web stats

CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 12

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Garth Ennis’ War Story series of one-shots, the precursors to his current Battlefields series of mini-series at Dynamite (for simplicity’s sake, I’m just looking at the first wave of four one-shots released over four months at the end of 2001/beginning of 2002 – the second wave of four one-shots was in 2003).

Enjoy!

In late 2001/early 2002, DC Comics’ Vertigo line gave Garth Ennis the opportunity to pursue one of his biggest joys in the world of comics – telling, well, you know, war stories.

Each extra-sized one-shot paired Ennis with a noted artist and they each told stories about World War II (in the second series of one-shots, at least one other war got a turn) from various perspectives.

The first one, Johann’s Tiger, had artwork by Chris Weston and Gary Erskine, and told the the tale of a German tank and its soldiers during the invasion of Russia.

The gist of the story is that Johann (the head of the tank, which is the “Tiger” of the tale) decides that his men do not deserve to die in a war that Germany is bound to lose and a war that Johann now realizes that Germany DESERVES to lose. So they basically “quit.” His plan is to find a group of American soldiers and surrender, but only his men – you see, while his men might be “innocent,” Johann knows that he is not…

Of course, things do not go the way he planned.

It’s a stark tale, full of sacrifices and loss.

D-Day Dodgers, with art by John Higgins, tells the story of the divisions fighting their way up Italy while the Allied forces are invading the beaches of Normandy. A story made its way through the ranks that Lady Astor referred to these troops (including battalions from Ireland and Scotland as well as England) as “D-Day Dodgers.”

The absurdity of the statement hung over the air of these men…

Ennis can do such marvelous work with slow burns.

Dave Gibbons draws Screaming Eagles, about a Paratrooper division at the end of the war who find themselves so decimated that there are only four men left from the original force that landed in France during D-Day.

While reconnoitering for a house where a visiting general can stay, these four men come across a fleeing Nazi who is coming from an opulent mansion. The four men hatch a plot to stay in the mansion for a few days. Some of the men argue that they should take some of the riches there for themselves…

Ennis brilliantly intersperses the whole story with the depiction of how all the other members of the original division are killed.

Gibbons does great work on this story.

David Lloyd, though, perhaps does the best job out of all the four artists (and they’re ALL quite excellent) with the haunting one-shot, Nightingale, about a British Merchant Marine ship given some terrible orders…

How brutal is that?

Lloyd’s ghost-like artwork fits the story incredibly well. These men are essentially walking (or floating) dead, and it is just a matter of time until that is made a brutal reality.

All told, Ennis does his typical excellent job of mixing violence, black humor and strong characterizations to deliver an engrossing read.

The first wave was all collected in War Stories Volume 1…

Maybe I’ll come back and spotlight “Volume 2″ later this year!!

40 Comments

Hey DC. Know what I want? All Star Sgt Rock, by Garth Ennis. With Joe Kubert and Russ Heath on the art.

I haven’t been a huge fan of Ennis’ stories that take place during a war. I enjoy some, but others just come off as ridiculous to me. I did enjoy the above story samples though :)

Brian, I was wondering if I could propose a comic to show off on your fancy list in the coming months? David Petersen’s Mouse Guard. I just finished reading Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 in HC and it was beeeautiful! Also, the story progressed quite nicely from the first book and it added some nice development for the characters.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 13, 2010 at 6:24 am

Normally I don’t like comics about war stories, but I always made an exception for Ennis’ war stories, not only because he’s GARTH ENNIS, but you can always tell that the effort he puts into his stories is an notch above other war stories one might have read.

You can see the same effort in his BATTLEFIELDS series over at Dynamite Entertainment, and in his Punisher run (the MAX title).

Willing to read anything by Dave Gibbons…
But not willing to read anything by Garth Ennis…
But I love war comics…
You’re tearing me up inside!

taht is some of egnis best work and showed how he could translate war into the medium of comics and glad the thing has been reprinted .given dc and reprinting stuff

I just read Johann’s Tiger. It was a fantastic story and definitely worth picking up.

An argument can be made that Ennis might be the best living craftsman as a comic writer. There are people more talented, more brilliant, and perhaps overall better. But I don’t know of anyone who clearly can just really craft the work like him. When he’s on, it is a marvel to behold. The man knows the business of story and words.

I cant believe none of these didnt make anyones best of the decade list.

‘War Story’ is, hands down, my favourite comic series ever.

Powerful stuff – if anybody thinks Ennis only does war and/or action like ‘Rifle Brigade’ or as ‘Preacher’ style comedy exploding heads can think again.

The “D-Day Dodgers” finale is one of the most heart-breaking I have ever read in a comic.

Hey,it’s Garth Ennis,what’d you expect?

Why aren’t you willing to read anything by Ennis, Matt? I don’t want to make any assumptions about your reasoning, but if you’re a fan of war comics then you’re really missing out by avoiding the War Story series.

I read this when the library got it. The stories are good. War stories aren’t exactly my cuppa, but these are obviously well done.

I once read someone describe Ennis as the Hemingway of comics. I think that’s an apt description. He’s an ace craftsman who tells stories from a “man” point of view. I respect Ennis but, as is also the case with Hemingway, I don’t love his work. Respect the holy hell out of his writing, but I always seem to come thiiiis close to completely connecting to it before it loses me.

> Why aren’t you willing to read anything by Ennis, Matt?

I pretty much swore off Ennis when Nick Fury choked a man with his own entrails.

I should add that Brian is doing a really nice job with these write-ups. I’ve started my own blog now and I’ve suddenly realized how hard it is show people why you like something, instead of just telling them. The temptation is to just write “it’s great because it’s great and you’re a dunderhead if you can’t figure that out,” but that doesn’t cut it. Brian’s doing a nice job making the case for his point of view.

“Nick Fury choked a man with his own entrails.”

That was a Ennis classic! ;-)

While not on the level of his War Stories work, Fury was quite good. The structure was really impressive as it gradually went from realism to absurd satire, but it all flowed perfectly. Loved his Nick Fury, too, in Punisher bits.

Garth Ennis was born to write war stories.

I wonder if he ever wrote for Battle Picture Library or such?

@ Matt Bird: I’m sorry,but there’s nothing about the sentence “Nick Fury choked a guy with his own entrails” that doesn’t appeal to me as a comics reader and a guy that grew up watching 80s action movies.

I had totally forgotten how awesome these were. Somehow I feel like I would appreciate them even more now than I did when they first came out. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the original issues anymore, so that’s one more trade I need to pick up….

Next to Punisher MAX and Preacher (I’m only 3 volumes into Hitman still), War Stories is my favourite Ennis work. Even the ones I didn’t care for too much are still quite good.

Great samples. I’ve read only one of Ennis’ war stories and it was excellent. The premise sounds like a joke – an Irishman, a Spaniard and a German are in a foxhole during the Spanish Civil War ….

When I was a kid my father used to sing a song to me called D-Day Dodgers the lyrics of which went like this:

Dear Lady Astor, You think you know a lot,
Standing on your platform, and talking Tommy rot,
You’re England’s sweetheart and her charge,
We think your mouth’s too bloody large,

We are the D-Day dodgers, here in Sunny Italy
…etc

It goes on to explain what a vacation it was to serve in Italy, including the phrase “The Jerries brought the band out to meet us on the way.”

First post, and I hope the line spacing works — I’m not going to fix it if it doesn’t.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm

An argument can be made that Ennis might be the best living craftsman as a comic writer. There are people more talented, more brilliant, and perhaps overall better. But I don’t know of anyone who clearly can just really craft the work like him. When he’s on, it is a marvel to behold. The man knows the business of story and words.

I whole heartedly agree – I liked his work before, but with War Stories, and Punisher MAX, he leaped into the realm of being a master craftsman.
Very few do.

Maybe I’ll come back and spotlight “Volume 2″ later this year!!

You should!

Archangel is spectacular, and is up there with Nightingale as possibly the best of this series (and those two sit up there with ‘Dear Billy’ as possibly the best three comics Ennis has ever written).

Does anyone know why he switched from this format to the ‘Battlefields’ format?
Battlefields has been great, after the first mini being a rough start, but I think the one off format forced him into being a little tighter, thinking of the story as a whole, and not as three individual issues.

When I was a kid my father used to sing a song to me called D-Day Dodgers the lyrics of which went like this:

Dear Lady Astor, You think you know a lot,
Standing on your platform, and talking Tommy rot,
You’re England’s sweetheart and her charge,
We think your mouth’s too bloody large,

We are the D-Day dodgers, here in Sunny Italy
…etc

It goes on to explain what a vacation it was to serve in Italy, including the phrase “The Jerries brought the band out to meet us on the way.”

First post, and I hope the line spacing works — I’m not going to fix it if it doesn’t.

Yeah, you should give D-Day Dodgers a read, then, crooney, as it uses that song to great effect.

I have to say I thought Garth Ennis was the most over-rated writer in comics up until last year. I thought his Hellblazer was a pale shadow of Jamie Delano’s run and wasn’t impressed by Preacher or the early MK Punisher run, but then I read Punisher MAX and completely reversed my opinion.

I think I only like Ennis when he’s writing ‘straight’, but when he is, he’s fucking amazing – this War Stories series looks cut from the same cloth as Punisher MAX, so I’ll definitely be checking it out.

I usually dislike Ennis work. I find his attempts to humor painfully unfunny, his supernatural stories (Hellblazer, Preacher, etc.) repetitive and his fixation on superheroes (which he seems to hate, but can’t stop working on them, even on his creator-owned work!) tiresome.

But his war stories? They are BRILLIANT! Those are the Ennis comics everyone should read! Highest possible recommendation.

Note that his Dan Dare shares many characteristics of his war comics work – and is equally great.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Yeah, Pedro, I loved his take on Dan Dare, too!

I always used to assume that war comics just weren’t my thing. Then I bought Ennis’s Enemy Ace stuff because it was Ennis. Highly recommended.

These were great too. should really re-read them. I still need to get all of the second run, as I’ve only got one of those.

I never picked up his Dan Dare when it was released, because the reviews weren’t really praising it. Maybe I should track it down.

@Pedro Bouça: Ennis actively dislikes superheroes but apart from The Boys he hasn’t written them a lot, at least directly. He did a small Thor series, Hitman had some superhero cameos, Punisher had a Daredevil cameo but not much else.

I think Warren Ellis is much more guity of what you’re describing. And Ennis is by far my favourite writer. But different strokes, I guess…

Blackjak: “I wonder if he ever wrote for Battle Picture Library or such?”

It’s possible but I think he’s just a bit too young for that. His earliest work that I’m aware of was in Crisis and 2000AD in the very late 80s by which point I think all the weekly war comics we grew up on had folded.

His war comics have easily some of his best writing. The D-Day Dodgers from this volume and the Dear Billy storyline from Battlefields are some of the best things he’s ever done. Only The Slavers arc from Punisher contains the same sense of moral outrage burning off the page. The collected editions of the War Stories are also good for Garth’s little afterwords on the origins and background to each story.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm

He did a small Thor series, Hitman had some superhero cameos, Punisher had a Daredevil cameo but not much else.

Thor had superheroes, but was far from a superhero story.

As for ‘he hates them, but can’t stop writing them’ – look at his chosen field!
He needs to pay the bills.

I don’t buy the “pay the bills” excuse. A lot of creators get by just fine without putting Marvel or DC on their resume.

There are, in fact, probably guys working in webcomics doing wholly creator-owned work who make a lot more than Ennis.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Well, that above post of links was meant to go into Day 11′s comments… oops.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 4:59 pm

I don’t buy the “pay the bills” excuse. A lot of creators get by just fine without putting Marvel or DC on their resume.

They do commercial work outside of comics.

There are, in fact, probably guys working in webcomics doing wholly creator-owned work who make a lot more than Ennis.

Who?

If you mean pure writers have to do something outside of comics, I can probably concede that point. It takes no stretch of the imagination to list off writer-artists and artists who make perfectly fine livings doing non-superhero work in print, though.

Just off the top of my head, I would happily wager that the creators of XKCD and Diesel Sweeties make more than Ennis. The creator of Diesel Sweeties makes so much money he actually abandoned his syndication deal because he felt it was insufficiently lucrative to be worth his time, as compared to the Web product. My understanding is that print syndication still tends to pay an order of magnitude higher than comics work.

I could also mention Phil and Kaja Foglio, who I believe abandoned print for Web because their comics made so much more money once they were released online. Apparently they live comfortably these days (with a kid, even), just off of money made re-issuing old print stuff back into the web.

Penny Arcade employs five people full-time on top of providing for the creators’ families. That case is a bit more hazy, though, since PA clearly generates revenue through the conventions and licensed comics that game companies occasionally pay them to buy. Garth Ennis is a considerably less commercial creator and probably couldn’t expect to exploit sponsorship revenue so directly.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm

If you mean pure writers have to do something outside of comics, I can probably concede that point. It takes no stretch of the imagination to list off writer-artists and artists who make perfectly fine livings doing non-superhero work in print, though.

I was just a bit thrown recently reading Tomine’s intro to his sketchbook where he mentioned he has to take on commercial art work to make ends meet, as just doing comics didn’t make him as much as everyone would assume – until then I’d assumed he’d have done it for a bit of fun inbetween longer works (stuff likes his album cover work and such).

As for the web guys, Penny Arcade is the only one’s of those I’d heard of!
Checking the others out now.

As for Ennis, I’m surprised he doesn’t do video game or hollywood script work (either actual scripts or wash and rinses on scripts) – he’d be perfect for it.

Yeah, the comics industry pays poorly compared to a lot of parallel industries that call for similar freelancing skills. One famous pre-Web case is Carl Barks, who after his retirement made more money off the sales of a handful of Disney Duck oil paintings than he had in his entire career drawing Duck comics!

I would love to see Ennis go into the video game industry. The testosterone-soaked material of your average first-person shooter or action game is a perfect fit for the themes he likes to explore. He could potentially bring a lot of depth to the likes of your Call of Duty-type game and it seems clear to me that writing war comics is Ennis’s first love.

I also strongly suspect a comic book writer can generate a truly superb video game script long before a screenwriter can, but that’s just my personal opinion.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

I would love to see Ennis go into the video game industry. The testosterone-soaked material of your average first-person shooter or action game is a perfect fit for the themes he likes to explore. He could potentially bring a lot of depth to the likes of your Call of Duty-type game and it seems clear to me that writing war comics is Ennis’s first love.

I also strongly suspect a comic book writer can generate a truly superb video game script long before a screenwriter can, but that’s just my personal opinion.

The only thing I could see stopping it would be Ennis, proudly a technological luddite, not being that interested in it.
That said, with Lapham doing Modern Warfare tie-ins, at least there’s the chance someone will turn to him to give us some great scripted games.
(Although, the GTA 4 games feature crime stories/characters that rivals most other mediums).

Mentioning GTAIV just makes me start imagining Brubaker getting to write in his Criminal mode, or what a great sandbox game Incognito would make…

The Dude

I think Warren Ellis is much more guity of what you’re describing.

I don’t think Ellis hates superheroes so much as he hates their dominance of comics.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

I just don’t see any ugliness:

Wrong thread Funky.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives