It is arguable that Garth Ennis outspoken anti-superhero views have kept him from the very top ranks of popularity among comic book writers that his creations such as Preacher and Hitman certainly should have long ago entitled him. Ennis’ aversion to the superhero genre (which he subverts to great effect in The Boys) shouldn’t blind readers to his versatility and success in all sorts of other comic book genres including crime (Hitman, The Punisher), science fiction (Judge Dredd), military (Unknown Soldier) and all types of fantasy and horror (Hellblazer, Preacher). Like the underrated Hollywood director Michael Curtiz who could move effortlessly from adventure films (Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood) to musicals (Yankee Doodle Dandy), to political thrillers (Casablanca), to literary adaptations (The Sea Wolf, The Breaking Point) to film noir (The Unexpected, Flamingo Road), Ennis, who believes that “comics can handle anything and is as much an embodiment of his chosen medium as Curtiz was a man of the cinema, is apparently able to explore all the various commercial genres of comics to great effect. Recently Ennis took time from his busy schedule to discuss his next project for Dynamite Entertainment, a new comics adaptation of The Shadow, one of the most enduring pulp magazine heroes of the 1930s (see “The Shadow, Ongoing Series”).
First of all, what attracted you to the character of The Shadow?
Great looking character- the hat, the scarf, the coat, the blazing eyes, the twin pistols. Great era to set stories in- the 1930s, as fascinating and romantic as it gets. The crime/pulp angle. And the power to cloud men's minds, which I'm having a lot of fun with.
Let’s talk about some of the original Shadow’s fantasy powers like his mind-clouding ability, do you plan to tone down or eliminate those to make the character more realistic?
No, I quite like that stuff. He's going to be pretty much the character people remember, if a little more ruthless and dangerous. And you won't see so much of the old supporting cast.
Will your new Shadow comic be set in the past (1930s, 40s) or do you plan to bring the character into the present (or to put it crassly, do you have any plans to replace those twin .45’s with Glocks?)?
It's set firmly in 1938. Even if I did update it, there's no way I'd replace 45s with Glocks, ever.
Do you plan to retain The Shadow’s supporting cast (Moe, Margo Lane, Clyde Burke, Harry Vincent, Jericho Druke)?
The only one you'll really see is Margo Lane, who I think is a great character--a brave and resourceful young woman who almost immediately finds herself out of her depth. Even she isn't fully aware of the lengths The Shadow will go to in order to achieve his aims.
Do you plan to bring back any of the classic Shadow villains (i.e. Shiwan Khan, The Voodoo Master, The Wasp, or The Prince of Evil)?
No. The main villains are Major Taro Kondo of Japanese military intelligence and a Chinese bandit warlord called Buffalo Wong. There's also a number of suitably sinister Germans.
How difficult is it to adapt pulp character to comics?
It's as easy as any other kind of adaptation. Comics can handle anything.
What’s your favorite comic book adaptation of The Shadow?
My own favourite Shadow story is Howard Chaykin's mid 80s update. It's pretty far removed from my own story, which is set in the classic '30s era, but I think it's a great read.