"The Boys" Are Back In Town: Ennis & Robertson Speak

Thu, April 19th, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Michael Patrick Sullivan, Contributing Writer

"The Boys" #7

As genre fans know well, a cancellation is hardly a death knell.   When the boom was unexpectedly lowered on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's Wildstorm series "The Boys,"   there were those that saw an opportunity. Now, "The Boys is set to return to the stands this June with a new publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

"The Boys" follows a CIA team tasked with keeping an eye on super-heroes and keeping them in line through any means necessary. Writer Garth Ennis famously said that it would "Out-'Preacher' 'Preacher,'" referring to his previous creator-owned series that pushed the limits of both storytelling and, in some eyes, taste.

It was that boldness that led to predicament of "The Boys" changing publishers. "Contractually, we aren't able to discuss this in detail," Robertson told CBR News. "As we've said in previous interviews, it simply came down to an agreement that for the book to continue in the same form and style, we would need to be publishing elsewhere," said Robertson.

"The Boys" #7, page 1
Ennis puts it more succinctly. "DC (Wildstorm's parent company) cancelled the book due to content."

Ennis admits to "a few nervous tremors" over the idea early on that DC might have problems with the book's content, "but nothing to suggest what actually happened would come to pass."

"I believe that if we had that sense, the book would not have been published at DC for six issues before the cancellation," said Robertson. "I think we all went into the original plan with good faith that we would do the book we wanted to do and that DC would be OK with what we had in mind, and when that was no longer the case, everyone agreed that it was best if we went to another publisher."

When the news that DC would no longer publish the series came down, fan reaction came as something of a revelation to Robertson. "I learned that there was a much wider and stronger support for the book than I previously knew."

"The sense of disappointment at the cancellation and the hunger for more material was obvious; you could tell finding a new home wouldn't be much of a chore," Ennis added.

"The Boys" #7, page 2
Finding a new publisher, however, wasn't the first concern when Ennis heard the news. "What worried me was the thought of having to continue at DC in some neutered form. But that possibility evaporated almost immediately."

Within days of the news breaking, there was considerable chatter on internet news sites that "The Boys" would find a new home."

"There was an initial worry that legal problems might be obstacles if we wanted to move the book to a new publisher," said Robertson, "but DC didn't do anything that caused any problems in that regard and thankfully we were able to transition quickly and smoothly."

"Everyone behaved in a civilized manner," said Ennis, "because no one had anything to gain by pissing anyone else off. And speaking personally, I can't be bothered with drama. If a mistake's been made, you give whomever it is a chance to fix it - and if they fix it, you behave accordingly.

Landing at Dynamite, well-known as a publisher of licensed material such as "Red Sonja," "Battlestar Galactica," and "Highlander," Ennis and Robertson now have the freedom to tell the story they set out to tell.

"We have pretty much total freedom, although I did discuss the overall storyline with Nicky Barrucci (Dynamite's Publisher), just so he knew what he'd be getting into," said Ennis

"The Boys" #7, page 3
Robertson added, "Of course we'll have more room to really find the edges of where we wish to take the series, since there were previous editorial guidelines that won't be obstacles in future issues. As the artist, there are things that I'll be doing in the book now that Wildstorm wasn't allowing, but some things that I didn't think were necessary to change, like the needle on the cover to #4 being changed into an air injector, or adult toys in a certain controversial scene being removed to achieve certain editorial comfort levels, I would put back in, if necessary. I have always been a bit bewildered about the fear of people having sex in comics but the relative apathy towards bloody violence.

"I think Garth and I know where to keep the NC-17 rating intact," Robertson continued. "The book we're doing will remain the book we were doing, regardless of the publisher. If anything, we don't need to worry about extensive concerns or changes after the fact. Being at a smaller publisher, the book will have fewer administrative levels to go through to get to press, and Nick is enthusiastic about the title."

"This may surprise a few people," said Ennis, "but I do have several of my own lines I won't cross. It'll be the story I always intended telling, but I won't be looking over my shoulder any more."

"The Boys" #7, page 4
The series picks up where it left off both in story and numbering. "The next storyline is called 'Get Some,'" Robertson revealed.   "Butcher and Hughie find themselves investigating a New York superhero that has a rather embarrassing problem. It's a smaller scale story than the first arc, and it shows Hughie building more of a relationship with the rest of the Boys. Butcher introducing him around and teaching him a lot more about how the Boys work. We meet some allies of the Boys who are kind of important in the way they carry out their missions.

"In issue 11, the third arc moves the story to Russia, temporarily, where you'll see where the Boys figure in the international political stage," said Robertson

The publisher switch provides an opportunity for new readers to check out the series. "The new storyline is a nice little potted glimpse of their motivation and methods, and the trade collecting #1-6 will be published alongside #7," said Ennis.   The pending trade will also include a forward by actor and star of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," Simon Pegg.

"The Boys" #7, page 5
As "The Boys" is largely a deconstruction of the super-hero genre, Ennis points out what sets the series apart from previous deconstructions. "My lack of affection for the genre. 'Dark Knight' and even 'Watchmen' involved fairly heavy doses of nostalgia for the conventions of the superhero comic, even if Alan ultimately demonstrated the essential irrelevance of the characters. I'd also make a distinction here with the excellent 'Marshal Law,' which operated on Pat Mills' utter loathing for superheroes. I don't feel that strongly about them - though I do believe I share Pat's accidental fascination with some of the sillier aspects of the genre."

With the series scripted up to issue #12 and Robertson's pencils complete through ten with ink not far behind, a monthly publishing schedule looks to stay intact.

Look for the return of "The Boys" this July from Dynamite Entertainment.

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