Keith Davidsen: It’s been four years since you launched CROSSED, telling the fantastic first story before allowing others to play in your sandbox. How did it feel to return to the CROSSED landscape for your BADLANDS story?
Garth Ennis: It felt cold and bleak and bad and dark, which is exactly how I hoped it would. You don’t write CROSSED with the sun shining in your heart; you write it around midwinter, watching the long night devour the feeble day.
You’ve worked previously with Jacen Burrows on 303, CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD, and the original CROSSED storyline. What are your thoughts on his return as your creative partner-in-crime on BADLANDS?
Jacen really is one of my all-time favourite collaborators. He gives me everything I ask for and more, with great characters and flawless storytelling. Even the risks he takes are smart and rewarding ones. And he delivers – he’s a complete professional, a quality I appreciate more with each passing day.
There’s a fraternity of top-level writing talent who have been guiding the CROSSED universe: David Lapham, Si Spurrier, Jamie Delano. What do you see as the key things that you look for in a writer you let loose on Crossed?
It’s not so much particular elements as a certain level of talent. William Christensen and I agreed from the start that CROSSED wouldn’t be farmed out to just anyone; the stories had to come up to a set standard or there was no point in continuing the book. That’s why you see guys like Jamie, David, and Si working on it, as well as couple of others coming up that we’ve been talking about. We’re going to carry on being pretty picky.
I should say that I’m determined not to censor writers in terms of content; all I ask is that CROSSED remain CROSSED. Which is to say the stories have to be about survival, about running and hiding, escaping death by the skin of one’s teeth, only fighting when necessary – and then like a cornered rat. And CROSSED has to be about hanging onto one’s humanity, too, even in the face of unimaginable horror.
If it ever becomes about miracle cures and acid-proof battle suits and “the fightback”, we may as well give up. That’ll be when the plug gets pulled.
The fan base for CROSSED is tremendously dedicated, enough so to demand the ongoing BADLANDS series. What do you think is the appeal of CROSSED for fans? What’s your response to that kind of fervor for an idea you came up with?
I imagine it varies. Some are no doubt out-and-out gorehounds, getting off on the extremity of what’s depicted. Others might be fascinated by the theme of survival, both physical and moral. Many will just like a good story they can get their teeth into, where the stakes are good and high. For the majority, it’s probably a combination of all three.
Generally, I find that it’s best not to dwell on reader motivation too much, either worrying about or trying to analyze it. The wisest thing is just to get on and tell the story.
Just for kicks, is there any particular CROSSED visual that particularly sticks out in your mind as being the most memorable? Any particular image from a cover or interior shot that haunts the man who created CROSSED?
My favourite cover is Jacen’s wraparound from late in the first series, featuring all the lead characters in one place. I liked seeing them like that; it gives a strong sense of what the stakes are for all the players.
Interiors… The darkest moment, for me, was Stan and Cindy doing what they have to do at the end of part four in the first collection. My favourite is probably the ending, the two little figures descending the hill to be swallowed up by the glare of the sun.