Let's Hear it for The Boys

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During his career, the biggest mark Darick Robertson has made on comics was with his work on Transmetropolitan together with Warren Ellis. He has also worked on some of Marvel’s best-known and loved characters. This month, he re-teams with frequent collaborator Garth Ennis for a Wildstorm series about superheroes and those who keep them in check.

BROKEN FRONTIER: First, let's talk a bit about your collaboration with Garth Ennis.  You have worked with him previously on some Marvel books—MAX: Fury and Fury: Peacemaker.  How did this collaboration come about initially and why do you think you two work so well together?

DARICK ROBERTSON: Garth and I have known each other since the early nineties and got to be good friends while we were both doing work at Vertigo. We’d always looked to working together and that Fury MAX series was our first opportunity. Our friend and editor Axel Alonso had just left Vertigo to shake things up at Marvel and we were both happy to let loose on that MAX series.

BF: In its simplest terms, The Boys is the story of a government team that keeps superheroes in check.  How involved were you in the development of this idea?

DR: Not as much as I was with Warren Ellis in the early days of Transmetropolitan, since Garth first approached me about it when Transmet ended in 2001. Marvel offered me Wolverine and an exclusive at the same time, and I needed to take that over doing The Boys. Garth had thought to work on it with another artist, but came back to me a year or so later and said “When you’re done at Marvel, would you want to do the book then?” I had always regretted letting the opportunity go, so I immediately said yes. Garth’s immigration to the US from the UK took another two years to get set up and in that time he was writing and I was sketching and we were putting the series together as to where it would be published, what it would entail, etc…

BF: Did you and Garth decide to work on something together and develop this idea?  Did Garth bring you a basic synopsis or were you presented with the whole idea at the end?

DR: A bit of both. I had some ideas, but as Garth really started sinking his teeth into this, I have come to understand he has a very different and specific idea about the world this exists in and his creation of it. So right now, I get to have loads of fun designing and creating, but I am really along for the ride with the rest of you. That said, the door is open for me to create within this universe, so I may do some writing down the road.

BF: A book like this seems like it would provide some fun opportunities in terms of the types of characters you can draw.

DR: Certainly. Garth’s prime directive has been to keep it all looking very “real” world. Zippers and folds appear in our Superheroes where in mainstream, they don’t. Space equipment should look realistic, not so futuristic. So it’s a challenge to create something that doesn’t exist as if it could.

BF: The team leader is named Billy Butcher and another team member is named Wee Hughie, and that's only the regular humans.

DR: No, that’s not quite right. There are very few supers compared to humans.  It’s the same ratios of super star celebrities to real world regular folks. The Frenchman, MM and the Female are also human within the team. But the boys have powers of their own.

BF: Do you have an early favorite to draw?

DR: Terror, Butcher’s dog and the Frenchman are particularly fun.

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BF: Is there any idea or concept that you are really looking forward to tackling on the book?

DR: It’s all very meaty. I am enjoying everything about it. What’s great has been the support and creative involvement from everyone on the team. I am inking and scanning my own stuff, getting to oversee colors and word balloon placements, and generally enjoying what Greg Thompson and Tony Avina are bringing to the project, and the team’s overall collaboration.

BF: The solicitation for the book promises a "dark, twisted" look at superheroes. It also states that to join the team, "You have to be smart. You have to be strong. And you have to hate supers with every ounce of black passion in your heart."  Garth Ennis is well known for his distaste for superheroes.  Do you share some of that and does that make working on this book more rewarding?

DR: What I share with Garth is his passion for storytelling and his sense of humor. I grew up reading, loving and creating superheroes. I also read underground stuff, so I enjoy comics as a medium. I don’t hate superheroes, per se, but definitely see the ridiculous side to them. What Garth and I are really approaching is an allegory about super power, and what this world would do with it. How do you deal with a nuclear crisis when in comes in a human form and can cause that sort of destruction at will?

Our superheroes lack a moral center, as many powerful people in our world seem to also. The Flash would never allow an innocent person to die. If he did, it would torture him. Our characters don’t feel that way. They see common, little people as in the way. They aren’t heroic; they’re motivated by greed and ego.

BF: Visually, you have shown that you can have a very dark style, as well as a good sense of humor in your work.  What type of look are you developing for this book?

DR: Something new, I hope. I am crafting my work more and since I am inking, I hope to show more dimension to my style and experimenting some. I‘m getting a good lead on the stories and have more time to really bring the work around to what I want it to look like. Wildstorm is being very supportive.

BF: Anybody who is familiar with Wildstorm will say that they tried something very similar in idea to this book with the old series Stormwatch: Team Achilles, which featured a government team keeping the superpowers in check.  Aside from The Boys being outside of the Wildstorm universe "proper", what else differentiates this book from the Stormwatch one?

DR: I didn’t read it, so I don’t know. I would say our book will be more of a project that reflects what Garth and I are both known for as a team. It will probably be darker and funnier than that series was, and more about the people than about the super heroes.

BF: Garth Ennis has gone on record saying that this book will “out-Preacher” Preacher.  Is there any added pressure that comes from a statement like that or does it inspire you more?

DR: It inspires me. Hell, I’m honored to be his partner in such a task! I was a huge fan of Preacher and my good friend Steve Dillon’s work. I don’t think Garth means that he’s trying to replace Preacher, but raise the bar and push our work to the next level. I hope my art will “out-Transmet” Transmetropolitan, but the subject matter is different, the world and setting is different. All I know is after reading the first seven scripts; I will stand by Garth’s statement.

BF: And I know the first issue hasn't come out yet, but what type of legacy or reputation would you like this book to have in the end?

DR: I hope it will be a culmination of everything I’ve learned and the discipline I’ve honed in doing monthly comics in my 20-year career. Five years is a long time and no one knows what fate has planned, but I hope to look back at 60-plus issues, all inked and drawn myself, and be a stronger and better artist walking away from this and looking forward to more projects ahead. I hope that the book finds its audience and that we all have a lot of fun along the way.

I also want The Boys to be a foundation that I have to build more original creator-owned launches in the next five years, working with some writers that I have wanted to work with for years, but haven’t been able to for a number of reasons.

BF: Finally, how long will you be on the series?

DR: As the co-creator, I have a vested interest in seeing it through to the end as I did with Transmet.

BF: Is there already a planned ending or will the book be out as long as it sells and you guys are enjoying yourselves?

DR: It is set at 60 issues, with some spin-off series planned, that I also intend to draw, perhaps with an inker. I’ve handled more than one monthly book at a time before, and with the lead we’re getting, it’s likely that I can keep up with the schedule. As I said earlier, I also intend to write and create some other titles outside of this one.

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