Ennis' "Streets of Glory" Run Red with Blood

Readers of the anarchic 1990s masterpiece "Preacher" are well aware of Garth Ennis' predilection for the American Old West. The Vertigo series was heavily dosed with allusions to the genre, which Ennis returns to in full effect this fall in the pages of "Streets of Glory," a new full color miniseries from Avatar Press.

Illustrated by "Escape of the Living Dead's" Mike Wolfer, "Streets of Glory" tells the brutal tale of Joe Dunn, one of the last of a dying breed of heroic gunfighters. On the eve of the 20th century, Joe Dunn returns from a life of drifting, fighting and killing to a home that's grown up without him; a home ready to begin a new, more "civilized" age.

Needless to say - this is a Garth Ennis comic, after all -- those streets of glory will run red with glorious ultra-violence. To learn more about blood, brutality and the Old West, CBR News sat down with writer Garth Ennis and talked "Streets of Glory."

"Streets of Glory" #1 Wrap Cover

Garth, "Streets of Glory" sounds like the sort of book fans have been waiting for you to write for a long time. What more can you tell us about the story and the characters who populate it?

Aging ex-cavalry officer and gunfighter Joe Dunn arrives in the Montana town of Gladback, in 1899. He's looking for an old love, Shelley, who isn't all that crazy about seeing him. Her daughter Isla is even less so. This little drama is interrupted by the arrival of Charles Morrison, a rich developer, and later- and more violently- by Red Crow, a renegade Apache intent on bloodshed. Dunn is aided in his struggles by old pal Tom McKinnon and new friend Pete Lorrimer- the latter being a wide-eyed kid who Dunn saved from bandits, in a gruesome encounter early on in the story. Pete also happens to be our narrator, and, as something of an innocent, our window into this brutal frontier world.

Joe Dunn seems like an amalgam of a number of different characters we've seen in Westerns over the years; this understated badass, if you will. Who would you compare Joe to in terms of fictional or non-fictional Western heroes? Did any specific characters inspire him?

There's a touch of the older Clint Eastwood about him, a bit of Tommy Lee Jones' character from "Lonesome Dove," Woodrow F. Call. A harsh character capable of extreme violence, but also a thinker; a tactician. He's a little thrown by the speed at which the world around him is changing. The way of life he's used to is disappearing. There's a sadness about him because he lost the one chance he had at happiness some time ago, and he didn't even realize it until far too late.

Dialogue is used quite sparingly in the script for the first issue. You've really given a lot room for the story to be told visually.

There's a bit more detail later on; issue #2 is nearly all talking. I try to leave action sequences uncluttered by excessive dialogue, if only because it seems unlikely that people would be doing much chatting while trying to gun each other down. As for #1 in particular, I wanted a good long action scene to establish the sudden violence of the times and Dunn's patient, careful, tactical thinking.

What was the inspiration for the story? How long has "Streets of Glory" been percolating in your head and what finally brought you to the keyboard?

I've been thinking about it for years, as with other Avatar projects like "303" and "Wormwood." The complete creative freedom [Avatar publisher] William Christensen offers allows me free rein to let a story develop and breathe the way it should. So, really, it was William asking me what was next, and me- after a brief search of the stuff-not-done-yet file in my crumbling brain- replying, "why, I believe it'll be this Western I've been thinking about for a while."

["Streets of Glory"] comes from my love of the genre, really, and a melancholy sense of a unique time passing from the world forever.

What are your goals for this book? What themes are you looking to explore with "Streets of Glory?"

I wanted to write a story that would feature the horror and brutality of the West without flinching, while at the same time not simply drowning the narrative in squalor and gore. There's an epic quality to the great Westerns that I didn't want to lose; the incredible scale of the country, the sense of myth that the people and places contributed to. "There was good in amongst all the bad" is a simple way of putting it- probably overly so.

Westerns have seen a small resurgence in comics in recent years. What attracts you to the genre? What creative muscles does it allow you to explore that other genres don't?

I love Westerns, I always have. There's the aforementioned epic quality, there's the awesome landscape, there's the sense of history, as the nation as we know it is born out on the endless prairie. In his book of essays, "Study Out The Land," the splendidly named T.K. Whipple put it better than I ever could:

"All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our ancestors had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream."

Looking at the Western in comics, have there been any that have really interested you?

The only one that comes to mind is "Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo," by Joe Lansdale and Tim Truman. Tons of action, extremely authentic, nice vein of weird shit running through it. And so funny I just about pissed myself laughing, too.

Finishing up our conversation, what makes for a good and successful Western comic?

Hard to say, in that Lansdale's "Hex" is the only one I've read from cover to cover. But I'll tell you what you need for a great Western, comic, movie, novel or otherwise: plenty of country. Tough guys; good and bad. Clanky old Colt revolvers. Duster coats. Stetsons. A gal or two. And big, big sky.

Big sky, indeed. Thanks, Garth.

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