Ennis & Braun Take "Sixpack and Dogwelder" on an Alan Moore-Inspired Road Trip

While "Sixpack And Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz" is being solicited (albeit tongue-in-cheek) as a modern-day re-telling of the classic "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" stories by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams, Eisner Award-winning writer Garth Ennis told CBR News that his latest story starring the masked misfits of Section 8 is, in part, very much inspired by Alan Moore's legendary run on "Saga of the Swamp Thing" in the '80s.

Ennis shared that he actually discussed the story arc of "Sixpack And Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz" with the famously eccentric recluse as it features John Constantine in a similar role to the one the Hellblazer played in "American Gothic," Moore's ultimate road trip story told in "Saga of the Swamp Thing" #37-50. And, Ennis assures us, Sixpack has the chops to lead Section 8 into DC's Rebirth era -- even if Ennis doesn't exactly know what Rebirth is.

Created by Ennis and artist John McCrea, Section 8 debuted in 1997's "Hitman" #18, while the original Dogwelder was co-created by Steve Dillon. Russ Braun is providing art for the new series, which launches on August 24. And, as he tells us, every time he works with his long-time collaborator, there are a few things that are hard to explain to friends and family, but nothing has been as difficult to relay as the concept of Dogwelder, a mysterious and disturbing crimefighter who haunts and maims evildoers by welding dead dogs to them.

CBR News: This first issue goes full-scale meta when Hacken tells Sixpack that Section 8 is "a buncha small fry." In the DC Universe, even one that has been re-birthed, Section 8 doesn't stack up to the Justice League or the Teen Titans. Why do you think the hard-travelin' heroz work for not all but some readers of superhero comics?

Garth Ennis: I think there's always been a section of the superhero audience that's been happy to laugh at the absurdity of the concept -- as ridiculed in the stories of Section 8 -- while at the same time enjoying straightforward superhero adventures in other comics. Pat Mills used to talk about people at Marvel enjoying the denigration of their superhero characters in "Marshal Law" and, in fact, even encouraging him to go further. 

And what of Sixpack as a leader of these hard-travelin' heroz? Hacken really calls him out, telling him to "Man the *** up." Obviously, Sixpack has his issues -- lots of issues -- but does he have what it takes to lead Section 8 into their rebirth?

Ennis: So long as he has plenty of his special leadership serum, which is, of course, on sale behind the bar at Noonan's, he'll be fine. [Laughs]

This series and the team seem relatively unscathed despite the near line-wide changes to the DC Universe with 'Rebirth'? Did Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio and Jim Lee ask that any changes be made to Section 8 for DC Rebirth?

Ennis: Never heard a thing. To be honest, I'm not even completely sure what that is. I'm guessing the latest relaunch. [Laughs]

I'm pleased that the new Dogwelder is getting extended play in this series as a co-headliner. Easily one of the weirdest 'power-sets' in the history of comics, what is it about Dogwelder that makes him tick? Or is it the not-knowing that works so well?

Ennis: This story will, in fact, reveal the secret origin of Dogwelder, as he takes his rightful place as one of the biggest power-players in the DCU.

Russ, there are so many different characters on this team, and I don't use the term 'different' lightly, but then there's Dogwelder. Were your friends and family troubled when you told them that you were drawing "a mysterious and disturbing crimefighter who terrifies and maims evildoers by welding dead dogs to them"? And what's your take on the character because I love the way you draw him?

Russ Braun: Whenever I work with Garth, there are a few things that are hard to explain to folks, but Dogwelder and the things he does with random deceased pooches takes the cake. You should be on the lookout for one special pup I like to call "Weldo."

Everything I'm doing is based on what John McCrea dreamed up. I'm just adding my own stylistic twist. So Dogwelder becomes kind of a sad, Frankenstein's monster figure, shambling and cursed -- and welding dogs to people's faces. [Laughs]

Power Girl, Starfire and Catwoman feature in the first issue in a hilarious cameo in Noonan's Bar. But based on the solicitations, we're getting some major players from DC's dark side in this series, too. Let's start with John Constantine. Garth, you have a long history with the character as the writer of "Hellblazer." What makes John the perfect choice to lead Dogwelder on this personal journey to find his "true mission"?

Ennis: Essentially, John is perfect because he did such a good job with Swamp Thing. He's exactly the guy you want leading you on a journey of discovery about your true nature. Of course, also as with Swamp Thing, Constantine has a secret agenda of his own.

Alan Moore's "American Gothic" saga is one of my all-time favorites in comics, so it's been good fun having Constantine lead Dogwelder up the garden path in a similar vein. I did actually run the idea past Alan, just out of respect, and he was very gracious about it. Even pointed out a couple of things that helped enormously with the story.

That's very cool. And speaking of cool, it sounds like we are going to some cool and faraway places in this story. Russ, drawing Section 8 is one thing, but what about drawing Section 8 in the land of pharaohs and sphinxes?

Braun: I loved the Egyptian mythology stuff. I'd drawn a slightly more serious version of a lot of it before, so the comedy actually benefitted from some well-researched reality. Sometimes drawing something completely ridiculous in the straightest most earnest way can be funnier. At least, I hope so.

As a kid, the Spectre scared the pants off me. But now, it doesn't get much cooler than him. As he wags his finger and cries, "I have come for the sinner. The fugitive from divine justice. The one who fled -- but now shall flee no more," I have one question. Couldn't he be talking about anyone in Section 8?

Ennis: Not Guts, surely? [Laughs]
And yes, I was very impressed by Spectre's portrayal in "Swamp Thing." It was one of a number of instances from that classic run in which a concept is expanded beyond its original creator's wildest imaginings. I also quite liked John Ostrander's take on the Spectre back in the 1990s. Tom Mandrake's art really helped on that one, giving the book a nice sense of pandemonium unleashed.

"Sixpack And Dogwelder: Hard-Travelin' Heroz" by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun debuts Wednesday, August 24.

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