The Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson series "The Boys" sure knows how to make some noise. When the first issue came out from DC/Wildstorm, reaction to the book was mostly shock and glee – this book, which Ennis said would "out-Preacher 'Preacher,'" was decidedly not PC, featuring a story following a superpowered CIA squad whose job it was to keep an eye on super heroes around the world and "take care" of them (i.e. get them to fall in line or kill them if need be).
Ultimately, the extreme violence and high sexuality of the series and the anti-superhero tone of the book rubbed its publisher the wrong way and late last month Wildstorm chose to cease publication of "The Boys," allowing Ennis and Robertson to immediately shop it around to different publishers, ultimately landing at Dynamite Entertainment shortly there after.
The news of the cancellation and new publisher swept through the industry and interest in "The Boys" rose to a level it had not seen before. Sales on the series had already begun picking up steam, but following the drama that ensued in the last month, a large number of readers turned to the back issue bins at their local comic shop, hoping to see what all the fuss was about.
With the series future now solid again, CBR News caught up with series artist Darick Robertson to learn more about how this deal went down and what the future looks like for "The Boys."
Hi Darick, thanks for talking with me today. As I understand it, following the announced cancellation by DC/Wildstorm, you had a wealth of publishers looking to land the right to publish "The Boys." I've heard that IDW, Avatar, Image, Virgin and Dark Horse were all in the running, with the book ultimately landing at Dynamite Entertainment. Why was Dynamite the right choice for this book?
For me it all came down to my long standing relationship with [Dynamite owner] Nick Barrucci, whom I've known and done business with for over a decade. I respect what Nick has accomplished with Dynamic Forces and like his product (Hell, I own a lot of DF product) and seeing that Dynamite was already out there and doing an amazing job packaging and promoting the titles they're doing, breathing life back into the "Lone Ranger," picking up on the popularity of "Battlestar Galactica" and "Army of Darkness," I could see the potential of what "The Boys" would be there and Nick really sold me with his enthusiasm and knowledge of the book. He was a true fan of what we were doing and I could tell he would support the future of the book with all that incredible marketing energy he brings to everything he promotes. I could see how we could make each other stronger by bringing the book to Dynamite.
It's been fascinating watching the reaction to the news on message boards as a lot of it seemed to be, "You know, I've never read this book before, but now that it's been cancelled I've decided to pick it up and, man, is it fantastic!" In a very odd way, could the cancellation of the book by DC/Wildstorm have been a good thing for "The Boys?"
I believe in many ways it already has, as it suddenly came onto people's radar in a way it might not have before. Now the title is carrying a controversial reputation. I only hope that we can outlast and live up to the hype! We never expected this level of controversy.
The cancellation of any book has to sting, but even more so when it's a creator owned book like "The Boys." You're also a DC exclusive artist, which complicates things to some extent. But, it appears that DC has really bent over backwards to help you guys with setting this up elsewhere. What are your feelings about how this all went down? How closely did DC work with you guys and what did they do for you? Is there any ill will between DC and you at this point?
Well Editor Ben Abernathy still owes me $20, but other than that, none whatsoever. It was business and everyone's been great. I'm grateful that it's been handled as respectfully and generously as it has.
There were also published reports that certain scenes within "The Boys" had been censored by DC/Wildstorm editorial, that you had to go back and change certain scenes. With the eventual trade to be offered by Dynamite, will we see those original scenes put back in? Will there be any before/after type comparisons?
We're talking about that. Perhaps down the road when we collect the whole first year in a hardcover or the like, we'll offer the uncut version. The scenes are all there in the original issues, there's just more to see.
Moving onto the deal with Dynamite, how do they plan on bringing "The Boys" back to press? When will we see the first new issue from you guys and the trade?
Depending on some decisions and negotiations being made now, we're hoping to be back on the stands with a 1-6 TPB and #7 simultaneously.
So you won't be starting with a new #1?
Right, I want to keep the numeration at 7.
How hands on will Dynamite be with "The Boys" editorially? Are they giving you and Garth free reign? What sort, if any, limitations have they given you on content?
We haven't crossed that bridge but a big part of the offer for all publisher's to consider with us is that we weren't interested in being limited and compromised.
Looking forward, what can you tell us about what's to come in "The Boys?"
To paraphrase Garth: The next storyline is called "Get Some." Butcher and Hughie find themselves investigating a New York superhero who has a rather embarrassing problem. It's a smaller scale story than the first arc, and it shows Hughie building more of a relationship with the rest of the Boys. Butcher introducing him around and teaching him a lot more about how the Boys work. We meet some allies of the Boys who are kind of important in the way they carry out their missions.
In issue 11 the third arc moves the story to Russia, temporarily, where you'll see where the Boys figure in the international political stage.
Sounds good. Now, for those in our audience new to this story, give them a brief introduction to "The Boys." In your own words, what is this book all about?
The BOYS is set to be a 60+ issue, 5 year-series that will follow a character named Wee Hughie who joins the world of "The Boys," a team of CIA Black operatives charged with monitoring and, if need be, dealing with the superheroes of the world. While the super heroes in the world may reflect some established characters, they are not the ones you know.
"'The Boys' on the team, each in their own way has suffered some sort of tragedy at the hands of superheroes. The superheroes in our world move through the world like celebrities and politicians combined. They don't really notice who they step-on on the way during the course of their super battles. This is what happens to the people who end up as collateral damage."
The leader of "The Boys" is Billy Butcher, the meanest, hardest son of a bitch you can imagine. Starting with issue #1, however, readers will see this world through the eyes of Hughie.
Throughout this series you are going to see Hughie getting initiated into this dark world. The CIA needs the Boys to be on our side to get information on superheroes and sometimes they need to take down supes who get out of line. They don't necessarily always do this with violence. Sometimes they do it with blackmail, sometimes they do it by knowing their deep dark secrets.
Thanks, Darick. We'll check back in with you once publishing plans firm up.