis also mentioned future issues will contain more flashbacks to the time period before the series' debut giving readers an opportunity to see a bit more of The Legend. "He'll maintain the role of intel provider until the end - or until his end, at any rate," said Ennis. "How comfortable he's going to be about doing it is another matter, as his relationship with the Boys changes depending on their behavior. You'll see some different sides to The Legend over the coming months, but more in flashback than in current events."
With issue #50 taking place before series protagonist Wee Hughie enters the picture, the character obviously won't be featured in this storyline. However, after a rather messy breakup with Annie January, he has a number of personal issues that are being sorted out in "Highland Laddie." "He'll be dealing with some of [those issues] in his own miniseries, most obviously in terms of his relationship with one supe in particular," Ennis said. "Beyond that, he has that trip down memory lane to take with Greg Mallory. You won't see Hughie actually back with the Boys for a few months, yet."
Although Hughie is out of the picture, the dangerous and deadly Billy Butcher is still going strong, continuing to foster a deep hatred for all of Voight-American's supes. Butcher is at the epicenter of the anniversary issue's story, and moving forward, Ennis mentioned the enigmatic leader of the Boys plans to stay just that: enigmatic. "As always, Butcher is a law unto himself," he said. "He's careful to keep his secrets secret and to make sure events don't force him to reveal anything more than he has to. So he'll spill the beans only when and to whom he chooses to. When you see who he does confide in, it'll probably make a kind of grim sense."
Taking a look back over the last fifty issues, Ennis revealed that one of his favorite moments saw Butcher not as the enigmatic badass, but as a man in conversation. "Butcher telling Hughie about his wife: 'Becky, her name was. She was a doll. She made you believe in things.' One of the few times he's told the absolute truth for no personal gain."
"I like the historical and political stuff," he continued. "The Legend's account of fifty years of supe history culminating in the 9/11 debacle, Agent Lucero's take on the day in question, and - coming up - the events that drove Greg Mallory to get the Boys together in the first place."
Beyond his favorite moments, Ennis said that one of the most rewarding aspects of "The Boys" has been writing Butcher and Hughie. "Two very different characters, two very different pairs of shoes to walk in," he said. "Hard to say who I prefer; Butcher's is an extremely easy and comfortable voice to write, but the thought of being him is not a nice one (you'll see why in his forthcoming miniseries). When I write Hughie, I often feel the urge to yell at him and kick him up the ass; when I write Butcher, I often feel the urge to yell at Hughie and kick him up the ass as well. That's probably the major difference."
Looking further into the future towards the series end, Ennis said he has stretched the series beyond what was originally planned, with the current forecasted ending coming with #72. "It was initially planned as 60 issues plus a six-issue miniseries; now it's 72 plus 3 minis," he said. "I finished #59 a couple of weeks ago, so all the pieces are pretty much in place. I have enough room to pop in a few things as they occur, but on the whole the big stuff's already set in stone. That'll be two last six-issue storylines (beginning in #60 and #66 respectively) and a single issue epilogue."
"Everyone has their own idea of what superheroes would be like in the real world, and mine is this: they'd be owned, the same as any commodity," Ennis said when asked about "The Boys'" dystopian version of traditional superheroics. "They'd be like rock stars or actors crossed with politicians, they'd all be in somebody's pocket or subject to influences beyond their control. And combined with that there'd be an aspect of Ancient Rome about the way they relate to the rest of humanity. They wield so much raw power that other people would simply seem like their playthings. So how would that affect history, and politics, and current events in general? How do you tie that kind of power into the last fifty years of American culture? And, obviously, what happens when a group of the little people decide to fuck back?"
"The Boys" #50 by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun hits comic stores January, 2011