Writer Garth Ennis was in the spotlight Saturday at New York Comic Con, as he joined Avatar Press Publisher William Christensen to discuss his body of work for the company and reveal some very surprising news about his next step beyond comics. Christensen wasted no time getting down to business, and gave the audience the big news up front: Garth Ennis will be writing and directing a series of live-action "Crossed" webisodes, to be followed by a "Crossed" feature film, also written and directed by Ennis. The plan to begin filming in the spring, with a debut later next year.
The idea was borne of Ennis' desire to broaden his horizons, as well as frustration following a previous aborted attempt at a "Crossed'" feature when Avatar optioned the rights to a studio. Christensen explained they concluded the best way to get a "Crossed" film that would reflect Garth's vision was to do it themselves. "No studio BS," Christensen declared to approval from the audience.
Ennis elaborated, saying that often studios will option a property, and then attempt to turn into something that they had an idea for, rather than staying true to the source material. Their revised approach gives them the ability to ensure "Crossed" is made the way they feel it should be done. "For a pair of egomaniac control freaks like us, that works out very well," Ennis joked.
He described his vision for the webisodes as "little vignettes" that would give insight into the world of "Crossed." Ennis suggested the initial episodes might cover some of the material from the first arc of "Crossed", where Kitrick finds out what happened to his family as a result of the Crossed outbreak.
"We won't be doing a relaunch every two years. You won't see '52 Crossed,'" Christensen said, emphasizing the integrity of the "Crossed" comic series. The "Crossed: Badlands" series will be continuing, and Ennis will return for issue #25, where he will do 3-4 issues, and then again for #50. He plans to return to the book every year or so. Ennis mentioned that #50 will focus on "Patient Zero," the person the Crossed outbreak began with. Ennis talked about the fact that he is starting up new projects with both Avatar and Dynamite, which he began looking for once he had finished writing the scripts for "The Boys" over a year ago.
With that, the pair began taking questions from the audience. Asked about potential projects from Marvel or DC, Ennis said he feels most comfortable working in the independent arena, and right now only has his "Fury MAX" series at Marvel.
Discussing his resolution to "The Boys" saga, Ennis said his initial notion was to have Hughie empowered by drinking from Mother's Milk's mother's milk, and duking it out with Butcher, but ultimately concluded that their conflict had to be resolved on something other a physical level, which is why he had them discuss their opposing perspectives. "Besides," he chuckled, "Hughie could have been pumped up to enormous proportions, and Butcher still would've destroyed him."
Asked if he was a religious man, Ennis flatly said no. "With every passing year, I become more of an atheist," he stated.
Ennis disavowed any knowledge of progress on movies with either "The Boys" or "Preacher." "If you follow that stuff, you know more than I do," he said, emphasizing that until something actually starts filming, it can't ever be counted on to happen in Hollywood. "That's why we're doing 'Crossed' ourselves," Christensen added. Asked about casting for the "Crossed" webisodes, Christensen explained that will be determined once they have set themselves up with a producer for the project. In regards to the release schedule for the webisodes, Christensen said it would most likely be weekly.
Asked if they had originally intended for the "Crossed" comics to be ongoing, Ennis said he planned to do just the ten issues of the original limited series, but Christensen came to him saying he believed there was potential to do more stories in this world with other talented writers, and asked him if would object. Ennis agreed, with one proviso: "Keep my characters out of it."
Inevitably, one fan asked Ennis why he hates superheroes. "I don't hate them," he said, patiently repeating a familiar refrain. "But the chokehold they have on the industry depresses me," explaining that when you go into a bookstore, you see books of all different categories and genres, but in comic stores, it's wall-to-wall superheroes. "It kills me," he said.
Ennis discussed aborted plans to bring "Preacher" to HBO, where he concluded after talking to director Mark Steven Johnson that the series would not be commercially viable. Ennis said Johnson told him in blunt terms how Middle America would see it. "He said, 'It's blasphemy'," Ennis chuckled.
Asked about his influences from comics, Ennis said he reads very few these days, but did cite Brian K. Vaughan's "Saga" and Jason Aaron's "Scalped" among the few titles he does read. One woman asked him what Cassidy, the vampire from his "Preacher" series, would say about today's trend of "sparkly" vampires. Ennis took the question seriously, and said he does feel there's a trend towards making formerly frightening monsters acceptable, and even cute or adorable. He said one of his goals with "Crossed" was to produce something genuinely horrifying. "I think the best horror movie is the original 'Alien.' That movie still haunts my dreams," Ennis said.
Turning to the subject of superheroes again, Ennis said he feels a responsibility in his work to honestly portray violence. Using Batman as an example, he said, "If a 220-pound man kicked you in the face, he'd break your neck. But they can't do that," referring to mainstream publishers' reluctance to show the effects of the violence in their comics.
Asked whether he'd ever write a novel, he said he was considering it before joking, "But then you have to describe all the stuff that in comics you just have the artist draw." Asked about Ennis' "Dicks" series, Christensen revealed that a new "Dicks" series would arrive in 2013. When one audience member questioned whether the webisodes would live up to "Crossed's" gory reputation, Christensen assured him they would be R-rated, and added that the eventual DVD release would contain added scenes that would make it "extra vicious" and necessitate changing it to unrated. With that, the panel wound down, and Ennis and Christensen thanked the audience for supporting their work.