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Apocrypha Entertainment Presents:

Garth Ennis is, quite simply, one of the most talented writers working in comics today. His vitae is stunning: PREACHER, HITMAN, HELLBLAZER, THE BOYS, THE PUN ISHER, THE PRO, DAN DARE… the list goes on and on. His newest major project is a series of World War II comics called BATTLEFIELDS, published by Dynamite Entertainment. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to CWR about his work.

(Special thanks to the amazing Joe Rybandt!)

MM: Garth, the BATTLEFIELDS series puts you squarely back into a genre you know well: World War II stories. Where did your interest in that era come from?

GE: The war comics and movies I enjoyed as a kid, and the interest in military history that they directly led to.

MM: The first series, NIGHT WITCHES, touches on the Soviet/German front and women pilots. That’s quite an interesting and unique concept and pairing. Which part of it came first?

GE: The starting point was the Soviet women pilots, the Night Witches themselves. I don't usually follow the war story convention of looking at two different sides' points of view, both because it's a rather well-worn path and because- from what I've been able to glean in my research- front line soldiers generally only encounter their opponents briefly and violently, with very little attempt or desire to empathize with one another. So presenting the enemy as a faceless threat, rather than some kind of idealized brother-in-arms, works to echo the experience of the soldiers themselves. This time, however, I wanted to look a little harder at what the two sides in the story represented- German Fascist male invader, Russian Communist female defender- and at how two such wildly diverse philosophies would clash and then react. So both sides needed a voice- Anna for the Russians, Kurt for the Germans.

MM: What is your research process like? Do you immerse yourself in books or do you not sweat the details?

GE: I know a lot of it anyway, through the aforementioned fascination with military history, so it's nice to finally put all that reading to good use. That said, I'm pretty thorough about research, particularly when it comes to providing reference for the artists.

MM: You’ve done quite well with war-themed books in the current market, but other efforts don’t seem to go anywhere or have that same “zest.” Why does it seem to be so difficult for everyone but you to energize the genre.

GE: It simply isn't a popular topic with most publishers, or, indeed, most writers. Any projects that do get off the ground tend to be treated rather grudgingly, with minimal support, which was certainly my experience at DC. Dynamite has been very different; I've never gotten as much support for my war fiction as I have from Nicky Barrucci- which is encouraging, because I believe Battlefields represents the best work I'm capable of right now.

MM: At the same time, you’re still cruising along nicely on THE BOYS. Are you surprised at how well the book has done? Were you worried at all about losing readers with the publisher change?

GE: People used to ask me that about Preacher, and the same answer applies to The Boys: no, I'm not all that surprised, because I can see why people like it- but on the other hand, if it had fallen flat on its face, I wouldn't have been remotely surprised either. Sometimes you go too far, sometimes you catch a wave. What did surprise me was the response to the move to Dynamite, which has been fantastic. I expected we might lose a few readers with a smaller publisher, but the tireless efforts by Nicky and his team meant quite the opposite. Trade paperback sales are even more encouraging, we're all delighted with how the book's performing there.

MM: You’re a very thematic writer. PREACHER was about love, loyalty, and personal responsibility; HITMAN was about male friendships… Is there a theme you have constructed THE BOYS around?

GE: I try not to explain things like that directly, as I believe it's something best left to the readers to figure for themselves. All I'll say is that Butcher represents one aspect of the book and Hughie another.

MM: You’re almost to the halfway point on THE BOYS; have you thought far enough ahead to see what’s out there beyond the book? Your next great long-form project?

GE: Not at all. Still got three years plus to go on this one.

MM: Back to HITMAN- will we ever see DC finish collecting the series? It’s weird that, for all the books you’ve sold for the company, they have yet to complete one of your most beloved and respected series.

GE: I believe there are plans afoot to finish collecting the run, but it doesn't seem to be a priority. Bit of a shame, I think, given that- if nothing else- there's money to be made all round.

MM: You’re a well-established, top-tier talent in the comics industry, and you can pretty much write your own ticket as to what you want to do. So what motivates you at this point? What does it take to move the needle and get you excited about a project?

GE: Generally speaking, I like to come up my own characters and stories and own as much of what I create as possible. The greater the creative freedom the better, too. And simple competence will take me a long way; if I know that an editor or publisher is good at what they do, and that all I have to do is get my end of the job right and they'll reciprocate, that's something I find enormously encouraging.

I still do a certain amount of work-for-hire, but only on characters I really like- e.g. The Punisher, or Dan Dare. I tend to find that if the idea starts with me I do better work on it, whereas if someone comes to me with something it won't turn out quite so good. Without meaning to, I can be quite an awkward fit in that regard- there've been several instances where publishers have said, hey, yeah, this would be absolutely perfect for him, but whatever it is has proven to be the exact opposite. I think the lesson is that I'm best left to get on with things at my own pace. I'll call you, as it were.

MM: Is there anyone you haven’t worked with at this point that you’re still looking to find the right project for?

GE: Not so much in terms of searching out a particular project, but there are some artists I'd like to work with- Bryan Talbot, Charlie Adlard, Jim Baikie, among others. One day something will click, is the way I see it.

MM: Do other-media considerations ever enter into your thinking when you’re putting together a book? Is there an “Ahh… that’d be a great movie!” moment or do you keep those thoughts pushed aside and just focus on how the comic will come together?

GE: Occasionally something will occur, but I honestly believe it's madness to get preoccupied with pipe dreams of movie or TV success. It'll happen or it won't, and in the meantime I'll get on with writing comics- which I love.

MM: What’s your drink of choice at the pub?

GE: Guinness.

MM: Do you see yourself making comics well into your old age? Or is there a day when you think you’ll hang it up and saunter off to a poorly lit bar and spend your money? Better yet, perhaps open up your own version of Noonan’s?

GE: Not me, I know which side of the bar I belong on.

Marc Mason




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