writer from Holywood, Northern Ireland
, known for his love of graphic violence and Black Comedy
and his intense dislike of superheroes and organized religion. As you can imagine, he has developed quite the devoted Hatedom
among some people in the comics community. Some are not very fond of his writing quirks and pet themes, while others argue that Ennis writes with an engaging intensity and even humanity.
While he is rather fond of author tracts
, his excellent plotting and grasp of character voice makes them work (assuming you can stomach the subject matter). Many of his characters function as Badass Long Coats
, but he is also very good at writing down-to-earth, mortal characters as well (Agent Clive in Unknown Soldier
, Tommy in Hitman
, Kev in The Authority
). The exception to his loathing of superheroes is none other than Superman
himself, surprisingly enough (though he has admitted a soft spot for Wonder Woman); Ennis writes the character with complete and total respect. Also known for reminding us of the many Crowning Moments Of Awesome
in World War II
His most famous works are his four-year run on Marvel's adults-only MAX imprint version of The Punisher
(aka The Punisher MAX
) and Preacher
, which he co-created with artist Steve Dillon.
He has written for:
- The Boys - Inglourious Basterds meets Super Heroes; A squad of Sociopathic Heroes cause all sorts of hell for the local Villain with Good Publicity Smug Supers.
- The Pro - A foul-mouthed hooker gets superpowers, then gets inducted into an Expy Justice League.
- Just a Pilgrim - A group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland encounter a tough gunslinger who leads them. He turns out to be a psychopathic cannibal and his leadership gets them enmeshed in a conflict that leaves them all dead.
- Preacher - A preacher with a Dark and Troubled Past finds himself the Right Man in the Wrong Place, empowered with a Compelling Voice and makes a vow to use it to Call The Old Man Out - by the Old Man I mean God.
- Hitman - An underrated series about Tommy Monaghan, a hitman with superpowers who operates in the mainstream DCU.
- Crossed - 28 Days Later meets "The Screwfly Solution"; a mysterious plague turns numerous people into psychotic rapists with crosslike scars on their face.
- War Stories Exactly What It Says on the Tin, with each issue focusing on different characters and their involvement in a campaign or battle of various 20th century wars.
- 303 - A Russian soldier discovers a well-kept secret about the American President and sets out to exact revenge, using an old Lee-Enfeld .303 rifle with one bullet left. Readable, but very much an anti-Bush II revenge fantasy.
- The Chronicles Of Wormwood - Danny Wormwood, cable TV producer, is the Antichrist, and his best buddy Jay is the second coming of Christ. Many people want them to bring about the Apocalypse, but they aren't willing to play ball.
- Jennifer Blood - A woman is a loving housewife by day, and a crusading vigilante by night. Ennis appears to have intended the book as a comedy, but instead it reads like a distaff version of his run on Punisher. It's one of his less popular works.
- Battlefields - A collection of stories set in World War II and during its aftermath, following some of the surviving protagonists well into the postwar period.
- Stitched - An American helicopter crew crash-lands in the mountains of Afghanistan. They and the SAS crew they're there to pick up must then contend with a particularly sadistic breed of zombie. A short film of the same name, written and directed by Ennis himself, was shown at a couple of comic conventions in 2011.
- Red Team - A four-man squad of New York City cops, faced with a criminal they cannot seem to catch legally, instead opt to assassinate him. Things degenerate from there.
- Rover Red Charlie - When a worldwide epidemic causes the human race to go extinct, three dogs team up to survive and to escape New York City.
- Caliban - In the far future, the crew of a human spaceship discovers that humanity is not actually alone in the universe when they suddenly slam into an alien vessel.
Tropes Present In His Work:
- Action Girl: Tulip O'Hare, Kit Ryan, Deborah Tiegel, Kathryn O'Brien, the "Night Witches" in Battlefields, etc.
- Anti-Hero: Type V mostly, a few type IVs. Danny Wormwood might just barely qualify as Type III. Jesse Custer is actually a pretty good example of Type III. Wee Hughie is a definite Type I.
- Author Appeal: Military history, well-researched. Noble soldiers brutalized by amoral superiors. Black Comedy, with occasional forays into Toilet Humour. The idealistic view of America versus its failures. Male friendship under fire.
- Author Filibuster / Character Filibuster: Ennis' characters have the tendency to break into long, intense rants, which are often about his pet peeve subjects.
- Author Tract: The pointlessness and stupidity of racism/homophobia, the idiocy of the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Catholic church in general...
- Bechdel Test: Caliban, Preacher, and The Boys all pass.
- Berserk Button: Much of his work in 2013 has reflected an abiding anger at the pedophilia scandals in the Catholic church.
- Black and Grey Morality: Ennis' villains are among the most despicable in fiction, but his "heroes" often aren't that much better; regularly, Ennis points out that the only difference between the evils of the world and the "rough men" who protect us from them is an awareness of their darkness - and their endless inner battles to control it, a Discussed Trope in Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker.
It's time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It's time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their time.
Here's to them.
- James Ellroy
, American Tabloid
- Big Applesauce: He moved to New York City in the 2000s and many of his subsequent stories are set there.
- Black Comedy
- Crapsack World: Due to the subject matter that his stories often deal with, many of Ennis's characters inhabit a world that has little or any hope for salvation or justice. Preacher is a story about God Himself having narcissistic personality disorder and it's one of the happiest things he's ever written.
- Crossover: Ennis doesn't do it a lot, but characters from his major works tend to wander back and forth between stories. Cassidy from Preacher shows up in The Boys as the owner of a pub in New York(under his birth name, Proinsias); Kathryn O'Brien from Punisher is the same CIA agent from the last arc of Hitman; the vampires that Tommy Monaghan kills in the "Dead Man's Land" arc in Hitman are led by the new King of the Vampires, after the previous king was killed by John Constantine; the members of the British SAS unit in Stitched have gone drinking with Kevin Hawkins; Billy Butcher of The Boys has a fondness for 'spacker porn' that originated with Spacker Dave from Ennis' Punisher run; and Nick Fury meets a man named Fuckface who is described as even uglier than Assface.
- Depraved Bisexual: A lot of Ennis's villains will bang anything that doesn't run away fast enough. He frequently uses a particular brand of anything-goes, hedonistic bisexuality as a character trait for his villains, as further evidence of their utter amorality. Almost as if to balance this out, though, he's gone well out of his way in many stories, including The Punisher and The Boys, to depict gay people in dedicated, healthy relationships.
- Eagle Land: An odd, yet intriguing form of it. He believes the United States is way too self-righteous and full of itself, but he also believes that when Americans choose to get over themselves they showcase what is best and brightest about humanity. The clearest expression of this is from Gunther Hahn in Preacher:
The Myth of America: that simple, honest men, born of her great plains and woods and skies have made a nation of her, and will prove worthy of her when the time is right. Under harsh light, it is false. But a good myth to live up to, all the same.
- Appropriately enough, Gunther is a Nazi war criminal.
- Even Ennis Has Standards: Though his hatred of superheroes is well known, even he treats Superman with nothing short of complete respect.
- While Ennis has come up with a great deal of thinly-veiled parodies of various superheroes, most notoriously in The Boys and Hitman, he's more even-handed when he actually writes those characters than many fans give him credit for being. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are all depicted in his work as thoroughly competent. Similarly, Ennis' depiction of Spider-Man in TANGLED WEB #1-3 was extremely sympathetic and touching, showcasing Spidey's compassion and genuine heroism. Kyle Rayner was portrayed as naive, well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual, and Wally West was, well, really kind of a dick. He's gone on record stating that he is more accepting of characters like Nick Fury or the Punisher. The only mainstream superhero that Ennis has consistently refused to write well is Wolverine, who is an idiotic collection of his own cliches every time he appears in Ennis's work.
- Generally, you can tell how Ennis feels about a superhero by how he portrays their expies. In The Boys, the Superman expy (Homelander) was implied to have been a relatively decent person before being gaslit into insanity, the Wonder Woman expy (Queen Maeve) was the only member of the team who actually wanted to help people before a massive tragedy caused her to cross the Despair Event Horizon and turn to alcohol to deal with her guilt, and the Batman expy (Tek-Knight) ultimately posses genuinely heroic attributes despite being an asshole (he sacrifices his life to save a mother and her child, and unlike the rest of the heroes his questionable tastes were due to having a genuine problem with his brain (in this case a tumor the size of a fist) rather than being a hedonistic asshole.
- Fan Nickname: Ennis, Warren Ellis, and Grant Morrison all became popular in America at about the same time, which led many fans at the time to refer to them as the Trinity.
- God Is Evil: Ennis is an atheist, and is very forthcoming about that fact. In his work that deals explicitly with the Judeo-Christian religion, God Himself is either a drooling imbecile (Hellblazer, Chronicles of Wormwood) or a complete asshole (Preacher). Summarized briefly, the world in Ennis's fiction is so deeply flawed that any God responsible for creating it is either insane or unthinkably cruel. God's servants, on the other hand, run the gamut from good to bad to indifferent.
- One can make the argument his series his series Rover Red and Charlie is a case of Playing Against Type. The titular three are dogs in a human apocalypse, but are good and loyal servants who like having masters and cross the country searching for them, with only their faith to tell them it is where they should go. Said faith is ultimately rewarded. Whether or not this was Ennis's intention is unknown.
- Groin Attack: Ennis is very fond of writing these - both Preacher and The Boys are littered with them, but his Hellblazer run is particularly notorious for them. It was a horror comic where the ultimate horror was always literal castration.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Some of Ennis' best work revolves around exploring deep male friendships, generally Ho Yay-free (even when one of them is gay).
- Humans Are Flawed
- I Did What I Had to Do: Ennis really loves placing his characters in impossible situations, and feels that most mainstream comics are poor writing because they fail to do the same.
In the end, it was a dilemma not unlike those faced by a number of good and bad men in our own history, and if I had to sum it up in one line, Iíd say this: what are you prepared to do when there isnít any easy way out?
And that, I think, is why Iíve never been able to care about Batman, or Wolverine, or Iron ManÖ or any of them, really. Not because of what characters like that would or wouldnít do, but because their publishers would never have the courage to have them written into such a situation.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Saint of Killers?
- Promoted Fanboy: He was a big fan of 2000 AD and especially Judge Dredd as a kid.
- Played with on his run on Dan Dare; in an essay to the collected edition, he openly acknowledges that while he respects the character he has no particular sentimental attachment to him; he does, however, appreciate the values that Dare's creator imbued him with, which attracted him to the project.
- Straight Gay
- Rage Against the Heavens: Preacher in particular.
- Rated M for Manly: Ennis tends to give high praise to traditional masculine values, at the expense of more feminine values. As a result, many of his works have a conservative and sexist feel to them.
- This is a common criticism of his work, but at the same time, he manages to avert it in several of his higher-profile stories. The most recent example is in the Butcher, Baker, Candlestickmaker miniseries from The Boys, where Rebecca successfully manages to talk Billy into breaking the cycle of violence that started with his father. One of the morals of Preacher, in the end, is that Jesse's entire sense of self is mostly bullshit.
: On the one hand, he is obsessed with machismo, and of how manly men interact with each other. On the other hand, he also views machismo as ultimately childish, and needing to give way to a less violent maturity that can only be won through the love of wife and family. The places where machismo operates may be the places where he finds stories, but he also considers those who remain there too long as immature.
- Reality Ensues
- Shades of Conflict
- Shout-Out: Especially to movies like Where Eagles Dare and Kellys Heroes.
- Slobs Versus Snobs: Of a sort; class conflicts form a central theme in a lot of Ennis' work, and while he's often willing to skewer the negative sides of both on the whole he comes across as being a lot more sympathetic to the working-class stiffs (as represented by ordinary soldiers, police officers, street criminals etc) than people who put themselves up as some kind of 'elite' (the wealthy, elite corporate types, politicians, superheroes, etc).
- Take That: He really does not like George W. Bush. So far, Ennis has written about Bush's assassination following the discovery of a conspiracy (303), his death by misadventure following an accident with a chainsaw (The Boys), and how he was one of the first if not the first world leader infected by the Crossed virus ("The Thin Red Line" arc in Crossed: Badlands).
- The Troubles: As one might expect from the best known comic book writer from the disputed area, he has addressed this in several stories.
- War Is Hell: If a Garth Ennis story involves a war, this trope is all but guaranteed to be at the center of it.
- Write Who You Know: A lot of his best-written characters are Irish.