Talking To Garth Ennis About Adapting The Boys, Its Original Influences, And More

by Olly MacNamee


You may be aware of a certain new TV show dropping this July 26th on Amazon Prime that once again takes up comics as its inspiration. Although The Boys is not your average comic book series, admittedly.  We got lucky and managed to grab a rare interview with original creator Garth Ennis who’s had previous experience of his books being adapted for TV/Amazon Prime with Preacher. Obviously, I asked him about the adaptation process, as well as a little bit about the inspiration behind the original series. A busy man at the best of times, he still managed to squeeze us in. I imagine its going to be a busy month for him ahead of the launch. Now, read on, dear chums.
Olly MacNamee: Garth, congratulations on finally getting The Boys onto the small screen. These things do tend to take time, but how did the talk of turning The Boys onto a TV show come about in the first place? 
Garth Ennis: Hard to remember now, but I think once they got Preacher going, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg started to look into the possibility.
OM: And, looking back at the whole series, did you “out-Preacher Preacher” as you once said? What were some of your favourite moments from this mammoth 72 issue (and assorted mini-series) run?
GE: Given that Preacher was never withdrawn from sale, I think we out-Preachered it in a swift six issues. Favorites… the Butcher miniseries, Frenchie’s origin, the supes meeting the German army in WW2, Butcher taking a carving knife to Jack from Jupiter, the USAF slaughtering the supes in DC, the penultimate issue with Hughie and Butcher on the Empire State Building.
OM: Other than Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill’s equally over-the-top Marshal Law, what other influences went into this series? Or, was it simply your satirical swipe from a lifetime of superhero comics? 
GE: A lot of political and historical reading, most notably the CIA’s often catastrophic history. Lots of Cold War stuff, bit of WW2 as well. And 9/11, the most miserable day of the 21st century. Much as I like – in fact, love – Marshal Law, it actually wasn’t much of an influence.

OM: You’ve seen the first series, I assume, so how well does it adapt your’s and Darick Robertson’s comic? I mean, from what I’ve seen Karl Urban was born to play Butcher, surely?
GE: Karl does an excellent job. On the whole, I’d say it’s a pretty good stab at the book, given that there’ll always be things you just cannot put on TV.
OM: And, it’s good to see that Simon Pegg is involved, after all, albeit in a smaller role. As a fellow comic book fan, I imagine he loved this. But, who’s idea was it originally to base Hughie on Pegg?
GE: That was Darick. I gave him a rough idea of what Hughie should look like, he suggested the guy from Spaced, I said sounds good, hey presto.
OM: Now, The Boys were originally published by Wildstorm before swapping to Dynamite. How did this benefit the book in the short-term (controversy sells, right!) or even the long-term? Would we have got a TV show if it was still at DC, I wonder, even with it being your baby? Albeit a bloody, bastard of a baby.
GE: Leaving DC was the best thing that ever happened to the book. It meant I could write without constantly looking over my shoulder. Sales didn’t go through the roof, but they remained reasonably steady from that point on. I doubt The Boys would have survived as a comic at DC, never mind become a TV show – we’d have died that death of a thousand cuts they’re so fond of inflicting (eg. Vertigo).

OM: Were you concerned that the American readership wouldn’t necessarily take to the savage satire of The Boys? I mean, you’re effectively taking a dump on their treasured genre. Was there much outcry, other than the cold feet DC Comics eventually had? And, what of the newer, larger audience Amazon Prime will deliver? 
GE: I was pretty sure we’d be okay. There’s always been a section of the superhero audience that can enjoy their favourite characters’ adventures one minute and revel in a brutal takedown of them the next – in fact, I think Pat Mills said something similar about Marshal Law. There wasn’t a great deal of fuss (although I might not be the best person to ask, given that I never pay much attention to that stuff in the first place) – I think the response was pretty similar to the one Preacher got, in that people took a look, decided whether they liked the book or not, and proceeded accordingly. The TV audience? We’ll have to wait and see.
OM: How far were you able to add your thoughts and suggestions into this new show? If at all? 
GE: I had a few notes at the start, then I was content to take a back seat. “The book’s the book and the show’s the show”, would be my line on that.
OM: Now, you’ve already had success with The Preacher being adapted for Amazon, but it must still be a thrill to see you work adapted, and with such a talented team, beyond comics. How does that feel on the eve (sort of) of The Boys debut this July 26th?
GE: Keen to see it last as long as possible.
OM: Well, all the best with the new show and the future. Where can we see your work next? Anything you can tell us to whet our appetite, maybe?
GE: Very pleased with recent projects like Out Of The Blue, Jimmy’s Bastards, A Walk Through Hell, Code Pru and – in particular- Sara. Nice to see The Night Witches collected. Got two new Punisher minis in the works, currently being drawn, and a WW2 graphic novel from new publisher Dead Reckoning. One more Crossed story, also another top secret project at Avatar. And more in the works.
For picking up The Boys in collection and finding out more about the series, you can order photo-cover omnibuses from Diamond with the following codes:
MAR198810 BOYS OMNIBUS TP VOL 01 PHOTO CVR ED (MR) $29.99
MAR198811 BOYS OMNIBUS TP VOL 02 PHOTO CVR ED (MR) $29.99
And check out collections on the Dynamite website here.
Lastly, catch the trailer for the show below!

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