web stats

CSBG Archive

The Greatest Warren Ellis Stories Ever Told!

Every day in May we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!

Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).

Today’s list is the Greatest Warren Ellis Stories Ever Told!


I’ll give you the top five stories that DIDN’T make the Top Ten…

15. Desolation Jones: Out of England

Drawn by JH Williams III, this story follows Desolation Jones, a former government agent (and unwilling test subject, which is how he got the Desolation nickname) who lives in Los Angeles, which is where all the world governments secretly stash their ex-agents, explaining the oddity of LA. Jones gets caught up in a case involving the lost pornographic films of Adolf Hitler.

14. Batman/Planetary: Night on Earth

In this one-shot, the Planetary team of “interdimensional archaeologists” find themselves facing off against Batman, and throughout the story, reality is constantly warped showing Batman as he has appeared in various eras. John Cassaday did the artwork.

13. Transmetropolitan: One More Time

This is the final Transmetropolitan storyline. Art by Darick Robertson.

12. Black Summer

This is Ellis’ tale of a former superhero group pulled out of retirement when one of their own kills the President of the United States. Juan Jose Ryp did the artwork.

11. Transmetropolitan: Year of the Bastard

In this storyline, Spider Jerusalem really gets back into writing about politics, but when he makes enemies of two presidential candidates, he is surprised to learn that he might have actually underestimated one of them. Darick Robertson supplied the art.

10. Nextwave: I Kick Your Face

Ellis and artist Stuart Immonen have the Nextwave gang (a team made up of C to D-List superheroes) go up against more crazy threats, including the secretive head of the evil organization they’re bound to stop, HATE.

9. Global Frequency

Ellis and an all-star roster of artists tell the story of the Global Frequency, a group with about a thousand people ready “on call” whenever their specialties are needed. The stories range from action-packed to thought-provoking, and they’re really not connected except for the shared “operator” of each tale.

8. Planetary: Leaving the Twentieth Century

Another outstanding collection of tales of Planetary, the group of “interdimensional archaeologists” that Ellis and artist John Cassaday use to explore various other fictional characters, while also matched up against the Four, a group who wants to hoard all advanced technology for themselves. This volume 3 shows their problems with the 4 escalate.

7. Stormwatch: Change or Die

Drawn by Tom Raney, Ellis’ Stormwatch was a UN-backed superhero team, but as we see in this arc, the head of the team has done some over-the-top actions all in the supposed best interest of the world, and in this final arc of the first volume of Stormwatch, chickens come home to roost.

6. Fell: Feral City

This is the first volume of Ellis’ detective drama which he does with artist Ben Templesmith. Richard Fell is transferred to the bizarre town called Snowtown, where he finds himself as pretty much the one “real” cop in the city. Can Fell change the city before it changes him?

5. Planetary: The Fourth Man

One of the mysteries of Planetary is who is the fourth man of the team? In this volume, by Ellis and artist John Cassaday, we find out who the Fourth Man is, as well as a bunch of other great one-off tales.

4. Authority: Relentless

From the ashes of Stormwatch came The Authority, a group of widescreen superheroes dedicated to doing what they thought was right – no matter what anyone else thought about it. Drawn by Bryan Hitch, Ellis gives us two monumental arcs in this trade, including a brazen battle against a terrorist that involves, well, dropping a giant spaceship on an island.

3. Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street

Reporter Spider Jerusalem has dropped out – he is finished with society. However, he learns that he HAS to return because he never wrote the books he was contracted to write WHEN he dropped out. Back at his old newspaper, Jerusalem encounters the various oddities and problems of the current bizarre futuristic world of The City. Darick Robertson draws the book.

2. Nextwave: This Is What They Want

A group of not-so-famous superheroes find out that the group that they THOUGHT was a peace-keeping group was actually not so nice, so they break free from the group (called HATE) and steal their list of Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction and devote themselves to stopping those weapons. Stuart Immonen supplies the brilliant artwork.

1. Planetary: Around the World and Other Stories

This is the debut of the Planetary, Ellis and John Cassaday’s group of “interdimensional archaeologists.” Ellis and Cassaday explore various fictional characters through a slightly off-kilter lens.

That’s the list! I’m sure there is a lot of agreement and disagreement with the list out there! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

And please vote for the lists that are still up for grabs here!


Those covers all look suspiciously similar.


May 11, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I love that Planetary trade a lot, but there’s no way it takes all top 15 spots.

Lots of good stuff on there. The most glaring one I haven’t read is Transmet.

I am incredibly surprised that Nextwave ranked this high. I freaking love Nextwave, but I figured people would rank his creator owned books higher than that.

I would have counted the following as one run
All Planetary in order.
All Transmet in order.
All NextWave in order.

I mean, I can understand Batman issue 5 and Batman issue 300 as separate “best Batman Stories”, but the above were either runs that led into each other, or portions of the overall tale. To pick a specific trade out of the run doesn’t make sense in this case.

I dunno, I think in the case of Transmetropolitan it definitely makes sense to pick trades out of the run, because not only were there very distinctive individual arcs in that series, there’s very little written after the election of The Smiler that I would consider remotely worthy of inclusion on this list.

I’m surprised Black Summer made this list and No Hero didn’t, I though that of the two No Hero was the much stronger work, whereas Black Summer felt more dragged-out and extremely predictable. I guess Black Summer does have the more appealing high-concept, though.

Surprised Thunderbolts didn’t rank higher considering it placed on the 100 storylines, but I guess between it and Nextwave, Nextwave wins.

Anyway, I pretty much totally agree with this list (although I’ve lost love for Transmet and would personally rank it lower.)

Planetary won! Awesome.

And I agree with Brian that the Planetary trades should count separately. There is a gradual transition from an anthology format where the team investigates one pop culture genre per issue to a ongoing battle with the Four.

I think the anthology stories are much stronger, and I think most people agree with me. So, the first trades rank higher.

Ellis’ Hellstorm (#’s 11-19) and Druid belongs on this list somewhere.

A solid list, although I might qibble over the TRANSMETROPOLITAN selections. Frankly, TRANSMETROPOLITAN has always struck me as being a bit too much of a Hunter S. Thompson meets Norman Spinrad’s BUG JACK BARRON mashup.

Transmet is a glaring oversight on my list of “Ellis books I’ve read”. Felt weird picking around it so to speak, but ah well. Most of this stuff is not surprising, though my favorite remains his Authority, by a slim margin.

I voted for the two arcs in “Relentless” as separate. How’d that work into voting Brian? Just curious…

This list seems odd to me. Maybe it’s because we had to pick specific storylines which I find can be difficult with stuff by Ellis. He’s very good at writing done-in-ones while having an overarching plot being developed. I think the list would be pretty different had we been asked to vote for series in their entirety.
Still, Ellis has written A LOT of good stuff over the years and I can’t say I wouldn’t recommend any of those 15 stories.

aww no Ellis’ Thunderbolts :/

This is too super hero friendly list. Doktor Sleepless, No Hero and Aetheric Mechanics should be here, and I don’t think Authority and Stormwatch deserve those places, and it seems unfair that Planetary has dominated the list. At least Desolation Jones is there.

[…] Th&#1077 Greatest Warren Ellis St&#959r&#1110&#1077&#1109 E&#957&#1077r T&#959&#406&#1281! | Comics … […]

Well, I like the basic idea of No Hero, of a psychedelic drug that can create superpowers and the evil Tim Leary-like scientist. But…

I think years of reading Ellis and Ennis made me dulled to a certain kind of story they’re fond of. The ultra-cynical kind where everyone is a bastard, all the governments are totally corrupt, superheroes are all hideous in various ways, and everything that could go wrong goes wrong in increasingly overblown ways. And all the horrible stuff happens to people so unsympathetic that you don’t care.

The intent of the story was to horrify, I suppose. But to me, it was not horrifying in the least, it was mildy amusing in a “sigh, let’s see what these crazy kids will do now.” I suppose I’m a little jaded of this kind of story. In 1995, Ruins sort of impressed me with it’s unrelenting darkness. But with each iteration, the Ennis/Ellis ultradark tale impressed me a little less, and No Hero didn’t impress me at all.

I’m liking Supergod, though.

This was one I wanted to vote for, but I kept putting off figuring out which Transmet stories were in which trades (I liked the sniper story, the freakish storm story (which I think was related to the sniper one) and the one-off exploration of cryogenics).

If I had my way Desolation Jones would rank way higher, and Relentless, which I didn’t care for, would be bumped in favour of Ellis’s last Authority arc, ish 9-12, which I thought was pretty cool.

Definitely glad Fell placed well.

I’m not surprised Frankenstein’s Womb didn’t place, but it would have gotten my vote, ’cause I thought it was great.

I am surprised Hellblazer didn’t show up. Wouldn’t get my vote, but I thought that run was pretty well received.

Ew – I probably disagree with this list more than any other so far. Only two of mine made the top ten.

Personally I found Planetary, The Authority and Global Frequency to be merely decent (though to be fair I’ve only read half of The Planetary – waiting for the final trade).

I guess I should just be glad that the rightful winner (Stormwatch: Change or Die) made the list at all.

Oh man! Great stuff on the list, but also a lot of great stuff not on the list, but when it comes to Ellis it’s pretty hard to nail it down. I’d have problems to name five stories he wrote, which I didn’t like.

I made several attempts to vote on this, but found I just couldn’t decide what to put in and/or leave out. After reading the eventual results, two/three things occur to me:
1) I’m surprised there isn’t more love out there for William Gravel.
2) After reading the Planetary/Batman special, I (a) should have put it in my best Batman stories list, and (b) want Ellis to write Batman!

I agree that StormWatch: Change or Die is absolutely amazing (its actually what got me back into reading comics after taking off the mid-90s) but I had a few things above it in my actual list including 2 that didnt even make the top 15, Freakangels vol.1 and the 1st story arc of Doktor Sleepless. I’m very surprised that there was no love for either of them.

Hellstorm. And Druid.


I’m a little disappointed that nobody’s mentioned Ocean (with Chris Sprouse). I found that one rather enjoyable, and less bartardly than much of Warren’s work.

The Ugly American

May 12, 2010 at 8:44 am

Glad no one mentioned his brief run on JLA Classified. That was crap.

Hmm, Orbiter? Gravel? Crecy? Can’t argue with Transmetropolitan being in there serveral times though. More Nextwave is needed :)
Planetary should be one story (aside from the elseworlds like the Batman crossover).

Tried planetary up to 6 or thereabouts..
Wow talk about paper thin plots. (or rather unimaginative riffs) And then those super cool snazzy one-liner characters who dress like total wankers…

And don’t get me started on the Authority…Fluberty, Flubb, Flub.

Ohh, now that I think about Ministry Of Space was also pretty good.

Glad no one mentioned his brief run on JLA Classified. That was crap.

You’ve got that right. Possible the worst thing Ellis has written – though there was some good dialogue in it.

My votes were:
1 – Stormwatch: Change or Die (7)
2 – Stormwatch: Bleed
3 – Fell (6)
4 – Hellblazer: Shoot
5 – Scars
6 – Lazarus Churchyard
7 – Orbiter
8 – Transmetropolitan: Year of the Bastard (11)
9 – Ministry of Space
10 – Transmetropolitan: One More Time

A worthy selection. Perhaps a follow-up piece could be entitled The Great Warren Ellis Stories Never Finished?! A few contenders to choose from there….. Desolation Jones, Fell, newuniversal….. Doktor Sleepless seems to have disappeared too. Any more?

What.. no mention of Warren Ellis’ EXCELLENT run on HELLSTORM (and follow-up in DRUID)??? That’s almost a shameful exclusion, as that early stuff of his was almost pure evil.

Re: The worst thing Ellis has written – I haven’t read the JLA Classified issues he did, but I’m willing to bet that Down (a 4-issue mini he did with Top Cow, I think) or Jack Cross (4-issue mini from Wildstorm) are at least close to it in terms of sheer “WTF? Why is Bizarro-Ellis writing this?!”

I have a lot of love for Ignition City. Really fun book, and alternate history sci-fi pulp Wold-Newtonian Deadwood has to be the greatest freaking pitch in the history of…pitching stuff.

Each and every story on this list is extremely good. Transmet. was one of the best mature comics ever produced and Global Frequency would be my #1 vote for the series of all time i would love to see return, even for a limited series.

Hellstorm and Druid are pretty good indeed.

Sort of a long overdue Vertigo-ization of obscure Marvel magic characters.

I prefer to think of them as level-headed, clear-eyed, non-Shooterized versions of Marvel Magic Characters.

Lord Paradise

May 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

If the two Thunderbolts storylines had been counted together, I bet they would have made the list.

I really loved Orbiter, it’s a shame that didn’t make it. Can’t argue with most of these, though. The man’s written some good comics.

I didn’t care for Fell and Authority is complete shit, IMO. I’d have rather seen Thunderbolts make the cut and I can only assume Planetary Volume 4 didn’t make it due to not being collected yet, because that was the best volume, I thought.

I’m just tickled that voters like Planetary as much as I do — and Nextwave, but I expected that. Never cared much for Transmet myself, but I fully expected it to dominate the list.

Freakangels.com – check it out

[…] a countdown of Warren Ellis’ greatest stories, all of which are worth a look. Categories: […]

I kept waiting to see Crecy on this list!

Short, but a beautiful & incredibly fun story; just like you’re talking to a friend from hundreds of years ago.

For fans of Crecy – Notice the ironic misuse of “cannons” near the end, drawn on one of the many intricate maps. Always makes me shake my head.

Transmet rocked my world, loved that series.

Crecy was #21, I believe, Rob.

If the two Thunderbolts storylines had been counted together, I bet they would have made the list.

Top 15, yes, but not Top 10. And that’s just with adding them together – I bet they’d be even lower if I took away points from people who voted for both.

Also shocked that Crecy was not higher on this list, or Gravel. Best to forget the crapstorm that is Doktor Sleepless.

My 2 cents in the “worst Ellis” debate: Jack Cross gets a bad rap, but really I didn’t find it any worse than one of the early seasons of 24. It was lazy, yeah, but not as terrible as people make it out to be. Down and Tokyo Storm Warning were both pretty shitty, but really nothing can compare to Crooked Little Vein in terms of sheer awfulness.

Did Jack Cross ever finish? I only have two issues.

Worst Ellis for me was “Ruins.” It put me off wanting to read his work for years. So much so that I’m still playing catch up!

My votes:

1 – Black Summer
2 – Aetheric Mechanics
3 – Doctor Sleepless vol.1: Engines of Desire
4 – Thunderbolts – Faith in mosters
5 – No Hero
6 – Hellstorm: Prince of Lies #12 – 14: Red Miracles
7 – Transmetropolitan vol 1
8 – Doctor Strange #80 – 82: Earthquake Logic
9 – Ruins
10 – Hellblazer: Haunted

I’m still holding out hope that Avatar will collect Crecy and a couple of his other prestige format books into one nicely priced TPB. I can’t bring myself to pay

Interesting. Most of these are not ‘Drawn by’ they are ‘Co-Created’ by their respective artist. I’m sure those guys don’t even get as much credit as is given here most of the time, anyway.

Anonymous, Jack Cross got 4 issues, which wrapped its first arc. Issue #4 had a blurb and cover art for issue #5, which never materialized and then the series disappeared.

Freakangels.com – check it out

For reals~

Did Freakangels even place in the top 25?? What about Doktor Sleepless??

I entirely agree with you that Ellis and Ennis lose something when read with the long run in mind; eventually, the tone seems to be cynicism as its own style which feels like a distraction from the actual point of the story. If we start being cynical about the use of cynicism, does that mean the writers have succeeded?

On the other hand, I’d still rather read Ellis and Ennis in this area than Millar, who does pretty much the same thing, but with less finesse.

Kinda hard not to notice that all the Planetary trades are up here except for the last one… which means this list is accurate.
Planetary started stronger than any book I’ve ever read and ended with a light fizzle. Shame, really.

People do know that Ellis stuff from Avatar, etc. (His minor works lets call them) are not read by many people? They sell between 5,000-10,000 per issue and it should not surprise anyone that they are not on his Top 10 list.

All of these lists are just so obvious. At best, maybe a complete newcomer to comics may be intrigued by them. The titles are virtually synonymous with the name. How about something to EXPAND people’s awareness of an artist’s bibliography???

How about something to EXPAND people’s awareness of an artist’s bibliography???

You’re not going to get that from these “greatest” votes, but there are plenty of things like “A Year of Cool Comic Books” to cater for that.

Never liked Ellis’ Stormnwatch or Authority. They lacked depth and did not really cover any new ground. I never understood why people like them so much.

Agree with everything else.

I’m really glad, looking back on this over a year later, that at least one commenter (Dan CJ) mentioned “Lazarus Churchyard”. It’s bizarre, and personal rather than big like his later stuff, but it’s an amazing look into early Ellis and indicative of what he would become. Even if the ending story he wrote for the collection didn’t make any sense.

PLANETARY!!!!!!!!!! And I am so happy to see Fell here too, WHAT an amazing run . BTW there is a #9 that is not collected in the TPB. I wish he’d return to this book, so very well written and drawn.

Ellis is one of the patchiest writers out there, and he has a knack for leaving stories unf-

Having said that, I love Planetary, Global Frequency (underrated – Garry Leach! Come on!) and Fell. Aetheric Mechanics is a mini-masterpiece of mind-bending, meta-fictional madness, with great art, and should be on there. I very much liked Orbiter, too, but some of the characters and overall feel felt a little recycled from previous works.

Ellis’ biggest downfall is his penchant for gratuitous uber-violence. Unneccesary, given his gifts as a writer.

Nextwave annoyed the sh*t out of me.

Leave a Comment



Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives