Garth Ennis has probably written one of your favorite comics. He’s the writer behind The Boys, Preacher, one of the most lauded Punisher runs in Marvel history, and many more. His impact on contemporary comics and their prevalence in pop culture can’t be understated. That’s why Nerdist is stoked to reveal that Ennis has a new project at the legendary 2000 AD. And it resurrects a true cult classic: British fantasy favorite Hawk the Slayer.
The 1980 swords and sorcery flick centered on two brothers, Hawk and Voltan, who engage in a possibly world-ending battle over a magical sword. It’s long been a beloved if lesser-known addition to the canon. Now Ennis, artist Henry Flint, and letterer Rob Steen are resurrecting Hawk. A direct sequel to the film, the five-issue monthly miniseries continues their adventures, beginning in a 32-page special issue. Each month readers will also get gorgeous painted covers from Greg Staples (Magic the Gathering). Basically, it’s all any fantasy lover could want. To celebrate, we chatted with Ennis over email about his take on Hawk, what the character means to him, and what he can’t wait for readers to discover.
Adapting a Cult Classic
Like many kids across the pond, Ennis has a personal connection to Hawk. And he shared his first memory of the movie with Nerdist. “My aunt took a friend and I to see it in Letterkenny, Donegal in 1981. I spent my summers near there when I was a kid, my grandparents had a farm just over the border from Derry. We’d seen the trailer on TV and were desperate to see the movie, and against her better judgement my aunt gave in. I remember there was a trailer for The Road Warrior before Hawk the Slayer, and I asked if we could see that next. The reply was an emphatic NO. Fair enough, I was only 11.”
The pressure of adapting something beloved is something Ennis doesn’t normally worry about. “I just tell the story as it occurs to me in the manner that seems most appropriate,” the writer shared. “But in this instance I should say that I genuinely love Hawk the Slayer, for what I hope are all the right reasons, and I wrote this story in the same spirit that I enjoy the film. It’s larger than life, it’s got the sometimes (beyond) hyperbolic language and characterization typical of its genre, it requires massive suspension of disbelief—but it’s got a lot of heart, the story goes in a straight line and never falls apart, the heroes are likable, and the villains are extremely memorable. And it feels different enough to others like it (Conan, The Beastmaster, The Sword & The Sorcerer, etc.) that it sticks in the memory in a way they don’t.”
Taking on Hawk the Slayer
When it comes to creating a new chapter of an already established story, there’s one thing that Ennis considers key: “I think it was really a question of trust,” he explained. “Once I spoke to Jason, Ben, and Keith at Rebellion, they realized I liked the movie for the same reasons they did and my ideas all made sense within that context. They could see I wasn’t going to take the piss out of Hawk, but that I wasn’t going to produce something unrecognizable either—that what I wanted to do was take the story where it was logically and emotionally supposed to go next. It’s nice when you encounter that level of enthusiasm for any story, really, when you find yourself in a conversation with people who feel the same way you do. It spurs you on to do your best.”
Together, Ennis and Flint have delivered on that promise. They’ve created an engaging, exciting fantasy adventure that even has the approval of one of the character’s original co-creators. Terry Marcel, co-writer and director of Hawk the Slayer, told Nerdist that “for me, this is a great homage to the movie and really delivers on my expectations. Garth and Henry have really done justice to the film and it’s wonderful to see Hawk and his friends back in action. It’s such an interesting concept—rather than going from comic book to film, it’s the other way around—and this series captures everything I thought about with Hawk and the potential for his further adventures. I can’t wait to see where it takes him next!’
Bringing Sword and Sorcery Back to 2000 AD
Ennis chose not to look back at other sword and sorcery titles, instead following what made him so attracted to Hawk in the first place: its unique take on fantasy. “I tend to think of Hawk the Slayer as being its own peculiar beast. I mentioned that I like the movie because it’s unlike others of its kind; the same will hopefully be true of the comic. It’s also worth mentioning that I’m not really all that familiar with other comics in this genre—I’ve never had much interest in Conan, for instance, which I find pretty humourless and po-faced whether as book, movie, or comic. The exception would be the old black & white Sláine in 2000 AD, which I’m still a big fan of, but it’s very different to Hawk the Slayer in the first place.”
There was one fantasy title that has stayed with Ennis through the years, though. “I read The Hobbit as a kid and loved it—still do—so I’m familiar with magic swords and evil warlords, but beyond that one not a lot has stuck in my memory.”
Flint’s art feels both entirely in line with the sword and sorcery comics that we know and love, while feeling contemporary and fresh. For Ennis, it’s clear that he’s just as much of a fan of his collaborator’s art as we are. “Oh, what a treat,” Ennis shared. “Henry really pulled out all the stops on this one. It’s just so nice to see Hawk, Gort, and Crow walking around after so long, not to mention the triumphant return of perennial nervous wreck Roy the innkeeper. His take on Voltan is a sight to behold as well, but for that you’ll have to wait for part two.”
What Can Fans Expect From Hawk the Slayer?
If Hawk fans want to know where the story is headed, Ennis set it up nicely. “There’s a nasty sense of old evil on the rise as the story continues, and Hawk & company find themselves in some sinister places, from the Forest of Weir to the caverns beneath the Holy Fortress at Dainsford (which, if you look at the movie, really doesn’t seem all that holy).”
He continued. “The woman Hawk rescued from being burned as a witch—by Warren Clark, of all people—will have a big role to play; her magic will call some old ghosts back into the world of the living. Crow the Elf will discover the real reason he’s the last of his kind, which will come as a nasty shock. And, of course, the appallingly evil Voltan is going to make an appearance sooner or later—along with his backers, the Black Wizards. They like to think they’re his masters, but Voltan might just have some ideas of his own.”
He also hinted at an ominous end for at least one of our heroes… “I should say that, just like in the movie, tragedy lies in wait for at least one of the Table of Five. Not everyone is going to make it through this in one piece.” Ennis also shared the moment that he can’t wait for Hawk the Slayer fans to read when they pick up the issue. “Towards the end, around the point Hawk advises everyone to stay absolutely still,” Ennis teased. “If you came looking for Hawk the Slayer, that bit should be worth the price of admission.”
Hawk the Slayer #1 debuts on April 13, 2022 in comic book stores.
Featured Image: 2000 AD