With "The Boys" ending in November, writer Garth Ennis and Dyanmite Editor Joe Rybandt took to the stage this weekend at the Baltimore Comic-Con to discuss the end of the long-running series, talk about Ennis' other upcoming projects and answer fan questions.
"The Boys," which Ennis co-created along with artist Darick Robertson, moved from DC's Wildstorm imprint to Dynamite with issue #7. Along with the three miniseries that spun out of the main book, Ennis has written 90 issues featuring the twisted heroes and "The Boys" who monitor them. "The Boys" comes to an end with issue #72, an issue Ennis serves as an epilogue, with issue #71 containing the meat of the ending.
Ennis also talked about the continuation of the "Battlefields" series of miniseries from Dynamite in three series that would be set around the Korean War. There will be stories about the battle of the Imjin River and more about the Night Witches going into the 1960s. Ennis also said the war comics he's doing with Avatar Press will be in a similar format to "Battlefields."
"Things at the major companies are not as creator-friendly," Ennis said, and that working for Dynamite "feels good. Feels pretty good." The rest of the panel was a very engaging question-and-answer session with the audience.
Starting with a question on "The Punisher," Ennis said, "We've all killed Punisher" and that Frank Castle will appear as a Marine sniper in "Fury MAX." He said that issue #13 would be an incredibly depressing conclusion.
Next was a question about Ennis being a humanist. Ennis said his World War II work was his favorite. He said that comics are violent, and he would rather be "honest about the consequences." He said in real life, if Batman, who would be 6'6" and 220 lbs., kicked you in the head, your neck would break.
Someone asked if he would be doing stories about the American Civil War. Ennis said that he needed to know more about it before he could do it. In regards to research, he said he has been reading about World War II all his life, and a British publication called "Battle" is where he learned about the Russian Night Witches. He learned about Vietnam from "The 'Nam" comic book from Marvel in the 1980s and 1990s. He noted in the 1990s there was popular interest in World War II with "Band of Brothers," and his favorite World War II movie is "A Bridge Too Far."
When asked about "Hitman," he said that he's happy with his work on the title and that it is always a pleasure to work with John McCrea. He spoke of an idea for "Hitman" in which the characters would go to a comic book convention, complete with panels and everything, with the opening started by an old veteran probably in bad shape (missing parts, to put it mildly) singing the theme from "First Blood."
Next Ennis was asked if he would ever write about modern or future wars. He answered with a maybe. He said he did this with "303" from Avatar Press and "Punisher MAX" focused on Afghanistan.
Following this, he was asked why he focuses on war, to which Ennis answered "I write the stuff I read in comics as a kid." What he read was based on remarkable facts and this sparked his interest because he could research it. American comics for him were not easy to get into because even those in this genre of war always had a superhero element, and they were formulaic with fistfights.
Then Ennis was asked about doing science fiction. He has plans for something with Avatar, and it will be more of a horror comic.
Next up were some questions about "The Boys," starting with the movie. He answered that he knows little about the movie and has little interest in gossip unless it is something real.
He was then asked about Butcher and Becky. He said that he liked Becky; he made her real and a good person, but not angelic. He stated that you know nothing about Maria Castle beyond her being the murdered wife of Frank Castle, the Punisher, but with Becky we see why she inspires Butcher.
The next question was about Marvel and DC Comics not being creator friendly. Ennis said he thinks that DC Comics has realized what Marvel Comics has, that you do not have to do creator-owned comics, and you can keep putting out the same thing and people will buy it. "Before Watchmen"—which he said he has not read and will not read--is a message that the balance is going away from the writers and artists back to corporate. As such, DC Comics is not creator friendly right now. He said that going to smaller publishers and getting as much of your own works out in print is not changing the industry, but survival. He does not want to be a creator in failing health asking for charity. Nor does he want to be a creator knocking out a "Huntress/Catwoman" series at 65. He said there is "no union, no one looking out for" the creators. Later he added that he wished he owned several characters he created under work-for-hire agreements, including Baracuda (from "The Punisher," published by Marvel Comics), Kev (meaning Kevin "Kev" Hawkins from "The Authority" published by WildStorm), and "Hitman" (from DC Comics).
In regards to the humanism in his comics, he stated that it was hard to write about conflict realistically without what he referred to as "the grim parts." He spoke about "Crossed," a title created that's published by Avatar Press, in which human evil is a virus. He said people can be awful in the acts they do, such as the non-infected and "act brilliant" as can be seen in war and the true stories from it. He spoke of how you read about the horrors, but you also read about courage and people who "behave magnificently" in war. He also added that he would be doing three or four issues for "Crossed: Badlands."
Next he was asked about "Just a Pilgrim," published by Black Bull Comics. Ennis said Pilgrim had the faith of a lunatic. Ennis continued to say that in his stories there is either no God or God is "a complete bastard." He said this kind of thing was something that no one ever said, which likely affected the development for this property on HBO. He followed by stating that he is an atheist and that in his writing, he writes God more as a monster or not at all.
Ennis was next asked if he ever sacrifices accuracy for character or a story. He said that it is hard to be 100 percent accurate all the time, that the fickle finger of fate can ruin everything and that every story has to have a little bit of that which allows the stories to work, using examples like how long would it be before the cops or the mob stopped the Punisher.
Ennis was asked about the friendships in his works. He said relationships grow organically, and that Butcher initiated his friendship with Hughie in "The Boys," for specific reason (which is in the series) and as know this kind of thing happens in real life.
Next Ennis was asked how "The Boys" was planned. He said he had it planned out from the start, whereas "Preacher," which he was not sure was going to work out, filled itself out over two years. With "The Boys" the origins were set from the beginning.
A fan asked Ennis about writing strong female characters. He said that writing them came from the stories he read as a kid that had strong female characters, like "Johnny Red" by Tom Tully and Joe Colquhuon.
Next Ennis was asked about writing screenplays and his future work. He answered that he thinks about writing screenplays and has written a "Crossed" screenplay. He followed with he is doing more work with Avatar Press and Dynamite.
A fan asked what Ennis had been reading. Ennis answered he was reading journalist Christopher Hitchens, "Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War" by Karl Marlantes and "Skagboys" by Irvine Welsh (author of "Trainspotting"). Ennis said he is not reading many comics besides"Judge Dredd" and "2000 AD."
Following this, he was asked about Sept. 11 and his writing. He said that he was writing "The Punisher" at the time, and that he felt the first series was a cartoon. He prefers the MAX book ("PunisherMAX") as it is more real. "303" indulged in conspiracies, but Ennis said he does not really believe in them. He went through the logic of, "If 9/11 was an inside job, why were there no WMDs in Iraq?" pointing out that no one is smart enough to do these mass orchestrations. He said, though, that there was a climate of terror that was created in 2003 – 2004, and it did not feel like America.
When asked about "The Shadow," Ennis said he was only contracted to do six issues, but Rybandt added that Ennis is welcome to do more. Ennis said that The Shadow is "not as interesting to write" because "he is a walking gun." He said Lamont Cranston is more interesting, as he is the planner, more dynamic and a richer character.
Finally a fan asked Ennis if he had any long-term projects planned. Ennis answered that nothing is planned, but possible. The new war work with Avatar Press is a test, and they will see.