As with so many of the superhero setups exploited within the universe of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's Dynamite Entertainment series "The Boys," the latest idea coming down the pike skewers one of mainstream comics' most profitable trends. This time out, the target is event comics -Â a topic so big it could only fit within its own miniseries, aptly titled "Herogasm," with art by longtime Ennis collaborator John McCrea ("Hitman").
Of the May-shipping engagement, Ennis told CBR News, "Well, a massive alien invasion force has entered our solar system, intent on wreaking havoc upon our fair planet Earth -Â at more or less the same time that something similarly apocalyptic happened the year before. What else can the world's supes do but team up to battle the threat as one force, etc etc etc. Once they're safely over the horizon, however, we get to see what really happens at these yearly get-togethers. It's quite rude - not that the supes have much in the way of manners to begin with, but what they do have definitely goes on hold for this little shindig."
While Ennis and Dynamite have both teased for a while that limited spin-off works would become part of the ongoing makeup of "The Boys," the idea for "Herogasm" came relatively recently. "It occurred to me about a year ago that I wanted to tell a story from the supes' point of view, largely leaving the Boys out of it," Ennis explained. "The particular plot of this one means there's not very much for them to do, at least for the first half. Which seemed to suggest that a miniseries was the way to go, changing the focus of the book for one particular story."
"While there'll certainly be some bad behaviour in 'Herogasm' of exactly the kind that 'Boys' readers have come to expect, there's much more going on than the regular super-shenanigans. Our heroes' minor role in the story gradually alters its dynamic, until something happens in #4 that sends things off on a completely unexpected tangent. After that, life gets serious fast, and by the end you'll have witnessed events that will change things in the Boys' world for good. We'll start to pick up on the effects of that with #31 of the regular title. You'll see the relationship between Hughie and Annie develop in an odd way, given that neither knows who the other truly is, nor that they're even present for 'Herogasm.' You'll see something happen to Hughie that changes his outlook on life big-time. And you'll see the Homelander commit an act that truly staggers belief."
Ennis added that like the "Preacher" spinoffs "Saint of Killers" and "One Man's War," "Herogasm" is essential to the ongoing story of "The Boys."
Lke with most of the jokes in "The Boys," Ennis quickly pointed out that the pot shots he and McCrea have planned for "Herogasm" shouldn't be construed as direct disdain for the mega-crossovers that drive so much of the superhero comics business today. "I'm aware when crossovers are happening, but that's about it," he said. "They're a fact of life, really: there's a certain amount of pressure on people at Marvel and DC to get sales up, and so long as they continue to publish the volume of material that they do with the limited resources that they have, crossovers are really the only game in town- at least in the short term, which is the way the companies still seem to operate. In other words, you'll only ever have so many genuinely marketable characters, and there'll only ever be so much big-name talent to go around - so what else are you supposed to do to prop up the books that can boast neither?
"As for the current rash of these things and their effect on 'The Boys,' I don't know that there is all that much. We seem to have found an audience, and it seems to be sizable enough for us to survive- particularly in terms of trade paperbacks, which I'm very happy about."
Oddly enough, the "Herogasm" collaborators have contributed their fair share of material to past crossover events, and the writer explained that the resulting stories turned out better than one might expect from an editorially-mandated tie-in comic. "We had to kinda/sorta take part in crossovers during our time on 'The Demon' and 'Hitman,' but the nature of those books meant that John and I were generally left in our own corner," Ennis recalled. "The lead characters were never going to be central to anyone's crossover, so they simply wouldn't be needed. That suited us fine; the crossovers were always miles from anything we'd want to do. Batman stories, for example, where Gotham City would be torn to pieces only to end up completely unchanged, with a plague or whatever causing instantly forgettable havoc.
"I remember finding 'DC One Million' so depressing that I almost told them to get someone else to write that 'Hitman' issue - but then my brain served me up an idea I just couldn't forget about, and it turned out rather well. And 'Hitman' actually wouldn't have existed if it hadn't been for 'Bloodlines.' So I suppose those crossovers were like all things superhero: fine, so long as I could ignore the rulebook and do my own thing, then get back to work on the main plot of whatever regular series I was working on."
When it comes to reuniting again with John McCrea for the first time since DC's long-delayed "JLA/Hitman" miniseries, Ennis noted, "With John, as with most of the artists I work with regularly, we each trust the other to get on with the job. That said, it's a treat to be working with John again -Â he's an old friend and it feels like it's been a long, long time. I think it's John's sheer experience that gives his art the strength that's required for this job: he can maintain ['The Boys' co-creator] Darick [Robertson's] established designs while placing them in a setting that he himself is designing from the ground up, together with new characters that he's creating for 'Herogasm.' The story's its own beast, not just a fill-in on the monthly, and because of that it needs its own distinctive look. Sounds like a job for John McCrea."
Ultimately, "Herogasm" may work more like a big event than even its creators had intended by "rocking the Boys universe to its core" so that "nothing will ever be the same." Well, maybe Ennis doesn't see it that way, but he still stands ready to have a little fun while event shake out around him. The writer explained, "The story makes fun of an aspect of superherodom without singling out individual examples of it. So while we're having a pop at the notion of mass crossovers within a shared universe, we're not picking on 'Crisis' or 'Secret Wars' or 'Countdown' or whatever in particular. As with the regular book, you'll probably recognize some thinly-veiled parodies of various characters- but not of any stories from those characters' pasts."
"Herogasm" #1 hits comic shops this May and features covers from "The Boys" co-creator Darick Robertson.