This week sees the release of "The Boys" #26, the halfway point of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson's X-citing satire "We Gotta Go Now," which itself serves as the midway point of the entire Dynamite Entertainment series. With lead character Hughie taking a break from his undercover life with the mutated outcast heroes the G-Men (or as Ennis prefers to call them "Earth's most profitable superheroes"), CBR decided to check in with both creators for word on how this story and the series are impacting their current creative lives, including what they hope to accomplish with a greedy, gruesome and not-so-subtle take on Marvel's most famous mutants.
"I think it has more to do with Garth's uncanny ability to see into character with an x-ray," Robertson told CBR, explaining his partner's scripting of the G-Men's behind-closed-doors antics. "He gets into motive and perversion in a way that most superhero stories glaze over. He doesn't allow the reader to rely on the given planks of super hero mythology and cliches. In that regard, I just follow his direction. I go for the throat in these scenes as well, because without the impact of the weirdness, there would be a tendency to see it all as 'normal'.
"In the Marvel and DC universes, the costumed characters play a visible and accepted role in their world," Robertson continued. "Their personal morality and the sadistic evil of their enemies makes them function as independent teams in a society where in reality, government would want to control and suppress them. That's where 'The Boys' has its foothold."
The G-Men of "The Boys" play along to the government's whims better than any super group ever seen, spurred on by the insatiable capitalistic desires of their unassuming leader John Godolkin. And while it may be easy for fans to draw comparisons between several of the characters and the Uncanny X-Men (most noticeably the hammer-handed Wolverine stand-in who flies into rages full of empty threats), Robertson said viewing the supporting characters of "The Boys" only as variations on classic superheroes misses the point.
"I really try and separate these worlds in my imagination," he remarked. "It's important to me to not taint the world of Marvel and DC that I imagine with the world I see the Boys existing in, which as Garth wants, is a world that closely parallels our own. So when approaching the G-men, or The Seven, I want to make these characters their own. While the allegories are clear, and the parody is evident, it really comes down to these characters functioning in their own world and interacting in their own way, so there's a real story at the heart of the joke, not just two guys taking the piss out of classic superheroes. I think if we rely to heavily on that, it will get tired. As it is, I think Garth's stories are getting more interesting as the tale unfolds."
Sales of "The Boys" have similarly held out to prove the stories are remaining popular as the series unfolds, and a considerable chunk of the readership comes from superhero fandom as often as they come from Ennis and Robertson's past work on titles like "Preacher" and "Transmetropolitan." "They certainly seem like a nice bunch," mused Ennis on his interactions with fans. "Some say they've followed you over from something else, some began with 'The Boys' and are working back to things like 'Preacher' or 'Punisher.' I do get a definite sense of people enjoying seeing their superheroes put through the meatgrinder - I recall Pat Mills used to talk about a similar phenomenon on 'Marshal Law,' where he'd even get guys working at Marvel telling him to go further, really make the characters suffer.
"That said, I don't see 'The Boys' as beginning some kind of anti-superhero movement," added Ennis. "I think most superhero fans who read the book are perfectly capable of enjoying the latest 'Birds of Prey' or 'Green Lantern' or whatever, and then heading over to 'The Boys' to see some very similar characters demeaned and degraded. Which is nice for everyone, really."
"A number of fans have told me that 'The Boys' is the first work they've read from me," Robertson revealed. "And in some cases, their first comic entirely, as the series seems to intrigue folks who haven't seen superhero stories with these kinds of situations and reactions before."
Readers unfamiliar with the book to date can catch up quick with the just released "The Boys: Definitive Edition" hardcover if the $75 price tag is right. Clocking in at 368 pages, the book contains the first 14 issues of the series re-mastered at a larger than average size with bonus script and sketch pages. Overall, Ennis described the presentation's appeal as being "like extras on a DVD - if you want it, it's there. Some of it you might find interesting. What I buy a DVD for is to have the highest possible quality copy of the movie I want to see."
For his part, Robertson likes a look behind the scenes. "I personally enjoy seeing other artists creative processing, and what their loose stuff looks like, so I just offered up what I thought I would enjoy if I were buying a big hard cover edition," he said. "I have become more aggressive in my approach to my work in the last few years. I need to draw my panels loose and quickly to capture what I glimpse while reading the script, and then I spend the time in the deadline trying to correct the parts that I get wrong in my impulsive sketching. Sometimes I miss things in my effort to get it to press on time. I dream of a day when I can draw something with all the time I need."
Darick Robertson's time and skills will be tested in 2009 as "The Boys" continues its monthly pace with additional projects on the horizon, including the origin tale of the Boys' leader told in his own limited series. "The Butcher series will probably show up about a year and a half from now," promised Ennis. "There will be a Boys miniseries next year, however, a six-parter by the name of 'Herogasm.' That's all I can say about it right now."
While waiting for those new works to roll out, readers have the option of catching up with a previous Ennis series, as Dynamite recently released a collection of he and artist Gary Erksine's "Dan Dare." Originally published in single-issue form by Virgin Comics and based on the classic British comics hero, "Dare" proved a hit overseas, although Ennis hopes the new volume will prove a new draw to a wider audience. "A collection always means more readers, because we can tap into the audience that can't be bothered going to comic shops and picking up their little bite-size chunks of story every month. That's particularly good for 'Dan Dare,' because there you're talking about a slightly older audience scattered throughout the English-speaking world that have little or no patience for monthly reading. One whole story under one set of covers will suit them nicely."
And as for anyone wondering whether this trade paperback means more "Dan Dare" work in the future, the writer expressed no plans for a sequel. "Not me, I've said everything I have to say with the character for quite some time," Ennis confirmed.
"The Boys" #26 hits comic shops this week. "The Boys: Definitive Edition" HC and the "Dan Dare" collected edition are in stores now from Dynamite Entertainment.