Ennis began his comic-writing career in 1989 with the series Troubled Souls. Appearing in the short-lived but critically acclaimed British anthology Crisis and illustrated by John McCrea, it told the story of a young, apolitical Protestant man caught up by fate in the violence of the Irish 'Troubles'. It spawned a sequel, For a Few Troubles More, a broad Belfast-based comedy featuring two supporting characters from Troubled Souls, Dougie and Ivor, who would later get their own American comics series, Dicks, from Caliber in 1997, and several follow-ups from Avatar. Ennis was later critical of his writing debut, which he describes as "the kind of thing that was doing well at the time. (...) With hindsight, what Troubled Souls really represented was naked ambition. It was a direct attempt to get published. And that was the road that seemed most likely to lead me to success".
Another series for Crisis was True Faith, a religious satire inspired by his schooldays, this time drawn by Warren Pleece. Like the two Troubles stories it was collected as a graphic novel in 1990, but religious protests led to it being quickly withdrawn from sale, apparently on the orders of publisher Robert Maxwell. It was later republished in 1997 by Vertigo.
Ennis shortly after began to write for Crisis' parent publication, 2000 AD. He quickly graduated on to the title's flagship character, Judge Dredd, taking over from original creator John Wagner for a period of several years. Ennis's most notable Dredd stories include Muzak Killer (a pastiche of mainstream pop music), Emerald Isle (a tongue-in-cheek story set in Ennis's native Ireland), and the twenty-part epic Judgment Day. Ennis also contributed the surreal Time Flies (with artist Philip Bond), dealing with time travel paradoxes and Nazis.
The Americas and Beyond....
Ennis' first work on an American comic came in 1991 when he took over DC Comics' horror title Hellblazer, which he wrote until 1994. Steve Dillon became the regular artist during the second half of Ennis's run. The creative partnership established went on to create Preacher. From 1993 to 1995 Ennis and John McCrea worked on another DC title, The Demon, during which they introduced super-powered contract killer Tommy Monaghan, also known as Hitman, whose own series would allow their creative partnership to continue when The Demon ended. Towards the end of the initial Hellblazer run, Ennis and Dillon collaborated on a one-shot called Heartland, exploring one of the secondary characters of their run. Several years after leaving, Ennis briefly returned for the five-part Son of Man story with artist John Higgins. He has stated : "I find most superhero stories completely meaningless. Which is not to say I don’t think there’s potential for the genre – Alan Moore and Warren Ellis have both done interesting work with the notion of what it might be like to be and think beyond human, see Miracleman, Watchmen and Supergods. But so long as the industry is geared towards fulfilling audience demand – ie, for the same brightly colored characters doing the same thing forever – you’re never going to see any real growth. The stories can’t end, so they’ll never mean anything. "As a World War II aficionado, he finds characters like Captain America "borderline offensive, because to me the reality of World War II was very human people, ordinary flesh-and-blood guys who slogged it out in miserable, flooded foxholes. So adding some fantasy superhero narrative, that has always annoyed me a little bit." Although he has written a number of superhero stories, Ennis has tried to "subvert" the genre as well as he could. He does, however, like Superman and Wonder Woman.
Marvel, MAX and More
In 1995 Ennis wrote the first one-shot special Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe, where the Punisher kills every single superhero and supervillain on Earth.
After the end of Hitman, Ennis was hired at Marvel Comics with the promise from Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada that he could write The Punisher as long as he cared to.
The initial 12-issue maxi-series was illustrated by Steve Dillon, who also did a 37-issue series (even illustrating it and co-writing an issue while Ennis briefly stepped down as writer) which only ended when Ennis decided to change direction. Instead of largely comical tone of these issues, he decided to make a much more serious series, re-launched under Marvel's MAX imprint. This run has inspired several limited series (such as Born and Barracuda) and one-shots (The End, The Cell, and The Tyger).
The creators of Punisher: War Zone have attributed Ennis' Punisher MAX run as one of the major influences on the film. While at Marvel, Ennis also wrote stories for Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Hulk, and Thor.
In 2008 Ennis ended his five-year run on Punisher MAX to debut a new Marvel title, War Is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle. The limited series, with artist Howard Chaykin, features the little-used character Phantom Eagle, a World War I pilot who originally appeared in Marvel Comics during the 1960s.
Mini Return to Marvel
Ennis returned to Marvel, reuniting with artist Goran Parlov, with Fury: My War Gone By in 2013. In keeping with Ennis's subversion of superhero tropes, the MAX series stripped Nick Fury of his more science fiction trappings in favour of real-world military and CIA situations, centering on the First Indochina War.
He also wrote a 5 issue series for Marvel, Where Monsters Dwell, as part of the Secret Wars event.
- Ennis is a resolute atheist and an enthusiastic student of the history of World War II.
- An avid reader of British war comics during his formative years, Ennis did not read superhero comics until his late teens, at which point he found them ridiculous.
- He has said the only superheroes he likes are Superman and Wonder Woman, whom he always makes a point of writing respectfully.
- Lives in New York City.
- He is a huge fan of Judge Dredd.
- Often works with artist Steve Dillon.
- Ennis is also known for his lack of fondness for superhero stories and characters, the dominant style of the American comic book industry. He prefers more "grounded" characters such as the Punisher or Nick Fury.
- His work has won him a good deal of recognition in the comics industry, including nominations for the Comics Buyer's Guide Award for Favorite Writer in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
- In 2002, an interview with Ennis was published in Writers on Comic Scriptwriting.
- In 2011 Ennis wrote and directed a short film, Stitched, produced to drum up support for a possible feature and to promote the Avatar series of the same name.
- Preacher, the AMC series adapted from his comic of the same name, premiered in 2016.