Down the Cracks of the DC Universe with Garth Ennis and Russ Braun in ‘Sixpack & Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz’ [Interview]
It’s not easy being a superhero. Your allies all talk in catchphrases, your best friend is into dog-on-person action, and racism still hasn’t been solved despite Green Lantern and Green Arrow giving it their best shot.
But hope springs eternal, and now the DC Universe’s most... somethingest heroes are stepping up to the plate in the Hitman spinoff mini series Sixpack & Dogwelder: Hard Travelin' Heroz. ComicsAlliance spoke with artist Russ Braun and writer Garth Ennis about what to expect from this latest return to the grungier side of superheroism.
ComicsAlliance: What can you tell us about Sixpack & Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz? Bearing in mind that our website is meant to be safe for work.
Garth Ennis: Sixpack is getting frustrated at some of Section Eight's recent failures, and is now determined to move the team into the big leagues --- get the gang a little of that sweet JLA action. Dogwelder, meanwhile, is having a bit of an existential crisis, having discovered the terrible cost of being Dogwelder. That's when a certain chain-smoking magus shows up, promising to give him the answers he doesn't even know he's seeking. The journey of discovery they embark on may actually solve some of Sixpack's problems as well. Or end them, at any rate.
CA: Is this book going to be Relatively Serious Ennis & Braun, or Not That Serious At All Ennis & Braun?
GE: See above.
CA: All-Star Section 8, and before that Hitman, made a lot of their hay from being set not so much in the DC universe as directly underneath it, with things seeping down through the cracks. What is it that interests you about seeing what’s crawling underneath the surface of a superhero comic universe?
GE: Just as Alan Moore did with the classic "American Gothic" in Swamp Thing, this story will skirt the edges of the DCU without necessarily fully interacting with it, merely shining an odd light on some of its denizens. So you'll have the aforementioned scumbag sorcerer, you'll see the Spectre visit Noonan's bar for a beer or two (and an errant soul), and you'll get a few cameos from other DC characters.
I liked the way Alan provided a series of interesting (and occasionally quite poignant) takes on characters whose original creators intended little more than pulp entertainment for children (Deadman, Dr. Fate, Etrigan, Swampy himself etc etc).
To answer the question more directly, I suppose it's good fun that requires little or no actual commitment.
CA: Are Sixpack and Dogwelder acutely realized metaphors for the human condition as it relates to addiction and how it harms both the addict and those close to them, or are they just a superhero who barfs a lot and a man cursed to weld dogs to people?
GE: The latter. Pretty much the latter.
CA: You two are longtime collaborators. What’s your creative process like, and how does it differ on something like Sixpack and Dogwelder versus, say, Battlefields or The Boys?
GE: Our creative process on this is exactly the same as on any other story; it's the subject matter and tone that differ. I write, Russ draws. He sends me pencils and then inks for me to check against the script as he goes along. That's how I work with most artists, really --- with Russ and the rest of the best, there's almost never any need for any tweaks, just because we're reading each other's minds from the get-go.
CA: Russ, what decisions did you make approaching the art of the book, i.e. how much to emulate John McCrea and how much to stick with your traditional style?
Russ Braun: I realized early on any attempt to imitate John's energetic Hitman/Section 8 style would come off poorly, so I just did a more "Mad Magazine" version of my own style, and for storytelling pretty much played straight man to set up the punchlines.
A lot like working on The Boys; I tried to make sure the fans would recognize their favorite characters, but had to make sure I did what I wanted and added something of my own. On The Boys I felt comfortable once I got my version of Butcher down, here it was Sixpack. Almost every panel of Sixpack is some kind of broad, drunken extreme, which is just a lot of fun to draw.
CA: Gang, I don’t mean to nitpick but I think “Heroes” is spelt with an S, not a Z. Do you have a way of letting the editor know before the book sees print?
GE: That's one of those wonderfully cringeworthy attempts to be hip, or perhaps "down", as I think the young people say. You see it again and again whenever an aging concept is tarted up for a new generation; change an S for a Z and you've somehow got instant credibility. Given our subtitle and the original DC saga it refers to, I found the idea completely irresistible.
Sixpack & Dogwelder: Hard Travelin' Heroz #1 is due out August 24th.