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AICN COMICS Q&@: Henry Higgins finds out what writer Garth Ennis knows about THE SHADOW!!!

@@@ What the &#$% is AICN COMICS Q&@? @@@

Q’s by Henry Higgins is My Homeboy!

@’s by THE SHADOW’s Garth Ennis!!!

Henry Higgins is My Homeboy here. Here's a quick quiz to determine if the person you're talking to about comics actually knows anything about them or is instead trying to jump onto the "comic readers are the new outcast" bandwagon. I've had to develop it to deal with people who, of late, swear to me there's an issue of SPIDER-MAN where he punches someone’s head clean off. It can be very...VERY aggravating at times.

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.


Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:24 a.m. CST

    garth ennis rules!

    by Tim Reuschling

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:27 a.m. CST

    I'll buy this when it comes out.

    by Half-Baked-Goggle-Box-Do-Gooder

    A bit of the old Ultra-Violence should fit the Shadow to a "T".

  • SO SAYS CREEPYTHINMANLIVEZ! DIE ASS-CRUSTED FANBOYS!

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:35 a.m. CST

    It sounds like Henry Higgens might have a hipster problem.

    by 3774

    You can fumigate for those, if you find too many of them.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Do we like The Shadow movie? I can't remember.

    by David Cloverfield

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Garth Ennis is one of the best comic writers.FACT.

    by KilliK

  • Dont miss them.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:45 a.m. CST

    Limited.

    by sundancekeed

    The Shadow has been represented in books, movies, comics and television. But it's really only in radio that he was a huge hit. And I think that was because the character was uniquely suited to the imagination. In radio, he was truly menacing and scary. Listen to some of those old broadcasts, particularly the ones voiced by Orson Welles. The Shadow was CREEPY even though you knew he was on the side of right. And it was your imagining what the character actually was and what he was doing that made it so. Visual media doesn't seem to work as well regarding The Shadow. That sense of menace has never translated well to comics or film though I thought the Alex Baldwin movie was better at it than a lot of other folks did.

  • He was perfect for the Punisher but the Shadow is a completely different beast. I dont know who other comic writer would have been better for this project,noone comes to my mind but Nolan or Tarantino would have been perfect for at least giving some ideas and the proper vision to modernize and resurrect this pulp character.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:48 a.m. CST

    The Shadow movie despite its lackluster script,is decent.

    by KilliK

    Nolan would have been perfect to make a new,modernized Shadow flick.After all Batman is a Shadow ripoff.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 10:54 a.m. CST

    Dicks Vol 3?

    by ballyhoo

    There was a Vol 2?

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 11:44 a.m. CST

    Is THE BOYS going to officially end like with PREACHER?

    by Autodidact

    Good. The premise of a comedic anti-superhero team book still has lots of potential, but these characters have run their course. I have all the trades so far. I was about ready to stop picking up new volumes after the extremely shitty volume 8. If volume 9 is the last one I'll grab it. If not I'm going to think twice because I have become quite determined not to waste so much $ on comics that I usually don't even fucking like.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 11:53 a.m. CST

    Preacher is overrated

    by CuervoJones

    No, it is NOT overrated. Preacher is my favourite comic ever. And i´ve got a nice collection of The Shadow pulp novels. Great news.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 11:56 a.m. CST

    Prime Minister, how much does it cost to piss in your mouth?

    by CuervoJones

  • Still waiting for the wrap-up issue after 20+ years.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 11:59 a.m. CST

    MOVING WALKWAY GRANNY FUCK!

    by CuervoJones

    NOT MOVING FUCKING STANDWAY! MOVING WALKWAY! MOVING WALKWAY!

  • "With your pet project THE BOYS wrapping soon, are you bringing anything from that over to this title?"...what the hell ??? That question makes no sense. And "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?" ...again,what the hell????? Why would he be writing THE BOYS and THE SHADOW the same way? Because they both have THE in the title? Why not ask him if THE SHADOW is going to team up with NICK FURY and fight THE CROSSED with the help of PREACHER?

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 12:02 p.m. CST

    helfer/baker series does rock

    by Eddie_Dane

    bought the complete set on ebay couple of years ago and loved it all over again

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 1:16 p.m. CST

    H3, I don't think Spidey punched anyone's head off BUT...

    by Crowe

    In Spider-man vs Wolverine, he did kill Charlies. Wolverine's friend (who was dying anyway) got in between him and Wolverine as Spidey was walking away and Spidey hits her full-on thinking she was Wolverine... which was her intent. link: http://spiderfan.org/comics/reviews/spiderman_one_shots/wolverine.html

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 2:23 p.m. CST

    Loved Bill Sienkiewicz futuristic Shadow

    by Human Tornado

    Sooo much crazy shit going on. That and "Year One" got me back into comics in the late 80's.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 3:16 p.m. CST

    Limited?

    by batman74

    The Shadow was the most successful pulp hero of all time. He appeared in more than 300 novels published over more than 20 years. Bob Kane acknowledged the influence of the character on his creation of Batman. Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson acknowledged that one of the novels influenced the creation of the Joker. Finger admitted to "borrowing" some of the plots for his scripts. While it is true the charter enjoyed a long radio life, to suggest he didn't enjoy longevity in any other media is patently false.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 3:51 p.m. CST

    Can anyone think of a better actor for Billy Butcher...

    by Bill

    ...than Dominic West?

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 4:29 p.m. CST

    =Can anyone think of a better actor for Billy Butcher...=

    by KilliK

    YES.not an actor but he is visually perfect: http://bit.ly/mHicWj

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 5:53 p.m. CST

    %Can anyone think of a better actor for Billy Butcher...%

    by Bill

    Yeah, he looks like he does a pretty mean Michael Caine.

  • Feb. 2, 2012, 6:13 p.m. CST

    I said nothing about "longevity".

    by sundancekeed

    I said The Shadow has never been as successful in other media as he was on radio. And that's patently true. The Shadow was frequently the most listened to radio show in America. It never achieved those heights in print or film.

  • It bugs me that they don't get the respect they deserved. If the same series came out in the late 90s it would of been a hit.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 1:12 a.m. CST

    sundancekeed--pulp history

    by batman74

    The Shadow magazine was, for many years, the best selling pulp magazine in America. In fact, the demand was so high that the publisher Street and Smith starting publishing it at the then unprecedented rate of every two weeks. You are correct when you say the radio show was successful. However, the novels were also HUGE during the heyday of pulp magazines. In fact, even after the pulps began to die off, the magazine continued to be published for a while in "digest" form. Anyone interested should check out the pulp reprint series Anthony Tollin and Will Murray are doing. In addition to The Shadow, they are also reprinting Doc Savage.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 1:46 a.m. CST

    Never have I liked a writer more, whose influence has been so negative

    by ClaireRedfield

    Ennis is so good at what he does, he's convinced some people to believe his shit is the only shit that matters. I like Ennis's work usually, but the guy has a serious and almost irrational hatred of superheroes in the classical sense. That's fine as long as idiots don't hire him to write things he obviously despises. His influence is quite clear when you consider how all of the sudden many comics readers hate every hero who doesn't have fucked up moral flaws and personality defects. The people who bitch about how "boring" Superman is are usually trolling Ennis fans. It's not the characters that are boring. It's the writers. Always. Period. Anything can be dynamic, exciting, complex, and challenging to the reader if the writer is up to the task. If you call Morrisons "All-Star Superman" boring, you're a fucking liar, and that Superman was the squeeky-cleanest one seen in the past 20 years. Anyway, I figure The Shadow will be quite good under Ennis. It seems like something he can really get into. His usual proclivity for characters with strong moral fiber and psychotically violent tendencies will make for some interesting stories.

  • Feb. 6, 2012, 12:53 p.m. CST

    claire

    by Jon Forbing

    I totally agree. I think the problem is, for some reason, a lot of people think that they have to agree with every opinion held by a writer that they like. They discover Ennis (or Ellis, or Morrison or whoever), and suddenly they feel the need to regurgitate half-assed versions of their idealogies. I love Ennis, and I also love superheroes, and I don't see how some comic fans see the two as self-exclusive.

  • Feb. 9, 2012, 9:37 p.m. CST

    pink_apocalypse, jobacca, scarecrowe

    by HenryHigginsIsMyHomeboy

    pink_apocalypse - A little bit. I'm always afraid it's going to become a "become what you hate" scenario. jobacca - Touche. It wasn't until I reread the piece those questions were terribly, TERRIBLY worded. For the first one, I meant were there elements from that series that he was thinking of bringing over. And on the second, I was curious if he was going to play up the "Atypical Garth Ennis Charm" with the series. Luckily, Mr. Ennis has clearly dealt with bullshit questions before, and didn't just lecture me on them. But you tell me; Would you really not read a Garth Ennis written crossover with THE SHADOW, NICK FURY and THE PUNISHER vs. THE CROSSED with the help of PREACHER? Because I would read the fuck out of it. scarecrowe - That was my first thought when he mentioned it, but then he tried to explain how it occurred in the mid 90's and it was this thug who was driving a car at the time. .....Yeah.

  • Feb. 9, 2012, 9:38 p.m. CST

    I am the worst writer ever.

    by HenryHigginsIsMyHomeboy

    It wasn't until I reread the piece THAT THOSE questions