Friday, 17 June 2011

That Time I Interviewed Garth Ennis

Ten years or so ago a writing friend of mine set up The Alien Online, a website featuring monthly columns on a variety of subjects and he asked me to write one on comics. Sadly the site didn't last more than a year or two before biting the dust despite the best intentions of the owner but it was fun while it lasted. The trouble with writing a monthly column, though, was the lack of immediacy - with this blog if I read something interesting, I can post about it in minutes. Back then, it had to be written up and sent over to the editor before seeing the light of day by which time other, larger sites had long since published it and moved on.

However, it did give me the opportunity to interview Garth Ennis. I say interview - I wrote out my questions and sent them to him (using paper and pen - this was the old days!) and he was kind enough to write back with his answers. Moving some old papers around the other day, I came across his reply which got me to thinking: with The Alien Online long-since dead and, in all honesty, not having had a huge readership back in the day (because this blog gets zillions of hits per hour), not many people would have seen this.

So here, for your delectation, warts and all, is a Garth Ennis interview from 2001:

CRISIS ON EARTH-PRIME: Preacher's done, Hitman's finished, Rifle Brigade was a miniseries. You've got Just A Pilgrim out now, but that's another mini. What's the next big project?

GARTH ENNIS: I'm kicking off the new Punisher monthly for Marvel, doing six issues on, six issues off. Steve Dillon and I should be doing something pretty big soon, but that's still a bit hush-hush [1]. My next major project is War Story; a new Vertigo project that'll see four 60-page one-shots a year - unconnected, but all (as you might guess) war stories. This year's four, beginning in September, are drawn by John Higgins, Chris Weston, David Lloyd and Dave Gibbons.

COEP: Posters, action figures, T-shirts - Preacher's done quite well as far as merchandising goes. How do you feel about that and how much control do you have over what comes out?

GE: I'm happy enough with the merchandise, and so long as it's of a reasonable quality and accuracy I'm keen for it to continue. I've no actual interest in the products beyond spending the money, though; the comics themselves are what I'm interested in.

COEP: You must have had you views confused with Jesse Custer's. What's the stragest result of that?

GE: No sparkling anecdotes here, alas. The odd interview question, not much else.

COEP: There's been talk of a Preacher movie for ages. Is anything happening as far as you know?

GE: Nope.

COEP: Everyone always asks who you would most like to play the leads; who would you least like to play the main characters?

GE: Where to begin!

COEP: Judge Dredd, John Constantine, Jesse Custer - what's the appeal for you in characters that are so extreme in one way or another. Why keep writing them?

GE: I seem to get more out of them. I wrote a story about Superman once, and said pretty much all I have to say about the guy in 22 pages (Hitman #34). It's the freaks, lunatics, bastards and scumbags that interest me.

COEP: In Preacher, you had Amy state "Never date writers, honey. Writers suck." Is that you being self-deprecating, a response to someone else's views or just you having a laugh?

GE: The latter.

COEP: Before Preacher, The Sandman was Vertigo's biggest title. Did you ever get any angst ridden teenagers sending you poetry as happened with Sandman?

GE: No, thankfully.

COEP: What would your response have been if you had?

GE: I'd have told them to fuck off!

COEP: The Saint of Killers shot both God and the Devil, making you probably the first writer in comics to kill off the two biggest guys in the spiritual world [2]. How's that feel?

GE: Oddly numb.

COEP: You seem to show a conscious disregard for DCU continuity in Hitman, having Tommy remark about the annual crises actually having happened years before. What's your take on the whole continuity thing?

GE: It's bollocks. It gets in the way of good stories; just satisfies the neat and tidy minds of people with too much time on their hands.

COEP: It's probably academic after the final issue's end scene, but Hitman's appeared in JLA and Resurrection Man; do you worry about other writers using your characters?

GE: Not at all.

COEP: With the war stories you've both had published and have coming out, have you left the horror field?

GE: Not at all. Bit burned out on modern social insight / psychological / examining humanity's dark underbelly-type horror, though. If I was to do another horror book, I'd like to see zombies, vampires, ruined castles, gruesome beasts from beyond reality's boundaries, that sort of thing.

COEP: What's your favourite story or issues you've written?

GE: Saint of Killers, Preacher's Angelville storyline (issues #8 - #12), various Hitmans, Rifle Brigade.

COEP: Is there anything you'd rather hadn't seen print?

GE: 90% of the 2000AD stuff, one third of Hellblazer, Goddess, Troubled Souls, Shadowman, Darkness.

COEP: Are there any top characters you'd like to be given free reign with, and similarly are there any obscure characters you'd like to bring back into the mainstream?

GE: Not too fussed. Happier doing my own characters, though if you give me a crack at some of the 2000AD/Fleetway stuff I'd be happy to try Johnny Red, Robo Hunter, the original Rogue Trooper, Rat Pack, Major Easy . . . also Slaine and ABC Warriors, but Pat [Mills] wisely guards his creations very jealously indeed. Like I say, I like doing my own stuff. Creating your own stories and characters keeps you on your toes.

COEP: To my knowledge, I think you became the first writer to slip the C word into a mainstream title, in Adventures in The Rifle Brigade. Did you just put it in there and hope the men in charge wouldn't notice?

GE: No, they noticed, and they were cool with it - just a little one, after all. I think Steve Seagle was first, anyway, with House of Secrets. Pretty sure I already did it in Hellblazer. It occurs to me that if you can do a twelve issue story about Superman's ancestors called The Kents, then you ought to be able to get a miniseries out of Lex Luthor's ancestors called . . .

COEP: Humour has been a major part in you're writing and you're a big fan of Bill Hicks, the late lamented genius. Who else do you like in the comedy world? Do you know anything of Chris Morris's stuff such as Brass Eye and Blue Jam?

GE: Love Chris Morris, have done right back as far as On The Hour. Also League of Gentlemen, some Fast Show, early Vic Reeves, Denis Leary, Steve Coogan...

COEP: Lastly, according to the prophecies of Malachi, it's the next Pope. Others claim it's Bill Clinton and I'm sure it'll soon be George W. Bush, just like it was his dad. Who do you think is the Antichrist?

GE: Tempted to proclaim myself as the next one, but who's got the energy?

COEP: Shame, I was hoping for a good answer to that one! Once again, a big thanks to Garth for taking the time to answer the questions.

[1] Anyone have any idea what this would have been?
[2] He'd later do it again in 2007's Chronicles of Wormwood.

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