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AN INTERVIEW WITH GARTH ENNIS

ORIGINALLY FEATURED IN 1997- by Andrew Goletz

Hellblazer was already a popular book before Garth Ennis came on board as writer, but he managed to take the book and make it his own, making Hellblazer even more popular than before. Ennis followed his successful run on Hellblazer with Preacher, a title based on his own creation. Taking time out of his busy schedule, Garth was able to speak to me about Hellblazer, the future of Preacher and the letter column contest that you weren’t meant to see.

AG: Tell us a little bit about your life before comics?
GE: Well, I was born in Belfast and lived there until I was about three. I don’t remember too much about that period of time, but my family moved to Holywood (the one with one ‘l’) where I enjoyed an ordinary, middle class upbringing. After spending some time in the States, I moved back to Belfast when I was 22.

 

AG: And you wanted to do comics?
GE: The only comic book that I actually read and enjoyed was called 2000AD. A friend of mine introduced me to The Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen and I learned that it would be possible to write a variety of different stories and make a living doing so. There was a limitless genre available in the medium and that appealed to me as a writer.

 

AG: Were you a fan of Hellblazer before you wrote it?
GE: I kept up an interest in comics, and Hellblazer was a book that I enjoyed reading. John Constantine is probably the most interesting character in comics and there were just so many possibilities for him.

 

AG: Your female characters tend to be every bit as strong and intelligent as the male characters you write. Is that something you consciously set out to do?
GE: I think it’s unfair to have female characters be stupid, scared, whining creatures. Why does a woman have to be any less ‘cool’ than a man? I hate seeing these unrealistic, female characters who shit themselves at the drop of a hat when a situation gets too hot. I don’t think women are stupid enough to get into these situations unprepared. To have them scream for help and be so vulnerable is plain stupid.

 

AG: Is Preacher more satisfying to write, since it’s your character?
GE: Ultimately, it’s more fun. John Constantine in Hellblazer is the best character and company owned character in comics. Yet there is something better in owning your own character. You can take them on a journey and let them grown and there’s a genuine sense of achievement. With Constantine, I was just the ‘next in line’. He’s been around for 10 years and I wasn’t the one who created him nor was I the definitive Constantine writer. I am only one of many.

 

AG: You don’t enjoy superheroes, do you?

GE: To a 16 year old, Batman is cool. It must be a thrill to see some millionaire dress up as a bat and beat the shit out of blue collar criminals, but I think superheroes are generally quite stupid. I didn’t grow up reading them, therefore the nostalgia factor in appreciating them isn’t there either. It may sound harsh, but I’m no fan of Jack Kirby, either. To me, it always seemed like he had a funny grasp of human anatomy, but again, it’s due to the fact that I never was exposed to these kinds of characters as a kid.

AG: Was The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe your chance to take out some frustration on the super hero genre?
GE: It wasn’t out of frustration. I wanted to do some work for Marvel; it was good money and afforded me the opportunity to show editors that I could work with different people. Originally, they wanted me to do some alternative universe version of X-Men, but after reading through it, I thought, ‘Christ, I can’t handle this’. People could hardly punch each other without the word balloons getting in the way. Wolverine would be making a 500 word speech before gutting someone. Instead, I came up with the Punisher idea since he was a character that appealed to me. I don’t have it in for super heroes, I just think they’re quite silly. My take on them is pretty much summed up by the Green Lantern appearance in Hitman, and the way Tommy reacts to him. In my view, if super heroes existed like they did in comics, I think they’d be regarded as a cross between rock stars and politicians; a mix of power and glamour. If you saw a 30 year old man in a skin tight costume with lightning bolts coming out of their ears, your first thought would probably be, “what an asshole”.

 

AG: Have you ever had problems with things you wanted to put into Preacher that DC just said, “No Way!”?

GE: Some people have told me that the chicken fucking scene should have never seen print, so I suppose we snuck that one through. There were only two times that we’ve had to change anything serious. The first was the ‘Naked City’ story-line where the macho cop ends up being butt fucked at his own request. In the original version, he ends up as a male transvestite prostitute. In this case, I felt that the editor’s change was better than I originally intended. The second instance was in the ‘Hunters’ story. I originally wanted to name Bob and Freddy, Buggery Bob and Fellatio Freddie. DC was like, ‘no way in hell’. It’s a shame, but I like getting paid, and I like what I’m doing, so changes like that aren’t so bad, especially when my main goal is to reach an audience. The letter column is usually the most censored.

 

AG: Why is that?
GE: Sometimes when I go off and call someone a fucking pussy, they tell me I can’t do that. And there were a few contests I wasn’t permitted to run.

 

AG: Even I’ve raised an eyebrow at some of those contests. What the hell did they consider over the top?
GE: The first was entitled ‘The Best Way to Crucify Yourself’. If you could write down the best method for self-crucifixion, especially how to get that dreaded third nail in, you’d win the script. I was told we couldn’t do it because DC was worried that people would actually try to do it to themselves. The second was to complete the following sentence in 20 words or less: “I want to have sex with Mother Theresa because….”. A friend of mine told me DC was worried because people might try that one, too.  

AG: What can you tell us about the future of Preacher?
GE: After the current story line winds up, we’re going to deal with Jesse tapping into the power of Genesis. Arseface will be making a return to the pages, and the relationship between the 3 lead characters is going to take a different turn. The story I have in mind has a definite end, which would be somewhere between issue 65-70, although the confrontation between Jesse and God may take place sooner than that. The Saint of Killers is a key element to the story and we’ve hinted about that in recent issues. We’ve got a lot of interesting things coming up, and I think people are going to be excited!

Copyright©2000 Andrew Goletz