Warren Ellis

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"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 sometime."
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, expies, 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, Excalibur, and Thor. He moved on to DC and Image, 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 Cyberpunk series Transmetropolitan. The series ran from 1997 to 2002, finishing a 60-issue run and proving one of the best-selling titles on the Vertigo Comics imprint.

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, X-Man, and Generation X) under the "Revolution" banner. While their work on Generation X and X-Man 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 and 24 fame.

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."

However, mainstream comics would call to Ellis, first with a run on Ultimate Fantastic Four, which saw him Rescued from the Scrappy Heap the Ultimate Dr. Doom with a storyline that revealed family ties between Doom and Dracula. Nextwave 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 the recent Iron Man anime series.

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, a novel, Crooked Little Vein, with a second on the way, and the script for an animated Castlevania movie.

He recently finished an ongoing webcomic, Freak Angels, which updated weekly. Another graphic novel of his available online is Superidol. He has noted on his website that April 2012 is the first time in almost fifteen years that he doesn't have some project either in development, due for publishing, or ready to be released, and says that he finds this both strange and refreshing.

Recurring Author Appeal / Author Tracts include nanotechnology, 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.


Notable Works

In England, the word "cunt" is punctuation.

Hank McCoy: I can't fire a gun! I have paws!

Warren Ellis provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Anti-Hero: Type III, IV or V depending on the series. 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.
  • 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.

Superman: J'onn, do you hear me?
Wonder Woman: J'onn, this is Wonder Woman. I need a consultation.
Green Lantern: 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.

    • 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.
  • Author Avatar: Several characters, who shares some of his points of view or thoughts - Eliah Snow in Planetary, Jenny Sparks in Authority, Pete Wisdom in Excalibur and Ultimate Human, Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan
  • 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.

J'onn J'onzz: We're the Justice League. We've beaten up real gods and made them cry. You are nothing to us. (cue League delivering epic smackdown to mind-devouring abomination.)

  • 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.
  • 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 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 Superhero genre, telling what would happen if superheroes were too human (Black Summer), crazy assholes (No Hero) or have no humanity at all (Supergod).
  • Did Not Do the Research: While his Iron Man run is considered very good by a lot of people, Ellis was not very familiar with Iron Man's canon outside of his origin and it shows. Virtually none of the supporting cast shows up or is even mentioned and some things exactly add up with the canon. The most obvious example was when Tony laments how the armor has over the years become too bulky to fit inside his suitcase anymore despite the fact the very suit of armor did exactly that in the last arc before Ellis took over. Ellis however has said his lack of research was intentional, presumably so it wouldn't steer him away from the story he wanted to tell.
    • Subverted (sort of) with Astonishing X-Men. When Ellis asked Marvel executives to give him some issues featuring Forge specifically to do the research about him they gave him issues about short period when Forge's sanity wasn't at its best. As the result Forge went Ax Crazy for no reason save the jelaousy for Storm marrying Black Panther. Even though their relationship ended eons ago and he had long since moved on. Only relative obscurity of both the series and the character prevented it from becoming the second House of M.
  • 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.
  • Doting Parent: One of the main reasons he works in mainstream stuff? So he could buy his daughter a horse.
  • 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.
  • Fan Dumb: 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.)
  • I Want My Jetpack: Warren Ellis desperately does. Every one of his heroes brings up at least once that the world used to be amazing, specifically because we used to do amazing things on a regular basis.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Warren himself and by proxy most of his heroes usually tend to come across as this. In his blog, on the surface he comes off as pretty grumpy, but there are plenty of entries that show he loves his fans, and he is very supportive of many young and independent comic book artists and other creative people, by bringing larger attention to them.
  • Kill It with Fire: his attitude to cooking is described on that page. It includes the phrase "KILL IT DED WITH FIRE YUS".
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: If this is anything to go by.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Will readily admit that this is one of the reasons why he worked on stuff such as Castlevania and G.I. Joe.
  • Name's the Same: Ellis shares the exact 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."
  • One of Us: With his massive internet presence, it's pretty much a given. Also, he's shown somewhat of an interest to Anime, particularly Mushishi and Satoshi Kon films.
  • Papa Wolf: There are legends about how he scared the hell out of people at 4chan who had unhealthy interest in his daughter. To this day people sometimes talk about what he said he's going to do with them if they didn't stop.
    • If we're talking about the same thing, here it is in all it's glory:

I do like those people.
Also, I like their belief that I have more than one cock.
Also, pedotards stay away from my daughter or I’ll smear your tiny dicks off with the sole of my boot.

  • 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 protestors. 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.
  • 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. And he has a tendency to respond to every installment of Kurt Busiek's Marvels with a extremely depressing miniseries.
    • 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 similiar tropes used by editorial mandate to make their worlds closer to our and preventing any changes. Even John Constantine has been criticized for not really changing since his first apperance (oddly Ellis suggested Constantine should become more like Spider Jerusalem).
  • 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.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted - most of his heroes don't have that kind of issues.
  • 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: 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.
  • X Meets Y: His Secret Avengers run is basically Planetary meets G.I. Joe
  • 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).