THE BOYS: ROBERTSON & ENNIS ON NEW WILDSTORM SERIES
Jennifer M. Contino
Member # 9885
posted 03-18-2006 04:00 PM
BY JENNIFER M. CONTINO
After spending a few years at Marvel Comics, Darick Robertson is now exclusive to DC Comics and working with Garth Ennis on a new project for Wildstorm called "The Boys." We've got details from Robertson on the series, his exclusive, and a few more things. Plus Garth Ennis weighs in to provide a few more particulars on this new force which they want to "out-Preacher Preacher" with, making its debut this October.
THE PULSE: I think most people are going to be surprised to hear you signed an exclusive with DC Comics - especially since you've been exclusive to Marvel Comics for a while and working on some of their biggest icons. So, what swayed you to working with DC Comics and signing your x on the dotted line ...?
DARICK ROBERTSON: I needed a change. Creative frustration and corporate policies were burning me out. I really want to just focus on one project that I can enjoy more creative control over. My friend Garth Ennis and Wildstorm have presented me that opportunity with “The Boys”. I was going over to do “The Boys” regardless of the exclusive. DC/Wildstorm wanted to give me incentive to focus solely on this project, and I welcome that and the benefits that an exclusive contract provides for my family.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to work on my favorite Marvel characters, it’s something I had worked to achieve over the last 20 years, all the way back to high school. However, sometimes when you get what you desire, you realize that it’s not what you truly want anymore. You set your eyes on the prize early on and everything else seems secondary.
I started to burn out this last year and I hated feeling that way. I love the Marvel characters but being yanked off this book then that book with little or no warning was demoralizing. I was being asked to draw 2 or 3 books at a time and ink myself on none of them. I felt like I couldn’t bring my “A” game to the books anymore. That’s not fair to Marvel or to the fans of my stuff.
I just wanted a gig like John Cassaday has with Astonishing X-men and Mark Bagley enjoy on Ultimate Spider-man: getting teamed with a dedicated, prolific writer on one good book, that I could nurture into a main stay. Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave Marvel to find that kind of respect for my work and the opportunity to grow as an artist.
THE PULSE: What do you think were the biggest pros to being exclusive to Marvel these past few years?
ROBERTSON: The assurance of regular work post-Transmet was great, especially with a baby boy and a desire to move from New York back home to my native California.
Joe Quesada’s enthusiasm and vision for what Marvel could be was really great to be a part of when he and Bill Jemas were driving things in a bold new direction. That first year when they dropped the code, I was living in New York and I was excited to be working with Axel Alonso and being a part of things that were changing.
I was happy to be earning a great page rate and feeling like I was part of something bigger than myself. I saw great potential for what could be done at Marvel and how I fit in. I had the chance to draw my dream books and get myself out of debt and into a home. For that, I am grateful beyond words.
I was also assured that being on top books that got a lot of promotion, like Wolverine, would be a regular benefit to being exclusive, as well as inking my own work and I believed them at first.
THE PULSE: What were the biggest cons?
ROBERTSON: I don’t want to say anything bad against the great people who employed me for four years, they are all hard working folks just doing their jobs and playing by some of the rules that I had to play by. I don’t think I was treated maliciously, just apathetically.
The rules and attitudes about the content in comics slowly started changing back to corporate safety after I went exclusive. I had come over to bring a MAX edge to Wolverine, following my success with Fury and Punisher and revamp other Marvel characters with that edge, and after the movies Spider-Man, X-Men and X2 hit huge, I found myself being told to mainstream the characters again. As a result I found my work less and less enjoyable, as Marvel seemed to not know where to put me. My enthusiasm was waning, my morale was decaying.
I simply wasn’t having fun anymore and I got the sense that I wasn’t the only one. People I really enjoyed working with and brought a lot of enthusiasm to Marvel have quit over the last few years.
I don’t work so well when I’m not having fun and feel like I need to be looking over my shoulder all the time. If I wanted a high pressure, time consuming job that I’m doing solely for the paychecks, I would have gone into advertising or something.
THE PULSE: So how long have you and Garth Ennis been working together on The Boys?
ROBERTSON: Garth approached me about doing the Boys in 2001 right after I had finished Transmetropolitan. We had enjoyed working together on Fury, and that Punisher arc and
we were developing ‘Born’. He told me the pitch and that it was a book that he really wanted to do. He said “It’s going to ‘out-Preacher’ Preacher.”
I was wild about the idea of doing a five year series with Garth. I was his fan before we got to be good friends. I had a great time doing that MAX Fury series.
I had a dilemma when Garth first offered me the book though, because that was also when Marvel had stepped up and offered me the exclusive and Wolverine. I had to choose and at the time, with a new baby and a lot of uncertainty, I couldn’t see how saying no was even possible. I went to Garth and he agreed, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. He said supportively “No worries, mate. If not this project, we’ll do something else. I hope you’ll understand if I find another artist though.” And of course I said I would. But as the year at Marvel was met with many frustrations and set backs, I really regretted having said no.
But as I was winding down my run on Wolverine, Garth had come back to me and said “I’ve been thinking about it, and when you’re done at Marvel, would you want to do’ the Boys’ then?”
I immediately said yes. Garth told me that for whatever reasons he imagined, I specifically had to be the artist for this title. So, since then, it’s been in my mind to make this book everything I can bring to it.
THE PULSE: Who are ‘the Boys’? How did they come to work for this "secret government organization"?
GARTH ENNIS: The Boys are a CIA team assigned to watch, investigate, occasionally blackmail, now and again kick the shit out of, and when necessary kill superheroes. The whole idea is to keep super-people in line. Their leader is Billy Butcher, their newest recruit is Wee Hughie, and the other three are Mother's Milk, The Frenchman and The Female (of the Species).
Their talents and powers are simple: they excel at beating people to a pulp. Butcher, additionally, is the sneakiest and most dangerous bastard in the world.
Each member came to the team by their own path, which we'll see more of as the series progresses.
THE PULSE: Since this is a Wildstorm series are the Boys keeping track of heroes from this universe like the Authority, Wild C.A.T.s, and others in this world?
ROBERTSON: Garth and I are creating a self contained world in which ‘the Boys’ exist. Like ‘The Watchmen’, they’ll have their own continuity and rules to their universe.
THE PULSE: Why do the Boys want to do a job like this? It doesn't sound like a great thing to be "big brother" to a bunch of powerful people who, if they banded together against you, could possibly end your existence.
ENNIS: They each have their own reasons, but essentially they share an abiding dislike for and distrust of superheroes and superpower. They're more than capable of handling most superheroes; they wouldn't last long up against them otherwise.
THE PULSE: What's happening with these Boys in the first arc?
ENNIS: The first two-parter, "The Name of the Game", introduces the characters and explores their motivation. Then we move into the four part "Cherry", in which Wee Hughie learns the ropes as The Boys take down a teen superhero group called Teenage Kix. Essentially they're letting the super-community know they're back in business after an extended absence, using Teenage Kix to fire a warning shot that all superheroes will hear and heed. Simultaneously, we meet a young superheroine called Annie January AKA ‘Starlight‘ as she joins The Seven, the world's premier super team. She's got a lot to learn, too.
THE PULSE: How is working with Garth on something like this different than the collaboration you did with Warren Ellis on Transmetropolitan?
ROBERTSON: I haven’t worked with Warren in a long time. When we were starting Transmet, Warren was really open to suggestion, letting me run with ideas. I find at this early stage Garth is more engaging and specific. Garth has specific ideas about how things should be and why he wants them that way. They’re both great writers to work with, but the method behind the madness is different.
I’ve gone back and forth with Garth just getting the look on a lead character’s face just right. I kept thinking I had it and Garth was “not quite, …” and I finally sat down and sketched it nearly 10 times until I felt that I had something that fit the description Garth had given. Then I showed him and he said “That’s it. That’s Butcher.”
My philosophy with comics has always been to please three people above all. The writer, the editor and myself. I figure if those three people are happy with the work, I’ve done my job.
THE PULSE: How much freedom do you have with this series? What kind of constraints were put on you both with ‘The Boys’?
ROBERTSON: It’s a mature readers book, so Garth and I are going to be pushing things as far as they’ll let us. Garth said he’s going “Out-Preacher Preacher” and since I have more creative control and can ink my own work, I intend to top my work on Transmet. This will be the first time I can look forward to regularly inking my own work, on my characters and doing my own covers, and really setting the tone and mood for the book.
The only constraints I’ve been informed of is to be careful with the nudity.
THE PULSE: How has working on The Boys increased your creative side? Has this kind of been a real refreshing, invigorating, assignment for you to undertake?
ROBERTSON: Absolutely. I feel like I’ve been a tiger in a cage for the last few years. I believe I can finally get back on track doing the kind of work that I am passionate about. Already I can see my work flourishing with the support and enthusiasm from my editor, Ben Abernathy, who has been absolutely great to work with, Editor In Chief Scott Dunbier and my old friend, VP Hank Kanalz at Wildstorm. The kind of encouragement and freedom they’ve given me really reflects in my artwork.
Creatively, Transmetropolitan was such a great experience, and constantly under the gun at Marvel I found myself longing for the days of creator owned, creator controlled comics with a real bite. I missed having input in decisions and being listened to when I had ideas.
You know the old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen ruining the soup? When the direction changed at Marvel, I found myself longing to do something original again with fewer cooks in my kitchen.
That’s what I’m known for, what I’m good at and that’s what I am enthusiastically returning to.
THE PULSE: When is the first issue of The Boys coming out?
ROBERTSON: October of 2006!
THE PULSE: What, if anything, else are you working on? You seem to have your creative hand in a few pools sometimes.
ROBERTSON: For the first time in my career, I am devoted to only one thing: This book. When I have the first arc completed and the book well on track, I may start pitching some more creator owned ideas with writers I have wanted to work with that aren’t mainstream names yet, like Adam Mortimer and Gary Whitta.
The Boys makes its debut this October from Wildstorm.http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb....c;f=36;t=000723