@’s by THE SHADOW’s Garth Ennis!!!
I owe credit to another friend for coming up with the idea, and it goes like this;Say the names Morrison, Ennis, Moore, Ellis, and Brubaker to someone, and see if they actually know who the hell you're talking about. No? Then shut it and let me read about my funny books in peace. Those are just five of the writers off the top of my head who have defined much of the comics industry as we see it today.
Garth Ennis happens to be one of my favorites of the bunch. Known for his grisly stories and endlessly creative violence, he's also managed to write some of the most original and engaging comics of the last twenty years. Between his work on PUNISHER, HITMAN, PREACHER, and countless others, Ennis has built a library of truly innovative material. With his latest series, THE BOYS, reaching it's end by the end of the year, I was waiting with bated breath to hear what his next project would be. And lo and behold, here it is: From Dynamite Entertainment comes THE SHADOW, with Ennis on writing duties and Aaron Campbell (SHERLOCK HOLMES: YEAR ONE) on art.
I recently spoke to Mr. Ennis about the title, how he got the spot, and what we can expect from the series.
HENRY HIGGINS IS MY HOMEBOY (HHH): How did you end up on this title? I can't imagine it's often that "The Shadow" ends up being your next assignment. Was it something you sought, or did Dynamite come to you?
GARTH ENNIS (GE): A little of both. They came to me, but I immediately leapt at the chance. I usually prefer doing my own characters - there are so few established ones I'm interested in - so I find myself turning down almost every job I'm offered. So much so, in fact, that I almost said no out of sheer habit before I realised what had just been said. "No, I'm not--wait a minute, did you say The Shadow? The actual Shadow? The hat, the eyes, the 45s, I know what evil lurks, etc etc? Bloody hell..."
HHH: Before THE BOYS you said that it was going to "Out-Preacher PREACHER", and you somehow succeeded. Are you bringing that same sentiment to THE SHADOW?
GE: Not really; it's a very different story in terms of style, era, content, the works. That line was really just for marketing, to tie one 5/6-year project to another.
HHH: Now, the last I had heard of The Shadow came from Cracked.com, who in a recent article mentioned how terrible The Shadow had gotten in the early 90's under DC. Have you seen those stories? If so, what did you think? What about the feature film, starring Alec Baldwin?
GE: Can barely remember the film. I read a couple of Denny O'Neil stories, one of which was a graphic novel from the early 90s--it didn't exactly blow me away, but it was useful in terms of researching the character. Of less use but a much better read was Howard Chaykin's mid-80s update.
HHH: This is something more for my sake than anything, as I'm always curious; what are you reading right now?
GE: Comics--CALIGULA, PUNISHER MAX, SCALPED. JUDGE DREDD and STRONTIUM DOG in 2000AD. Looking forward to SAGA.
Books--an old out-of-print WW2 novel called “Warriors For The Working Day” by a bloke called Peter Elstob, who served in tanks during the war and drew on his experiences, to often extremely brutal effect. Just finished an excellent thriller called “The Great Leader” by Jim Harrison, very funny, very smart. Other recent ones include “Voodoo Histories” by David Aaronovitch, about how conspiracy theories are a load of balls; “On The Outside Looking In”, a memoir by a Belfast writer called Sam McAughtry; and Max Hastings' superb WW2 history “All Hell Let Loose” (published in the US as “Inferno”). Next up is probably Steve Earle's novel, “I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive”.
HHH: Unlike my other interviews, I haven't actually seen any of this comic (top secret and all). Could you give me a two or three sentence summary of what your THE SHADOW is going to be about?
GE: In early 1938, the Shadow is caught up in an international hunt for a prize so vital that it will change the future of the world. Together with the beautiful Margo Lane he travels from the seedy waterfront of New York City to the even seedier Shanghai underworld, where romantic dreams of the Fabulous Orient evaporate in the face of downright lethal reality. Sinister Nazis, Brutish Soviets, Chinese bandit kings, Japanese military intelligence agents and their American counterparts--all are caught up in the deadly web of destruction. Now read on.
HHH: You seem to be one of the best possible choices for this series--a natural fit. How has it felt working on THE SHADOW?
GE: Thanks. It has indeed felt very natural. There are some obvious parallels with The Punisher, in terms of the Shadow's tendency towards solving his problems by extreme sanction, but he's a much more complex character--he has a lot more to say for himself through the medium of his alter ego Lamont Cranston. He can be cruel, but he can also show mercy when he deems it appropriate. He thinks tactically, but has a strong sense of the theatrical, often steering his foes along grim and complex paths to their inevitable destinies. He sees himself as an agent of Fate, with one eye on the bigger picture as he moves the pieces around the board. And then, of course, there's the mystical element--which I've been having a lot of fun with.
HHH: Aaron Campbell is on art duties for this series, and he's proven to be a fantastic choice for this type of subject (his work on GREEN HORNET and SHERLOCK HOLMES both have a good feel to them, and represents that style of comic well). Had you worked with him before? How has it been working with him on this title?
GE: No, this is our first collaboration, but he really is an excellent choice. I just got some pages from him today and I was impressed at how completely he caught the world of The Shadow, as well as the character himself. Great storyteller, which is always my #1 concern. Nice sense of character, very good at action, truly professional. My kind of artist.
HHH: For a library so based in subverting the hero archetype, how does it feel to be working on one of the characters who helped to establish that archetype in the first place?
GE: To me, the character is more of a crime/pulp adventure figure, rather than the more common costumed hero. So he puts me in mind of some of the 2000AD characters I grew up on, which despite their sci-fi settings had the same American pulp roots. They were nearly all gunfighters, and so's The Shadow. So are Nick Fury and Frank Castle, come to that.
HHH: Did you ever listen to the old SHADOW radio serial as a child? Or is this title something you found later in a life?
GE: No, I don't think we got that one in the UK. My first actual exposure to the Shadow was the Chaykin series; I found out about the rest after that.
HHH: With your pet project THE BOYS wrapping soon, are you bringing anything from that over to this title?
GE: No, they're completely separate.
HHH: I imagine the process of moving over from a universe you created to a much more publicly known character must be a bit of a departure. How has that been?
GE: Nothing unusual for me; I've been jumping around my entire career. HELLBLAZER to PREACHER, PUNISHER to THE BOYS. The trick is to keep enjoying what I do--to make my own creations as successful as I can, while as far as possible picking and choosing my work-for-hire jobs. I think for the most part it's worked out according to plan.
HHH: Do you have any other projects lined up, beyond THE SHADOW?
GE: There's the end of THE BOYS in November, of course. A new series of BATTLEFIELDS for Dynamite, with a similar war series coming from Avatar. The first three issues of the new CROSSED ongoing. DICKS vol 3, after all these years. NICK FURY for Marvel Max. And a couple of other projects I can't talk about for a while yet.
HHH: Congrats on THE BOYS reaching its natural conclusion. Do you have any overarching ideas for THE SHADOW? Is it just a mini, or is this going to be a regular series?
GE: For the moment I'm focusing on the first six issues of the ongoing series. We'll see how that works out, and take it from there.
HHH: Watch for THE SHADOW, coming from Dynamite Entertainment in April.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G