"Alan Moore once told me he works the nine-pic grid because it's cinematic. I told him I work the six-grid pic because it's television. I should think more on that some time."
— Warren Ellis
Warren Ellis is a British author of comic books. He is known for introducing transhumanist elements to his books, and for complex stories, including Continuity Nods
, and Lawyer Friendly Cameos
. Like other Britwave authors, Ellis often operates as a one-man Deconstructor Fleet
He began working for Marvel Comics
in the mid-nineties, on titles such as Hellstorm
, Marvel 2099
, and Thor
. He moved on to DC
, writing for Stormwatch
and then spinning that series off into The Authority
, the title which gained Ellis his first real notoriety.
The comic, with characters created by Ellis, featured Black and Gray Morality
, Violence Really Is the Answer
, and This Is Your Premise on Drugs
, all of which would come to be featured in his increasingly popular future series.
However, this series is rather more Anvilicious
than the later variants. The Authority
also featured an expansive and epic art style Ellis dubbed "widescreen comics" as well as inspiring the Decompressed Comic
movement, which Ellis would later avert in Fell
Ellis then began the work for which he is most famous, the Hunter S. Thompson
inspired Cyber Punk
. The series ran from 1997 to 2002, finishing a 60-issue run and proving one of the best-selling titles on the Vertigo Comics
During Transmet, Ellis also wrote another original series, Planetary
, and did a stint on Hellblazer
. He also went back to Marvel, along with Steven Grant, Ian Edginton, and Brian Wood with the intent to revamp several poor selling X-Men satellite books (X-Force
, and Generation X
) under the "Revolution" banner. While their work on Generation X
gained critical praise (X-Force
was panned), sales didn't improve enough and both books were cancelled as part of the 2001 purging of the X-Men spin-offs.
Ellis would return to his creator-owned work, most notably Global Frequency
, a 12 issue creator-owned miniseries that garnered critical praise and was remade as a (failed) TV pilot starring Michelle Forbes of Star Trek: Next Generation
With major writing talent behind it (including J. Michael Straczynski
), the pilot was leaked onto the internet when the network refused to air the pilot to build interest in the series. As 'punishment', the network scrapped the show, despite considerable positive internet buzz. Recently, the CW has announced it is resurrecting Global Frequency
for television, with Scott Nimerfro in charge of scripting.
Ellis went back to creator-owned comics, doing a string of mini-series projects for Avatar Press
, a company primarily known for soft-core porn comics... until Ellis arrived and was given free reign to produce such titles as Black Summer
, with Juan Jose Ryp
. Now they're "The guys who print those awesome Warren Ellis comics no sane publisher would touch with a cattle prod.
He also created Apparat Singles Group
, his own line of comics that he feels fill an empty niche in the mainstream: pulp adventure.
However, mainstream comics would call to Ellis, first with a run on Ultimate Fantastic Four
, which saw the Ultimate Dr Doom Rescued from the Scrappy Heap
with a storyline that revealed family ties between Doom and Dracula
starred a team of super rejects, including Machine Man, the second Captain Marvel, Boom Boom, fighting evil terrorists, Fin Fang Foom, Baby Modoks, and a super-intelligent super-terrorist version of Devil Dinosaur in a Crazy Awesome
satire of the form of crazy Widescreen Comics that Ellis popularized. He followed it up with a critically acclaimed run on Thunderbolts
. He also wrote the critically acclaimed Iron Man: Extremis
, which formed the basis for both the recent Iron Man anime series and Iron Man 3
His recent works include the spy comic Desolation Jones
, a film adaptation of which is currently in Development Hell
, and Fell
, a Black and Gray Morality
detective series. He took over Joss Whedon
's X-Men reboot Astonishing X-Men
after Whedon left, but left after 10 issues and a mini-series.
He has also worked in other media, with two novels, Crooked Little Vein
(2007), and Gun Machine
(2013), and the script for an animated Castlevania
He recently finished an ongoing webcomic, FreakAngels
, which updated weekly. Another graphic novel of his available online is Superidol
. He noted on his website that April 2012 was the first time in almost fifteen years that he didn't have some
project either in development, due for publishing, or ready to be released, and said that he found that both strange and refreshing.
Recurring Author Appeal
/ Author Tracts
, evil corporations
, space exploration
, people behaving badly
, as well a rather unsympathetic view of America
. None of the above makes his work any less inherently readable.
Also known as one of the very few British comic writers to have never worked on 2000 AD
, though it's certainly not out of disgust.Not to be confused with
the Warren Ellis who plays violin for The Bad Seeds
Tropes associated with Warren Ellis and his works:
- Anti-Hero: Spider Jerusalem is easily one of the morally (definitely not socially) nicest, and he will shoot the President with a gun that makes him shit himself, then un-pawn a child's stuffed animal.
- Artistic License Ė Biology: After he explained the difference between normal and artificial mutants (or were they mutants from alternate reality? Probably both) in his first Astonishing X-Men story, people at Scans Daily pointed out that genetics don't work that way. Ellis admitted his mistake.
- When Ellis wrote Iron Man: Extremis, he explained the eponymous magic bullet (a single injection which would turn ordinary mortals into supermen) as a "Data package contained in a few million carbon nanotubes, injected directly into the brain". The information package would then rewrite the repair center in the brain — that is, the part of the brain which keeps a complete 'map' of our organs and functions. "The brain is telling the body is wrong"... and it compliantly changes according to the Extremis instructions. Perhaps needless to say, there is no "repair center" (although the "sensory homunculus" seems a little bit like what is described). Later writers retconned Extremis into a viral package, which is at least borderline believable.
- And in Supergod it is a point that "mushrooms only grow on dead things". Which, well, they do not.
- Atheism: Ellis does not believe in God or gods, nor do most of his characters. Especially his Author Avatars like Spider Jerusalem.
- Attention Deficit Creator Disorder: It varies, but this often turns out to be a good thing; some of his best work is stuff he came up with and wrote while he was supposed to be writing something else. Avatar Press probably has a red phone just for him: "What's that, Mr. Ellis? You want to have SuperIron Man kill the POTUS? Shoot it on over and we'll print a run, see how the fans like it. We'll keep the presses warm, too, because they probably will."
- Author Appeal: New Media. His run of JLA Classified is basically an Expy of Global Frequency - the Leaguers simultaneously find something so weird their brains go blue-screen, so they all call up Martian Manhunter telepathically. He then calls up Oracle of the Bat-clan, who powers up all her computers and digs in.
: J'onn, this is Wonder Woman. I need a consultation.
: J'onn, this is Green Lantern. I could use some extra brains here.
Martian Manhunter: I Hear You All. This is J'onn J'onzz on the Lunar Watchtower, activating the Justice League Telepathic Link.
Oracle: This is Oracle in the Gotham Watchtower. Information mining system on.
You Are On The Global Frequency. Justice League Is Go.
- Secret Avengers also bore a lot of similarities to Global Frequency, complete with "mini-teams" similar to the GF teams.
- He's also very interested in space-flight, trans-humanism and the Singularity, all of which tend to pop up in his works to some degree.
- Nanomachines and corrupt mega-corporations pop up all over the place in his work.
- Many of Ellis's protagonists are partially or wholly defined by their addictions: smoking, drinking, coffee, etc. To listen to him talk on his various blogs and newsfeeds, Ellis himself isn't far behind them; he's unsuccessfully attempted to quit smoking several times, drinks enough caffeine to kill a buffalo, and really likes his whisky. It is arguably not an accident that many of his best-known original characters are also chain-smokers.
- Author Avatar: Pete Wisdom both in Excalibur, and later in Ultimate Human. Curzon, the British detective in his run on The Mighty Thor. Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan. The Wildstorm Universe has at least two: Planetary has Elijah Snow, and The Authority has Jenny Sparks.
- With Pete, it actually gets fairly weird, considering Wisdom goes on to take Kitty Pryde's virginity, when Kitty was, at the time, only just turning 18 (and even there, it was Ellis who established her as such, as her actual age wasn't clear before and previously she'd been depicted as 13-15). It leads to some really weird implications considering he fully admits Wisdom being an Author Avatar.
- Author Filibuster: Related to author avatar above, as the said characters are always ready to explain at length their views, sometimes at odd moments.
- Badass Boasts followed by Crowning Moments Of Awesome: Ellis knows how a superhero battle goes down.
- Berserk Button: Holy shit, does he hate dogs. Ellis will rant about this on his website or Twitter if given an excuse, but he finds a lot of reasons in his work for dogs to die in ways that he finds funny: accidentally crushed underneath a falling unconscious goon, "culled" for being feral and sentient, infected with a zombie gas, etc.
- Beware the Superman: He has to like this trope very much - Black Summer, No Hero, Supergod are all about it, echoes of it can be found in Planetary, Authority and Thunderbolts, and one of his first Stormwatch stories quoted it explicitly.
- Black and Gray Morality: Many of his titles.
- Black Comedy: As a result of the above.
- Composite Character: Ultimate Pete Wisdom, introduced in Ellis' Ultimate Human is a mix of mainstream Wisdom, Neil Burnside, and Hulk's enemy, The Leader.
- Characterization Marches On: Following the direction Joss Whedon took Cyclops, Ellis ignored Badass Decay the character has been subjected to by other writers, and wrote him true to the spirit of Chris Claremont's portrayal, who'd always seen Summers as "a Heinlein character". Maybe even took it step further, as he admitted trying to make Scott Batman with eye beams. (Opinions vary one whether it was this trope or Scott simply taking a level in Jerkass.)
- Deconstruction: He wrote a whole trilogy which is deconstructing Super Hero genre, telling what would happen if superheroes were too human (Black Summer), crazy assholes (No Hero) or have no humanity at all (Supergod).
- Doing It for the Art: Pretty much his entire work on Avatar Press. While their sales are extremely miniscule in comparison to even the most unpopular mainstream comic, Ellis manages to publish some of his most distinctive work for Avatar.
- Eagleland: Any of Warren's works set in America will feature people who are either selfless, heroic martyrs, or abusive, misanthropic jackasses; and locations ranging from a splendid New York City to the most rundown trailer park imaginable. Ellis has said in Q & A's that his feelings on America are mostly that while he thinks it is the greatest country in the world, he also feels it has the potential to be far greater, and is annoyed by this.
- Somewhat inverted in his Secret Avengers run: Americans ends up being the only people moral enough to step in and stand up for some African villagers being hunted and abducted, and in the end of the issue it turns out the ones responsible for the abductions were all British, with Steve suspecting they may have government ties.
- Executive Meddling: Averted when he wrote GI Joe: Resolute. According to him, the Hasbro executives were generally easy to work with and while they didn't allow Cobra Commander to wipe out Beijing as his original plan, they let him wipe out Moscow.
- Expy: Eli Warren, created by Kieron Gillen in his Iron Man run, shares a name, an accent, an appearance and an obsession with Transhumanism with Ellis. (Of course, given that he lives in the Marvel Universe, he's more inclined to act on that obsession...)
- Fandumb: The consistent belief that Ellis 'hates' superheroes. Often due to people looking at something like The Authority (when Ellis' run was much, much less severe than say, Mark Millar's) and getting the wrong impression entirely. Either that, or they confuse him with Garth Ennis.
- A column from Ellis shows that it's not that he hates superheroes, but rather that he never grew up with them the same way other comic fans did. Thus, his view on characters like Batman or Superman would mirror how a man would suddenly discover manga or pulp comics.
- See this very page for many repetitions of the idea that Planetary #8's John Constantine Expy was transformed into Spider Jerusalem by Ellis. Word of God is that Ellis' intent was to have the character turn from John Constantine into King Mob. It was Cassaday who decided to keep going and make him Spider. (Not that Ellis didn't enjoy the idea, but it wasn't his.)
- The Government: Often opposing and critical of it. In particular, Ellis seems to like having the president of the United States of America killed or at least disgraced in his works.
- They're also hilariously ineffective, as seen in The Authority and Planetary; In the former, no government or political power can stand against the threats he lines up, and in the latter, the world's progress is actually controlled and allowed to progress at a snail's pace by an evil pastiche of a popular superhero group.
- Also in Global Frequency, where The Government has usually created the threat of the week but fucked it up to such a degree that they're unable to handle it when it gets out of control, and thus have to rely on the global civilian network to clean up their messes.
- Knight in Sour Armor: His favored protagonists tend to be world-weary and cynical chain-smokers living in Up to Eleven Crapsack Worlds who nevertheless possess rigid moral cores and a commitment to doing the right thing despite themselves.
- The Mentor\ Team Dad: Kind of is this among current Marvel writers - several important creators hired by House of Ideas right now admit being influenced by Ellis - Kieron Gillen learned scriptwriting from his scripts, Brian Michael Bendis calls him his favorite writer, Jonathan Hickman, Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue De Connick were frequent users of his fanforums and he introduced Brian Wood as his protege in the 90s.
- Name's the Same: Ellis shares the same name with an Australian music artist who frequently works with Nick Cave. It's gotten to the point that several times a year he posts and Twitters a message that usually goes along the lines of "Once again: I am NOT the Warren Ellis who plays with Nick Cave. I am a comic book writer."
- Ellis claims that he occasionally gets phone calls from a drunken Blixa Bargeld (a bandmate of the other Ellis), making this same mistake.
- No Ending: A fair few of his shorter works don't end so much as they stop.
- Random Events Plot: Ellis admitted that his Ultimate Comics Armor Wars miniseries was just essentially Marvel paying him for his Stream of consciousness writing. The result? Tony Stark beating on, in order - Dr. Wily with a MODOK in his head. Doctor Frankenstein in power armor. Master Chief ripoffs in the process of doing what the MC was canonically designed to do - slaughter protesters. And finally, Howard Stark, Sr. AKA "Ernest Borgnine in an ill-advised love triangle with farming machinery and the wreckage of a Lincoln Continental".
- Schedule Slip: When reading his ongoing work, prepare to wait months, if not years, for the next issue to come.
- According to Ellis via his message board, his main writing computer and backups failed back in late 2007 (the computer going out in a puff of smoke soon after the backups died), and the data-recovery company that he sent his hard drives to promptly vanished off the face of the Earth after the owner died while on an operating table in Europe and the employees scattered to the four winds, leaving behind only a boarded up empty space where the offices used to be. Many of Ellis's current projects were on those hard drives, including Fell and newuniversal. He has since then set up a FAQ thread on the Whitechapel forums where he explains the fate and (possible) future of many of his projects that were directly affected by the crash.
- Shown Their Work: Whether he's writing about bleeding-edge speculation about physics, biology, and technology; world history; or the characters of an established Shared Universe, Ellis demonstrates a knowledge of even obscure or minor details.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Generally pretty cynical though to what extent varies from story to story. There's often a small glimmer of hope at very least, regardless of how dark the plot is. His Avatar Press Superhero trilogy is notable for veering hard right into the furthest reaches of the cynical side of the scale, all ending in a complete Downer Endings.
- Spiritual Antithesis: Ellis himself put his Black Summer in contrast with Mark Millar's Civil War, saying that latter is watered-down vision of conflict between superheroes and government and the former is what would really happen. He also responded to Kurt Busiek's Marvels with a extremely depressing miniseries called "Ruins".
- His Switchblade Honey is this to Star Trek - it shows a future where the exploration of space is handled by a bunch of insane egomaniacs, which leads to a war with a much more powerful enemy, which humanity is losing. Heroic idealists, who would become great heroes of Starfleet in Star Trek, here end up in prison for opposing the corrupted system.
- Status Quo Is God: Criticized a lot, especially in Planetary, which really strongly criticizes Reed Richards Is Useless and similar tropes used by editorial mandate to make their worlds closer to ours and preventing any changes. Even John Constantine has been criticized for not really changing since his first appearance (oddly Ellis suggested Constantine should become more like Spider Jerusalem).
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted - most of his heroes don't have those kind of issues. There's an oddly frequent idea in his work, that some people contribute nothing to the world but sorrow and thus need killing. It's most clearly articulated in the Hong Kong issue of Planetary.
- He occasionally causes controversy when he does work for hire, because Ellis flatly refuses to write a character with an iron-clad code against killing. The closest he comes is Swift in The Authority, who under his pen will kill if necessary but doesn't want to. (This was not a trait that later writers adopted.) There was a mild controversy after Ellis's first issue of Secret Avengers, after he had Hank McCoy make an impossible choice: either use an improvised dirty nuke to kill a few hundred members of the Shadow Council, or lose the city of Cincinnati to a weaponized time machine. Hank picked the first one, but not without comment or complaint.
- Took a Level in Badass: It may sound impossible, but he made Iron Man take one.
- As a matter of fact, it transpires that this was, if not impossible, than at least hard to swallow: in order to make Stark more badass, Ellis first made him a bitch. Extremis in a nutshell - a Right Wing Militia Fanatic shoots up with Nanomachines, and the resulting Hulk-level sociopath Curb Stomps him. The hero who once flew a nuclear reactor the size of a city block in the process of meltdown out to sea ends up in severe danger of being killed by a redneck using a car as an improvised sledgehammer. Stark survives to shoot up on nanomachines himself, enabling him to plug his brain into a brand-new suit, then goes back in swinging an earthmover bucket like a foam rubber bat.
- Also, Ellis' Doc Samson was probably the most spot-on compelling portrayal that the character has ever received. It would have been awesome to see more Ellis work starring the literally ragingly ethical Balls of Steel bruiser psychiatrist. Just say that Loeb's version was a clone, life mode decoy android, an anal Skrull, one of those alternate universe tourists that Dan Slott introduced, or somesuch. It didn't get the history straight anyway.
- Trenchcoat Brigade: Ellis seems to love the hell out of John Constantine, given that a chunk of his characters are essentially Expies of him.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Thunderbolts during Ellis' run were so popular they had their own line of toys.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Authority and Doktor Sleepless.
- Writer on Board: Often very unsubtle about his opinions. If he writes a Take That, you'll probably know it.
- Writing for the Trade: Averted as all hell. While noting that he probably has more trades out than any other writer (it's not uncommon for comic book shops to have an entire shelf of his work), Warren has strived to make his comics such as Fell, Planetary, or Global Frequency as self-contained within each issue as possible.
- You Keep Using That Word: In at least two instances (JLA Classified: New Maps of Hell and Planetary), Ellis has used "ancestors"(those you're descended from) when the text clearly should have used "descendants"(those descended from you).