I had the wonderful opportunity to get to ask the writer and artist for Johhny Red, legendary Preacher creator Garth Ennis and artist extraordinaire Keith Burns (The Boys, Castles in the Sky).
Johhny Red came out earlier this month and is the story of Legendary British fighter ace, Johnny 'Red' Redburn, returns once more as the commander of the Falcons – a Russian fighter squadron battling the Nazis in the skies over Stalingrad. But dogfighting Messerschmitts is about to become the least of his troubles when the NVKD – the notorious Soviet secret police – come calling!
Latino-Review: With the original comic series “Battle” being a big hit did either of you feel any pressure delivering a product to the fans of the original?
(G) That's the kind of thing I never worry about, I always just get on and tell the story. We're both such big fans of the original that things in that department should quite naturally take care of themselves.
(K) I really felt the pressure of following two legendary artists in Joe Colquhoun and John Cooper… but not enough to turn down a dream job. The first thing I did was set out to learn how to use brush and ink so it would at least have the same feel to the art. Beyond that I tried to put out the best art I could, which meant putting a lot more time and effort in than I normally would on a project that had tighter monthly deadlines. I figured if I couldn't put the most effort into a dream job what job would I ever do it. Luckily I was given the time to get well ahead.
Latino-Review: Are we going to see any characters from the older “Battle” stories interact with Johnny in the comic book?
(G) Absolutely. Stalwarts from the original Johnny Red include Falcon Squadron pilots Rudi, Michanek, Krasov, Gragori and- of course- Yakob. There's the foul Colonel Yaraslov and faithful mechanic Rodimitz, and possibly my own favourite, Captain Nina Petrova of the all-female Angels of Death. There's Johnny's beloved Hurricane, which is something of a character in itself. And there's Erich Von Jurgen, commander of the Luftwaffe's Eagle Squadron, Johnny's longtime adversary. Finally, we've managed to arrange cameos from other Battle strips- namely HMS Nightshade and The General Dies At Dawn.
Latino-Review: Since you have a great history writing war comics what challenges did you run into writing the “Johnny Red” comic?
(G) Essentially, knowing how far to push the more unlikely aspects of the original strip while keeping the background setting as realistic as possible- something the old Johnny Red always did too. Johnny managed to wring a quite remarkable performance out of his Hurricane, which was thoroughly obsolete even by 1942 standards, and his relationship with a Russian squadron under the scrutiny of the Soviet secret police also bears mentioning in this context.
What type of research did when creating the pilot outfits or airplanes?
(K) I'm a full member of the Guild of Aviation Artists and am well used to drawing and painting aircraft, pilots and locations from WW2. For research I use books, models, movies, comics, photographs, computer games, the internet and I visit museums and air shows alot - basically anything I can get my hands on.
Latino Review: With “Johnny Red” focused during World War II. Are there new locales you got to explore in the comic or would like to?
(G) No, the story is set firmly on the Russian Front in 1942- that was its status quo when I started reading as a kid, and that's where it's going to remain.
Latino Review: For new readers who don’t’ know a lot about “Johnny Red” what comic series would you consider a good comparison to that would influence a new reader to pick up this series?
(G) Any of the war stories I've written for the Battlefields series (published by Dynamite) or War Story (DC/Vertigo and now Avatar).
JOHNNY RED #1 (OF 8)
WRITER: Garth Ennis
ARTIST: Keith Burns
COVERS BY: Keith Burns, Carlos Ezquerra
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
Source: Titan Comics