Garth Ennis on The Boys, The Blessing of DC's Cancellation, and How Much He Loves Butcher

As Amazon sets The Boys for a premiere at Comic Con later this month, the series -- based on comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson -- will be reissued in paperback omnibus form, collecting the entire run with new covers featuring photos from the TV series. This is a fairly standard practice, and one recently used by Deadly Class, but since The Boys is no longer an ongoing series, Ennis is out there talking to fans and reporters about the comic, making sure people check it out in advance of the series premiere, which takes place on July 26.

Set in a world where superheroes are treated as humanity's salvation and showered with fame and fortune in exchange, The Boys takes the simple position that anybody with that much power would inevitably abuse it, and answers the next obvious question: who would be the one to stand up and say when enough was enough? The answer is The Boys. Written by Garth Ennis (Preacher, Hitman) and featuring artwork by Darick Robertson (Happy!, Transmetropolitan), the series began at DC but was cancelled, after which Dynamite stepped in to save it and it ran for years.

Ennis recently joined to have a brief conversation about The Boys in light of the latest reissue of the omibus trade paperbacks.

(Photo: Dynamite Entertainment)

Obviously the saturation of superheroes in mainstream culture has exploded since you started this book. Do you get a different kind of audience response from newer readers when you meet them these days?

Not that I’ve noticed, although that could well change once the effect of the show kicks in. It’ll be interesting to see a mainstream audience’s reaction to superhero characters being dragged through the mud- especially now they’ve been educated to the notion of shared universes and multiverses by the last ten years’ worth of Marvel & DC movies and TV.

In the years since The Boys launched, has your view (either of The Boys or of the superhero tropes it plays with) changed much?

Not really, I’m still very fond of the book and its characters, and I’m still pretty dismissive of superheroes.

This material has been repackated a number of times, and with the TV show in the works you're having completely new conversations. Is it a little surreal to think that this was a book that almost died at DC?

That was the best thing that could possibly have happened to the book; it effectively set us free. I’m pretty sure we’d have died on the vine at DC- therefore, no TV series at all.

You and [artist Darick Robertson] are both creators who have had a lot of mainstream penetration, both from the book market and outside media. What makes this one so special?

I think what The Boys has going for it above all else is its sheer simplicity: superheroes are bastards, they need a slap, the Boys will deliver it. There it is in one line.

You have been pretty open in some interviews that there are things you just can't put onscreen. Do you think that's part of the beauty of comics, especially outside fo the big two, is that you have very little in the way of restrictions like that?

Very much so, yes. To this day, what I write goes on the page (and even at Marvel & DC I have friends in editorial and higher who make sure I’m largely left to my own devices). There’s no writer’s room, no showrunner, no executive with a bright idea, no budget restrictions, no anxious censorship from the network or whoever. There’s just me and the artist.

The nice thing about a project like The Boys is that you very much got to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most of the time in comics, it can feel like the monthlies are kind of THE version of the story since nothing ever ends, but how does having a closed-ended (and completed) story shape how you view the trades and omnibuses?

One of the things I learned on Preacher was to think in terms of a complete story- that essentially the monthly issues were just a delivery system and that the story would live in perpetuity as a series of books. That’s the ethos I applied to The Boys, and in fact to everything else since. Obviously on work-for-hire stuff like The Punisher or Fury my work represents just one small piece of the overall puzzle, but given that I read almost none of the rest that isn’t a problem for me.

Years on now, are you one of those who looks at this book and only sees the flaws? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?


I reread The Boys recently for the new editions and am happy to say I’m still enormously fond of it. Butcher remains my all-time favourite character out of all those I’ve created. There are always things you’d do differently, but on that one, less than most.

You can pre-order your copy of The Boys photo-cover omibus volumes here.