‘Preacher,’ ‘The Boys’ Co-Creator Garth Ennis, ‘the Quentin Tarantino of Comics,’ Talks War, Religion, New Work ‘Partisan’

Comicbook writer Garth Ennis, best known for series such as “Preacher” and “The Boys,” and his nine-year stint at Marvel, is a guest of this week’s Lucca Comics & Games. Ennis, whose current work includes comedy Barbarian strip “Babs,” and the latest instalments of the “Battle Action” and “Punisher” series, spoke about his new book “Partisan,” as well as diverse topics including religion and war.

“[In ‘Partisan’], Steve [Epting] and I explored a similar territory to that of ‘Sara.’ It’s about a woman who finds herself caught in the fighting between Russian partisans and the German invaders in Ukraine from 1942 onwards,” Ennis said.

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“Our heroine, with her husband having been called up by the army, finds herself raising two kids alone. Caught in this conflict, she joins the partisans for no other reason than keeping her kids alive. She finds herself doing the most extreme things, purely in the interest of her family. That’s probably the project I’m most interested in right now.”

At the start of the Lucca event, Ennis – who was born in Northern Ireland but is now a U.S. citizen – took part in a conversation about U.S.-set stories. He revealed that his view of the U.S. only radically changed when he moved there permanently. However, for him narrating the country is still all about “seeing it as a place where people do go to try to make their dreams come true,” while “being aware of its various social inequalities.”

“And yet, I never get used to the notion that I might be living in a movie. In New York, there are some incredibly cinematic moments, locations and characters.”

War was the core theme of another Lucca talk. Delving into his approach to writing war stories, Ennis said that he adopts a “non-historical perspective.”

“[For example,] when I want to write something like ‘The Night Witches,’ [which is about] a Russian woman pilot who fought against the Nazis, I don’t use actual historical figures. Instead, I’ll create fictional characters and put them in the same settings the [real] Night Witches [all-women pilots of Russia’s 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment] were in.”

A known atheist, Ennis’ bold take on religion doesn’t come as a surprise: “I see religion as 100% negative. Probably, never more so than in war because when your ‘magic friend in the sky’ is giving you license to behave how you choose and to slaughter anyone else who holds an opposing point of view, then you’re going to have a horribly negative effect on the world.”

“And it’s not just about religious conflicts. As we become more technically advanced, it seems to me that, at least for the past 10 or 15 years, there has been a strong tendency to move backwards intellectually.”

The unavoidable question about the impact of AI on his craft followed. “I don’t think a machine is going to be able to bring in that level of quirk and nuance that a person can.”

“For the time being, AI is simply going to be a technical tool, and you can still tell the difference. Will we get to the point that a machine can have the same number of variables as the human mind? I hope not.”

Later, Ennis touched on the new RAI doc “Garth Ennis – Till the Ends of his Words,” which centers on his 35-year career and gave him the opportunity to revisit different aspects of his work. The movie’s official synopsis labels Ennis as “the Quentin Tarantino of comicbooks.”

“It’s not a comparison I object to. I certainly think that he came first and had a much wider impact culturally than I ever could. I’m a huge admirer of his work. I think we’ve some things in common and we see some others very differently, though.”

Looking back, Ennis revealed that one of the most rewarding aspects of his job was managing to make his name with deeply personal projects like “Preacher” and “The Boys.”

Ennis also shared the same piece of advice he was given, at the start of his career, by the likes of Alan Moore and Pat Mills: “Own what you create, for as much of it as possible. Make sure you retain ownership of as many of the characters you created as possible.”

“By all means, do work for hire too. If you see something that can be creatively rewarding, use DC and Marvel to advance your career. They use you, so you may as well use them.”

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