Legendary comic book writer Garth Ennis (pictured above) is no stranger to having his work adapted onto the screen. Not only have his stories with legacy characters such Constantine and The Punisher influenced the development of their on-screen counterparts, but his 1995 book Preacher and his 2006 creation The Boys have both been developed into TV series for Prime Video.
With big names behind both adaptations – Eric Kripke for The Boys and Seth Rogan for Preacher – it’s no wonder that both have been big successes for the streaming service, with Preacher running for four seasons and The Boys recently being renewed for a fourth season of its own, not to mention the fact that it’s spawned off a bunch of spin-off shows like Diabolical and Gen V.
For Ennis, who we recently sat down with at Lucca Comics & Games, he’s “perfectly happy with both” adaptations because… well… it means more people are reading his stories.
“My priority is that they would last as long as possible and continue to sell my books,” he laughs. “That’s not just true from the commercial point of view. That’s to keep my story current.
“In both cases, Preacher and The Boys have now found audiences beyond anything I could have hoped for. Without those shows, both would have done what sales on things like that do which is [go down], instead, suddenly they’ve shot up. So yeah, that’s my main priority, and they’ve succeeded admirably in both cases!”
An Ennis character that has yet to be adapted is Hitman. An ex-Marine Gulf War veteran turned contract metahuman killer – you’d think Hitman would be ideal to be waved over by the adaptation wand, and when asked whether DC’s new head honcho James Gunn would work well for the character, Ennis is keen.
“I’d like to see that happen,” he says. “I think judging by some of the work he’s done on Peacemaker, James Gunn very definitely would be the right choice [for Hitman] but I have given up trying to anticipate and guess what is going to be adapted
“I will say this, one stumbling block for Hitman could be the same as it is for the Punisher: guns. That could be a problem.”
Speaking of guns, Ennis has also created a lot of comics in the western and war genres, and it’s in the latter where he’d be most excited – and most nervous – about seeing an adaptation from.
“I think the [comics] I would want to see adapted most are probably also the ones I’m most apprehensive about. And those would be some of my war stories,” he confesses. “I’d be fascinated to see an adaptation of Night Witches or Sara or some of the other war stories, but I’d be nervous about them getting Hollywood-ised.”
Being an avid reader of British war comics as a kid, Ennis has gone on to make his own stamp on the genre, writing war comics like War Stories, Battlefields, The Stringbags, Battle Action and many more.
He’s also spoken before on the importance of being truthful to these stories, so it’s no surprise that he’d be nervous about an adaptation of them.
“Some very, very good war movies have come out of Hollywood, but some pretty bad ones have come out as well,” he says. “And given that we’re talking about things that happened to real people, I would probably be more nervous about things going wrong in that department than any other.
“I feel a real responsibility when I write war fiction to try to get at the truth of what happened and to honour the memories of the people who fought and served. Were things to go wrong in the way we’re talking about here in those stories, and I would have my name on [them]… I would be extremely nervous about the results.”
A comic book he’s skeptical about getting the adaptation treatment it deserves is Dreaming Eagles, which he wrote in 2016
“It’s about the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American fighter pilots who flew for the US Army Air Force in World War Two,” he explains. “[They] had to overcome prejudice at home and fight the Nazis at the front and I tried to be as honest as possible about what they achieved and what they were up against.
“There’s a movie called Red Tails which I think dishonoured the memory of the Tuskegee Airmen by suggesting that they did things that they didn’t. It didn’t besmirch their reputation but I feel that it failed to catch what they were all about by reducing the actions they took part in to almost a Saturday morning cartoon. Which I don’t think does anyone any favours and I use that phrase because I believe that is what the producer George Lucas specifically asked for.
“I think they deserve better than that.”
This interview took place at the 2023 Lucca Comics & Games. The Boys and Preacher are both available now on Prime Video.