"Never a dull day, being a magician."Gravel
—Sgt Major William Gravel, Strange Kiss
is a series of Comic Books
All William Gravel has going for him is this: He can learn only by doing things over and over like a dog, he's able to do terrible violence to people and walk away after, he knows exactly how far any given person in a room is from starting something, and he knows where the exits are.
That, and he's a combat mage— one of only around eight he's aware of using his "gift" in such a way. Perfect for Britain's Special Air Service.
Starting life when Warren Ellis
wanted to salvage a supernatural story Marvel rejected for not being "kid friendly", Gravel
the series follows Gravel the man. A member of the SAS like his father was, Bill Gravel is also a chronic "moonlighter", doing cash and carry jobs off the books for extra money. Too valuable to simply be offed for this breach of SAS protocol, he's instead often put on K Duty— deniable ops. The shit the British military needs done off the books. Since it's off the books, it's bad for the Sergeant Major's service record— and thus his pay. Which leads to more moonlighting.
He's also a member of Britain's "Minor Seven", the Occult Detectives that keep things clean while the master mages of the Major Seven... do things beyond mortal knowledge.
In contrast to the strong sci-fi leanings of most of Ellis' work, Gravel deals more directly with his love of the Weird Tales
tradition, such as Lovecraft and his ilk. Ellis and penciler/ co-writer Mike Wolfer tell tales of a Magnificent Bastard
dealing with horrible things Man Was Not Meant to Fuck With
Gravel first appeared in Strange Kiss
#1 (November, 1999). Gravel's story starts in six collected black and white miniseries known as the Strange Killings
books, available as trade paperbacks or collected in the Never a Dull Day
omnibus. He currently appears every six weeks or so in an ongoing Gravel series, now in color. The first collection has been released, and deals with a major shakeup of the British Occult Community. The next arc should be collected soon.
And Ellis is working on the screenplay for a Gravel film.Gravel-Centered Series
- Strange Kiss (1999-2000). 3 issues.
- Stranger Kisses (2000-2001). 3 issues.
- Strange Killings (2002). 3 issues.
- Strange Killings:The Body Orchard (2002-2003). 6 issues.
- Strange Killings:Strong Medicine (2003). 3 issues.
- Strange Killings:Necromancer (2004). 6 issues.
- Gravel (2007-). Still ongoing.
This comic provides examples of:
- Author Appeal: Warren seems oddly fond of telling people how good the British, and especially the British special forces, are at horribly murdering their enemies.
- Badass: Sgt Major William Gravel, SAS Combat Mage
- Badass Longcoat: Gravel's garb of choice, with black shirt and jeans
- Black and Gray Morality: Arguable; Gray and Grey Morality is also a viable call. Gravel sure as hell isn't a white knight. He has ideals— and watch what he does for them.
- Blue-Collar Warlock: Gravel.
- Canon Welding: Another Ellis comic published by Avatar Press, Captain Swing And The Pirates Of Cindery Island, features characters who appear to be ancestors of John Reinhardt and William Gravel.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu? and Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Bill is quite good at this. And later on in the ongoing, we even get Did Bill Just Summon Cthulhu?
- Eldritch Abomination: Multiple examples.
- Idiot Ball: Gravel has ruthlessly killed people even when they aren't a direct threat to him, but what happens when he meets a creepy stalker who wants to join his Minor Seven? He interrogates the guy and finds out that he's a magically talented serial killer who is influenced by the Whitechapel murders and its connection to the occult. Yet rather than slotting the guy, Gravel frees him and warns the murderer to run back to Scotland and never set foot in England again. Naturally the guy is in no mood to comply after getting humiliated like that and this ends up biting Bill in the ass later on.
- Indy Ploy: Several by Gravel. Especially when he's dealing with lying commanders who won't tell him everything.
- Secret Test of Character: Gravel's feud with the Minor Seven? All being watched by the Major Seven, to see if he'd be a suitable replacement for a dead member.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Hard toward cynicism, though it can be argued Bill's own cynicism helps him take care of the real bastards.
- Squishy Wizard: Strongly averted, whenever he doffs his shirt, his fellow SAS commandos look like scarecrows compared to Bill. He's got enough muscles to intimidate Conan and that's under normal circumstances! But all this shoots through the roof when he starts cranking out the magic. When he starts channelling his magic into himself, he has enough super-strength to tear people and monsters in half with his bare hands. Also he can withstand getting impaled in a spiked pit and having his arm cut off (he's also able to use magic to cure holes in him from the imaplement and re-attach his arm).
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: Bill possesses the Sigsand Manuscript. Weird Tales fans, yes— that Sigsand.
- Working Class People Are Morons: Averted by Gravel; while not "book smart", he's anything but an idiot. Actually a bad button to press around him. Ask the old Minor Seven. Oops, he killed them all, and was partly able to due to this assumption. The new Minor Seven Bill's building also seem built to avert and lampshade this trope in many ways. Or ask the Major Seven. Uh, you'll need to hunt down the only other survivor.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: NEVER play this with Gravel...
- X Meets Y: Something like John Constantine meets the SCP Foundation.
"I'm British, you know. Only problem for you is, I don't play fair."