When Dynamite Entertainment's "The Boys" crashed into comic shops last month with its 21st issue revealing the horrific foul up by self-centered super team The Seven, readers were surprised again by how far the Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson series was willing to go in order to explore the sometimes uncomfortable human drama behind so-called heroics. While The Seven's inability to save one of the plane's hijacked on September 11, 2001 had its own set of twists and turns, the end result was the creation of The Boys themselves, an origin-like revelation that hit fans and series lead Wee Hughie equally hard.
Of course, one person for whom the story held somewhat fewer surprises is writer Garth Ennis himself, who's been planning the entire 60-issue series (what he calls a "Glorious Five-Year Plan") since day one, even if the details have revealed themselves in the telling. "The broad outline is roughly the same; the details fill themselves in as you go," the writer told CBR News. "I knew what would happen at the end of #21 from the get-go, for instance; but I had no idea what would happen aboard the aircraft.
"Hughie's probably more interested in The Boys than the supes right now; the Legend obviously left him hanging regarding their history and their ongoing mission," Ennis added in regards to how the revelations will affect the book moving forward. "You'll see him doing a little sniffing around in the coming months, when he can -- because he's going to be very busy. He probably feels no different about supes than he did before. His relationship with [member of the Seven] Annie is another matter entirely, of course, given that -- right now -- neither knows who the other really is."
For his part, artist Darick Robertson echoed his partner's take on what's most interesting in "The Boys" in explaining that he finds the series' interpersonal stories and their creation somewhat more engaging than the big, violent action that the book has become most known for. "I have always tried to make the conversation stuff as dynamic and interesting as possible. In some way I like moving my mental camera around a stationary scene than traveling through a changing one. The people on the plane and arranging those sequences were far more challenging," said the artist, who still fits the "The Boys" workload in amongst an exclusive DC Comics work-for-hire contract.
"To have Garth tell it, there are still surprises he has for himself along the way," Robertson continued. "Yes, we have the arc planned out and I've brought some things to the party, but really it's his epic, and I am doing my best to bring it to the page as close to the mark as he'd like.
"I knew what we had with 'The Boys' before it was even printed. I was a big fan of [Ennis's] 'Preacher' series, and I'm taking a lot of direction in the pages, because I believe the heart of the success of this project is that Garth has a great sense of humor and a clear idea of what he wants the series to be, and I can help him achieve that, and walk both lines. I love drawing these characters that we've created."
When "The Boys" begins its next major arc in October, as part of Dynamite's Garth Ennis Month, both creators spoke of their desire to expand the Boys' universe with more characters who will play off the standard superhero tropes including an uncannily familiar group of heroes known as the G-Men.
"The next arc is 'We Gotta Go Now,' running from #23-29 with an epilogue in #30- the book's halfway point. So it's obviously a biggie," Ennis said. "We'll see the Boys taking a look at the G-Men, Earth's most profitable superheroes. What seems like a routine job at first turns into something a lot more complex when one of the G-Men commits suicide in a rather public and grisly fashion. Finding out exactly what's going on will be tricky; Hughie gets a job he'd never have expected in a million years, while Mother's Milk gets to demonstrate what he's really good at. I've really enjoyed writing him in this arc, in some ways he's turning out to be the opposite of what people might expect.
"Frenchie and the Female get a chance to work their own particular brand of magic, too. Butcher, meanwhile, comes at things from another angle, and makes a discovery that pisses him off enormously, which means someone's going to get taken off at the neck.
"By the end of this storyline, things will have gotten fairly intense. The G-Men's big secret is not pleasant. Issue #29 closes with what I can only describe as an inferno."
With references to profitability and infernos, the connection of the G-Men to Marvel's merry mutants should be quite apparent, but Robertson is keeping up his end of the partnership by crafting a team that, visually, will strike satirical chords with fans. "Like ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½â‚¬Å¡ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½"the Seven,' the idea is to play with the archetypes more than poke direct fun at the characters themselves," the artist said. "So I try and think more clearly about who these characters are in their own universe and make them believable as individuals, like I tried to achieve with the Teenage Kix. They're flawed versions of heroes, in a world where you get the title without earning it. The Marvel and DC characters act like heroes, do heroic things. Our characters hire PR Agents and get their freak on."
When asked which of the new characters was his favorite, Robertson's pick represented a classic Boys sendup. "Groundhawk is utterly ridiculous," he said. "He has sledgehammers for hands. They were all a lot of fun to design. Designing these guys is the best part of the job."
And while new Robertson designs await readers within the pages of "The Boys," the covers for "We Gotta Go Now" will give the regular cast a facelift at the hands of big name creators from John Cassaday to Jim Lee. "I was protective of the cover art for the first two years, but when I recall how fun it was to see my colleagues and heroes draw Spider Jerusalem on the 'Transmetropolitan' covers, I couldn't say no," said the artist. "Cassaday's cover is very cool. Once you see your own characters depicted through another artist's eyes, you see them differently yourself."
"We tend to just say to the artists, 'Here you go, any character you like, any scene you like, go for it,'" Ennis added. "I tend to find that gets better results from cover artists than heavy-handed direction, at least when it comes to one-offs. So far I've only seen John Cassaday's and Howard Chaykin's covers, both of which are top-notch."
"The Boys" #21 and #22 are on sale now from Dynamite Entertainment.