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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #329

It’s about time this bastard showed up. (Archive.)

11/25/07

329. Warren Ellis

Ellis 1.jpg

Behold your Internet Jesus. And behold his awesome hat.

I’ve intended to write a Reason about the esteemed Mr. Ellis since the very beginnings of this column, but I’ve only just gotten around to it. Not quite sure why, and the results here are seemingly pretty scattershot, but go with it anyway. I’m going to forgo the usual “history” section of the column this time, and talk about the man’s work as a whole. I’d place him as one of the three best comic writers currently working.

No one thinks more about the comics form than Warren Ellis– of that I’m convinced. He’s constantly thinking of new techniques and formats to bring to comics– hell, he invented the Slimline format. He rose to the fore on both decompression and supercompression, and most people give him credit for inventing the “widescreen” comic.

I’d also say that Ellis has developed the most successful “Cult of Personality” of anyone in the comics industry. He’s used the internet to his advantage and networked the hell out of the place through his various forums and newsletters– the BadSignal is quite often fascinating. He no longer has to go out there and look for intriguing or horrible things on the internet– they come to him. This intense interest in technology and its various uses– especially the correlation between new technology and body modification– has become a prevalent motif in Ellis’ work.

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Some would say Ellis’ work is deeply cynical, but I just don’t see it. Look past the harsh surface and into the soft chewy center: deep inside there, there’s a core of optimism. Underneath the hard exteriors and the dirt and the grime and the hellishness of life is that little nugget of hope. I think it’s what gives his writing that extra bit of oomph, and I quite appreciate it. It’s tied into his seemingly endless usage of the “hard bastards who are always right,” but oftentimes they’re the only ones who can achieve justice or reveal that optimism. Spider Jerusalem or John Constantine or Elijah Snow or any of his major characters still has the belief that the world can get better, a little bit at a time.

Some would also say that Warren Ellis hates superheroes, but I think it’s because they’re afraid of new things. Maybe Ellis hates the usual way superheroes are written, but he isn’t above writing them himself. And when he does, he actually thinks about how they’d function, how the world would work– and writes accordingly. He actually follows the thought process through. You don’t get that from most writers.

We shouldn’t forget his excellently crisp dialogue, either. He writes some of the best speech in comics.

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(I’ve lost the name of the artist, unfortunately– this piece came from the Oekaki on the now-defunct Engine forum created by M. Ellis.)

Maybe you think Warren Ellis is a scary, crazy bastard. Maybe he is. He– and his work– seems a little mad, a little evil. Edgy but inspired. Really, though, all he’s looking for is a hug. So go ahead, give him one. Make sure you’ve got a Red Bull in each hand, though, just in case.

He’s the thinking man’s comic writer– and novelist, and columnist, and screenwriter. Ellis does it all, and he doesn’t let anything get in his way. So watch out, lest he hit you with his cane.

You can find Warren Ellis on the internet at his website.

What are your favorite Ellis works? Which of them, in your opinion, deserve Reasons of their own? This week may become Ellis Week, so watch this space.

33 Comments

Also, for the love of Christ send him some haggis. Trust me.

My favorite Ellis work, out of many candidates, remains his eleven-issue run on the mid-90’s Hellstorm: Prince of Lies, and its follow up, the four-issue Druid. Both are full of mad ideas and the great dialogue we’ve come to expect from the Intarwub Jesus.

I’m also fond of Desolation Jones and Planetary

As a comic fan and a historian, I absolutely adore Planetary.

Call me unoriginal, but I’d rate Transmetropolitan as one of the best comics of all time.

It’s probably partly because I’m a journalist (although I couldn’t be more unlike Spider Jerusalem without getting a sex change) but mostly it’s because it’s an incredibly good and engaging comic.

… fine, he’s great, etc; but where the hell is Planetary #27?

Counting down my three favorite Ellis works:

3. Hellstorm: Prince of Lies (happy to see I’m not the only one who remembers this run)

2. Planetary

1. Transmetropolitan

Either Transmet or Planetary deserve a Reason of their own, methinks.

What about his run on ‘Excalibur’???

Planetary, no question.

Global Frequecy was an inspired bit of comic storytelling. I wish it would make a return (the pilot for the tv show wasn’t bad either). Fell is brilliant when it comes out.

I think that is my biggest pet peeve of Mr. Ellis. He seems to stop mid sentence. Desolation Jones? On Hiatus, mid-story. Planetary? Stuck mid-story. Black Gas 2? Same. New Universal? On Hiatus. Fell? Who knows.

It seems like he gets going, then has a new idea and abandons everything else to chase his new idea. ADD does not begin to cover it. How long did it take him to finish his six issues of Iron Man? How long did it take him to finish 3 issues of Wolfskin? How long on Black Gas?

I love the man’s work, but I hate his schedule!

I’m surprised I’d be the first to bring up Nextwave. It’s got some of the best “moments” in comics in a long time.

But Planetary is good. So good. It hurts.

Planetary should be a given. Crecy was really good too.

I apologise in advance for trolling.

But Transmetropolitan is dreadful, cringeworthy Hunter S. Thompson fanfic. I felt embarrassed just to have read the first trade. It was like hearing someone else’s awful teenage poetry.

(Earlier issues of) Planetary and Desolation Jones are all right, though. Even Authority has its appeal, I guess.

Transmet, Planetary, Nextwave and Fell all deserve their own Reasons, although I realise we’re running out of days in the year!

Transmet is my favourite, although I had to think about it.

Jones-

I actually see where you’re coming from, but I’d suggest maybe getting one of the later trades out of the library or something, since that first one is really just introducing the character of Spider- who, you’re right, is remarkably similar to Hunter S Thompson. There’s so much more to the series though- it’s actually a great big science fiction novel that just happens to star Hunter S Thompson-esque character. The real meat of the book is the world it takes place in.

Also, now that we’re less than 40 days off from the full 365, I wonder if anyone has thought about some kind of print collection of these columns? They’d make a great book to dip in and out of.

Hellblazer: Haunted is, to me, his best writing so far. And I’m note talking only about comics, I’m talking about writing.

To talk exclusivily about comics, Global Frequency wins the pot. It’s a god’s work. SOOOO ahead of it’s time it’s not even funny.

Man, I need to read Global Frequency and Planetary and Transmet and…probably half of Ellis’ back catalogue.

I doubt any of them will be able to top Nextwave, though. That book was pure awesome.

Yay Ellis!

Planetary, Planetary and Planetary, in that order.

ian- get ready to have your socks blown off.

Gotta love Transmetropolitan, Stormwatch-Authority, Hellblazer, Global Frequency, Fell, Desolation Jones, Planetary, newuniversal, Ultimate Galactus trilogy.

The Devil knew what he hath sown with his hellspawn!!

;-)

Despite the fact that he occasionally threatens me with brain cancer, I really like his work. For comics, Bad World.

But Crooked Little Vein and the Visor Cam book were good, too.

Nextwave, Fell, Desolation Jones.

Hellstorm blew me away. I had _never_ read a comic book like it, and it made Ellis one of my favorite comic book writers.

Transmet, Planetary, Fell, Orbiter, Stormwatch/ Authority, Global Frequency, and Hellblazer were top notch.

I still haven’t read his most of his Avatar comics. The Avatar “house style” doesn’t do much for me. Were his Aparat books good, or just okay?

planetary – magnum opus, bitch!
global frequency – mmmm, compressed-episodic-revolving-character-imagination dumping-ground

this is up there with Grant Morrison as my fav reason so far. i hope it is ellis week…you didn’t put his bendis powers cameo in :(

I like or love most of Ellis’s work, but add my voice to the detractors of Transmet. I worked hard to get through half of the trades (and it really was work, mostly) but had to give it up. I like the concept, but it is very wordy. Oh yeah, and nothing happens. It’s just a masturbatory wordfest that doesn’t have anything all that original to say. I can see why some people would like that from an admired author, but I just don’t see it.

Reverend David Barnes

November 27, 2007 at 8:28 am

This column is hilarious, ass-slurping sycophancy. Ellis “invented the slimline format” did he? So he ‘invented’ the idea of putting less story pages in a comic? Brilliant.

Ellis has to be one of the most over-rated writers ever to work in comics. His work is as lazy, derivative, and cliched as is his incredibly irritating on-line ‘persona’.

How to write like Warren Ellis:

1) Engage in as much creative profanity as possible in the mistaken belief that this is the same thing as good dialogue. EXAMPLE: “You fuckin’ whorechild! I’ll piss in your fuckin’ eyesockets, you shit swilling, dog raping son of a retarded cockhole!”

2) Rush out derivative sci-fi books by the truckload. Don’t worry if you’re only able to skim through a couple of William Gibson novels to ‘inspire’ you. Noone will care that you use the same ideas and themes over and over. EXAMPLES: Transmetropolitan, Mek, pretty much every other book that bears the name ‘Warren Ellis’.

3) Complain endlessly about how the dominance of superhero titles is strangling the industry and about how Marvel is really just a toy company that happens to print comics before performing a complete about turn to write superhero books for Marvel. Remember, you are doing this ‘for your own amusement’ and not, as some humourless cynics might suggest, because you ‘suck corporate dick if the money’s right’. EXAMPLES: Any Marvel book Ellis has ever written.

4) Adopt the persona of a world-weary literary genius struggling under the weight of your mighty intellect. Grumble constantly about ‘just wanting to be left alone to watch the flowers grow’ and other such syrupy nonsense, whilst simultaneously pimping your corpulent frame to any media outlet that will give credence to your inane ramblings and banal insights. REMEMBER: If there comes a point where you ARE actually ‘left alone’ by everyone, your career is over.
Never, under any circumstances, accept the idea that you are just a hack churning out generic shit for page-rate. Repeat after me: “Life is difficult but romantic. Life is difficult but romantic…”

The Reverend David Barnes: Congratulations, you’ve taught us all the folly of enjoying something you don’t like. Tool.

In any case, Transmet is my favorite comic ever, and I’m slowly but surely completing my collection of everything Ellis has ever written. Good times. Looking back over his bibliography, I’ve especially been impressed with how much he brought to some otherwise throwaway writing gigs like Hellstorm and Doom 2099. Hellstorm, especially, was an amazing run of comics.

Wow, it took way longer than I thought for a raving Ellis hater to pop up. There goes five bucks.

I bet this Reverend used to post as a certain “Dusty” on the Newsarama forums.

Reverand, you’re obviously entitled to yyour opinion, but I must say I find it odd that you’re so passionate and verbose in your hatred.

It’s also funny the way that you know so little about what you’re talking about. Yes, Ellis’s SF shows it’s influences- anyone who’s read any classic SF can see that- but William Gibson isn’t one of the obvious ones. Rudy Rucker, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling, Robert Silverberg, yes. Gibson? Not so much.

And yes, he invented the Slimline format. Slimline being a specific number of pages of comic and a specific number of pages of “backmatter” at a specific price. Show us someone else who’s done a comic in the same format before Ellis.

The Rev sure is pissed. Did Ellis sleep with your sister AND your mom?
As I write this, Transmet’s already been done. One of my favourite comics ever.
Nextwave does deserve a reason.
I’ve only read the first Planetary trade, and I haven’t read any Fell, Desolation Jones or Authority. Need to get my shit together.
I also kind of liked his four issues on Wolverine with Yu. It wasn’t life-changing stuff, but I found it rather enjoyable at the time.

Damn – I’ve never even heard of Hellstorm before….

My favourite Ellis work is Stormwatch, followed by Transmetropolitan.

The Rev sure is pissed. Did Ellis sleep with your sister AND your mom?

Yeah, and then ran over his dog. Seriously, Rev, I’m sorry the man upsets you, but that wasn’t exactly an incisive, well-reasoned, convincing series of arguments, there.

Hetai Yugioh

Hetai Yugioh

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