Across a long and storied career, Garth Ennis has cultivated a knack for great character development. Whether that’s his own creations, like Jesse Custer from Preacher or Billy Butcher from The Boys, or even his iconic runs on The Punisher and Hitman, Ennis’ stories have always been a place for delving into the true depths of humanity (good, bad, and otherwise). For his latest project, Ennis, alongside artist Goran Sudzuka, tackles another huge personality with plenty of emotional and moral complexities to explore.
Marjorie Finnegan: Temporal Criminal follows the titular heroine around the space-time continuum as she steals history’s many antiquities and contends with a creep ex and the Temporal PD. It’s another thrilling chance for Ennis to explore a really rich and interesting character amid some especially bonkers circumstances. Is it also a chance to muck with history and people’s general sensibilities? You know it!
Before the book drops on May 5, we had the chance to speak to Ennis, including Finnegan’s development, the value of time travel in fiction, and reuniting with Sudzuka (they last teamed on A Walk Through Hell), among several other topics.
AIPT: What specifically about time travel feels like it’s such a great creative playground for so many books, comics, movies, etc.?
Garth Ennis: You can go anywhere and anywhen; whatever you want is just a hop, skip and a jump away. Want two characters who could never meet to do so? Go for it. Like to see what happens when someone employs 50th century technology in the 5th? Same again. All reality is your oyster.
AIPT: A lot of time travel fiction gets bogged down in its own set of rules. Does that matter in this book, or does that stuff just needlessly complicate things?
GE: I’ve certainly seen that happen, but I avoided it here by keeping the story about people. I did get one quite good idea thinking about the classic time travel question- what happens to the present if you go back and change the past? How would you avoid that, if you were a temporal criminal? How would you fix it, if you were a temporal cop?
AIPT: Marjorie’s another in a long line of lovable social deviants from Garth Ennis. What is it about a Frank Castle, Billy Butcher, and Marjorie Finnegan that’s so appealing to you as a creator and also us as fans/readers?
And a follow-up of sorts: how (if at all) does Marjorie fit in as it relates to some of those other beloved characters mentioned above?
GE: Odd mentioning those three in the same breath, given that Frank and Billy are two of the biggest monsters in comics, and Marj is just out for some innocent-ish fun. She doesn’t fit in anywhere near them. I’m trying to think of a character like her I have written; she isn’t a monster, nor is she a victim of circumstances like Kev Hawkins or Code Pru. Maybe she belongs alongside some of the guys from Hitman, or someone more irresponsible like Cassidy from Preacher (although she isn’t the wretched s--t he turns out to be).
AIPT: There’s a self-aware level of cheesiness here, alongside some clear ’50s sci-fi vibes. (It all feels like a John Waters film in the best way.) What were some of the influences or benchmarks for Marjorie?
GE: Don’t think I’ve ever gotten all the way through a John Waters film. The spark that became Marj arrived when I was watching Vikings, a pretty good show about guess what, and I saw the classic scene you always get with the longship appearing and the local villagers shitting themselves- and I thought, if only these people had some 21st century heavy artillery, one shot would blow that thing out of the water. That’s something I occasionally find myself thinking watching historical drama anyway, “hurry up and invent the tank/helicopter gunship/RPG/atomic bomb”. With such idle musings came the realization that it was time for some time travel.
AIPT: As I was reading issue #1, I kept thinking about how great time travel fiction feels right now given that the world’s still mostly a dumpster fire. How much of that sentiment, if at all, is reflected in the book? Is this a way to cope with our modern s--t-show?
GE: Possibly, although I’ve written stuff in the past couple of years that absolutely embraces the current misery, such as A Walk Through Hell. Marj is certainly 100% hedonistic and doesn’t allow herself to get bogged down with little details like the consequences of her actions. That said, there are other characters who feel quite differently, and she soon comes up against the kind of wrongdoing that even she can’t ignore.
AIPT: What went into deciding the “locations” Marjorie visits? Is it based on what might be most fun/weird, or is there something more to picking, say, ancient Egypt?
GE: I like to think that Marj visits most of the classics, particularly in a rapid-fire sequence in issue #3 where she hits as many of them as she can as fast as she can. But I had a lot of fun with her during the actual time travel sequences, when she’s existing in the time stream itself. That is, in fact, where she lives- hidden away in her own little corner of eternity, along with some of its other denizens.
AIPT: You last worked together as a duo on A Walk Through Hell. How has the collaborative process developed since then — any lessons learned or new insights as a pair?
GE:I already suspected Goran could pretty much handle anything; A Walk Through Hell simply confirmed that. When I offered him Marj I said I hadn’t seen much humor material out of him but I knew he could do it if he was given the chance, and he sent me some stuff he did back in the 90s which fitted the tone of Marj perfectly. We’ve got a pretty good working rapport, of the kind I have with most of my favorite collaborators- he has the insight to know what I’m looking for and what the book should look like straightaway, while at the same time giving me some cool surprises.
AIPT: Despite all the hijinx and craziness, this feels like a hugely human, deeply personal story. What’s the challenge of making a “simple,” more earnest tale of people wrapped around such sugary strangeness?
GE: Like I say, focusing on the characters. You want a cast the audience will want to keep watching, whether it’s someone who’s driving the plot or reacting to other characters’ machinations. Then you can take the story into whatever mad realms that suit you.
AIPT: Why should anyone read this book?
GE: Encoded into the higher mathematical reality of the book’s existence is a temporal anomaly that can only be defused by lots and lots of people reading it. If they don’t, all time will collapse in on itself and reality will be irrevocably doomed. Also, great covers by Andy Clarke.
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