When DC Comics Cancelled Garth Ennis And Darick Robertson’s The Boys

Posted by April 6, 2017 23 Comments

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I am spending the day reading the WildStorm Oral History published independently and unofficially to coincide with WildStorm’s 25th anniversary. It’s available right here, in print and in digital. And it’s letting me revisit old stomping grounds…

Such as, The Boys, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. In a chapter about creator-owned comics at the publisher, they talk about the fate of The Boys at DC Comics, that saw Dougie, an Oor Wullie via Simon Pegg, end up as part of a team who hunts down superheroes who are out of line. And they are most definitely out of line – and sometimes resembled certain DC Comics characters. With Ben Abernathy as editor – at least initially. The book was cancelled by DC Comics and went to Dynamite. At the time it was hard to extract information. But now people are a little more loose-lipped.

Ben Abernathy: Knowing the climate of the upper management at DC, we made pains to run the chain from Scott, to Hank, on up to John Nee and beyond, all the way up to Paul Levitz just to make sure. And I was basically just trying to be very extra careful. “You guys need to be aware of what this is, and the concept, what we’re going for.” Everyone loved it, and to me it was like editorial 101—great concept plus great A-list creators.

The numbers came in, and we had a hit on our hands, and the book, obviously, looked beautiful.

Darick Robertson: And then, three issues in, they started getting weird, and I started getting a lot of requests for changes. I was trying to stay on track with my schedule as well as accommodate the changes so I started penciling very aggressively up to issue 10, so everybody would have a chance to look it over before I inked anything and, as a result, I just woke up on a Friday, ready to work through the weekend, and found out, from Ben and Garth, that we were cancelled. I did not quite understand what happened, but I went, told my wife—we had just bought a house, I said, “I don’t have a job.”… So, I drove to Disneyland for the weekend with the kids and decided I hadn’t seen them in a while anyway because I’ve been working so hard on the book. And on the way home my cell phone was going crazy. We got 17 offers from every other publisher in the business. Almost everybody had put their hands up to say, “We’ll take the book.”

Ben Abernathy: Yeah, that was Black Friday. Shocking. Top talent, top selling book, who wouldn’t want it? Well I guess we know who. From day one there was content that I knew was going to raise some flags, so I was always very conscious of this kind of stuff, and my familiarity with how DC operated was based on my previous stint at DC when I was basically the WildStorm liaison and approver in the NYC offices. So, I was pretty keenly aware of what would set off the DC radar. Again, I followed all the proper channels, running this book up the chain of command, and Darick’s right, after a few issues, they started to be more and more concerned about content notes. And then it kind of went nuclear pretty quick.

Darick Robertson: I thought I was really clear what we were doing. We made it real clear in our outline. I think Garth even had a breakdown of the first 12 issues written out. There was no ambiguity about what we’re going to do or what they should expect from us. I stayed close with Ben. Scott Dunbier fought for us. Hank Kanalaz fought for us… And that book had to have teeth. If it didn’t have teeth, it would’ve become kind of like what happened with The Authority, how it got kind of pulled in and got lost, it lost its edge for a while there. There was something about it that was red hot and then—we didn’t want to see this happen with The Boys.

Ben Abernathy: It’s been actually hard to even look at The Boys. You know, I read it for a while, but it was a painful memory to be honest with you. My blood pressure gets high, and even talking about it now, I get really passionate. I try and remain calm because—there [is]no logic that that could ever be explained for its demise beyond a personal dislike. It’s better just to not talk about it.

The comic ran at Dynamite Entertainment until its conclusion with issue 72.

About Rich Johnston

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

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