It's about time this bastard showed up. (Archive.)
329. Warren Ellis
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.
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.
(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.