Garth Ennis On Crossed: Badlands

Bleeding Cool people are very excited about the new bi-weekly ongoing Crossed: Badlands series from Avatar, and that Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows are returning to the book. So we talked to Garth about it all.

Q:  CROSSED: BADLANDS will be published bi-weekly and ongoing.  The launch date will be celebrated as “C-Day” in comic shops throughout the USA, Canada, and the UK.  CROSSED fans are rabid, and they just can’t get enough.  How do you feel as its creator, seeing the series take off like so?

Ennis: Warm glow and fingers crossed, about 50/50.

Q:  There was a rumor going around that the concept of CROSSED began as a nightmare you actually had about your friends and family turning against you.  Any truth to that rumor?

Ennis: The dream I had involved me staying at a friend’s place, which was surrounded by what appeared to be zombies.  On closer examination, we realised they weren’t, they were just people… who were smiling at us with the most evil intent.  It was one of those dreams where one minute you’re part of the action, the next you’re watching it from afar, like on a movie screen.  I woke up before anything unpleasant happened.

Q:  When you first sat down to write the BADLANDS story, what was the driving force?  What story were you setting out to tell?

Ennis: Something small scale and quite melancholy, with bursts of intense action and some slightly unusual characters.  The way I saw it, the world of CROSSED has been well established by now, so I wanted to focus on a little band of survivors and show what everyday life was like for people in the months and years after the outbreak — when the tricks and risks of survival become second nature, and people are starting to wonder what they’re surviving for.  I also wanted to move the action away from the United States, to see how things might have turned out in a country with considerably less firearms.

Q:  Where did Ian, the main character of your tale, originate?  Was he based on anyone you know, or is he an everyman?

Ennis: He’s no one special, which is the point of the character.  At one stage, he himself makes the point that he’s not particularly strong or smart or resourceful, but he has just enough wit to glom onto people who are, and make them listen to him.

Q:  The outbreak that transformed the world’s population to psychopaths is never explained.  What’s the appeal of its origin being open-ended?

Ennis: I’m almost always disappointed when I find out the reasons and origins behind various outbreaks and monsters.  In the case of something like CROSSED, it’s going to be either the supernatural and/or act of God, or a lab experiment gone wrong, or aliens fucking around with us — none of which are going to be terribly satisfying.  Let’s face it, in stories like this, nothing’s going to match the creeping anxieties and nasty possibilities you have kicking around in your own head.  Nailing it down to one particular thing will always be anti-climactic.

I’ll give you an example: in FIREFLY, a show I enjoyed enormously, you had the Reavers set up as men who had gone out to the edge of space and seen something dreadful, and been changed by it for all time… and now they carried that evil with them to infect others.  I thought that was brilliant, that idea of some indefinable darkness waiting to punish us when we go too far, see things we shouldn’t see.  So long as they never feel the need to explain further or show what it might be, we can let our imaginations run riot.  Then the movie came out and it turned out it was just a gas.  Another example: PROMETHEUS, the prequel to ALIEN, is coming out this summer and there’s no way I’m not going to see it, but I can’t help but wonder — will the origin story we get come anywhere near the horrors that have been crawling around in our heads for the past thirty years?

Another reason to keep things nebulous is that once you get a reason or an origin, you can start working on a cure, begin “the fightback.” And as I’ve said before, that isn’t what CROSSED is about at all.

Q:  CROSSED fans love Horsecock, the iconic villain from the first series.  Do you feel that the landscape of CROSSED should be spotted with similar icons which stand apart from the herd, or is the true terror of the series in the endless waves of faceless madmen?

Ennis: A little of that goes a long way.  Horsecock represented a kind of evolutionary leap for the Crossed that was fortunately negated before it went too far; any more guys like that, and human survival really would become utterly impossible.  So for the time being, we’ll avoid these super-Crossed, and keep things vague as to exactly how smart the regular ones are.  Their intelligence is simply overpowered by instinct, which prevents them from doing anything too ambitious.

Q:  Jacen Burrows recently stated, “From the beginning, it has been important for us to handle the violence of the CROSSED world fearlessly… Horror has been abused and defanged by charlatans out for a quick buck, those who make one-dimensional, generic, formulaic product.  We wanted to do real horror… explore the extreme limits of the human condition.”  Would you agree?  Should it be a responsibility of CROSSED to preserve the horror genre?

Ennis: How I tend to handle it is this:  I’ll show how bad things can get once, then never go that far again. In the first CROSSED story, when that fucking idiot has his mishap with the bag of salt, you see people suffer the most painful and undignified death imaginable — a true negation of humanity.  That tells you what everyone’s afraid of and why they’re so scared, and just how high the stakes are.  After that, we never had to be that explicit again; we could show variations on a theme and explore some of the horrors that human beings themselves had to commit to stay alive, but we’d pretty much nailed our colours to the mast as far as the Crossed were concerned.

I mentioned “bursts” of action earlier — that’s how I think CROSSED stories should go, rather than being soaked in blood from beginning to end.

Q:  The themes of survival and being hunted are prevalent in CROSSED and STITCHED.  Would you consider yourself a survival enthusiast?  For personal enjoyment, do you study survival handbooks and the like?

Ennis: Christ, no.  I have a bottle of pretty good bourbon set aside, just in case society ever does finally go tits-up.

Q:  Just for fun, how do you think you’d fare if the outbreak was real?  How about Jacen Burrows or William Christensen?

Ennis: Oh, we’re all dead the first day!

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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