Information may want to be free, but there's a certain intrigue in holding it captive against its will. "Anna Mercury," Warren Ellis's latest adventure in what he calls "weird pulp action," debuts in April from Avatar Press. The particulars of the series are shrouded in as much mystery as the titular heroine herself. Is she real? Is she right? How and why might she save the world? CBR News spoke with Ellis about the Facundo Percio-illustrated series, providing a few clues as to what to expect-but only a few.
The writer of such lauded series as "Transmetropolitan" and "Planetary," Ellis is impenetrably coy about the nature of "Anna Mercury's" characters and plot. Avatar's press releases and solicitation information reveal that Anna "fights against the political repression of an insane technocratic society," but beyond that the writer won't say much. Asked why this heroine is so disenfranchised with her world, Ellis simply told CBR News, "Because she doesn't live in the real world some of the time. Well, she lives in the real world. But she works somewhere else. Does that make any sense? Probably not to you. It makes sense to me. But I speak to computers and believe I hear them speak back to me from the future."
Ellis was willing to reveal slightly more about the particular "insane technocratic society" that will be on view in "Anna Mercury," which will be distinct from other such futures-gone-wrong seen in "Doktor Sleepless," "Transmetropolitan," and elsewhere throughout the writer's work. "Something very large separates our world from 'Anna Mercury,'" Ellis said. "But I'm not telling you what it is. Now, there was an event that set this world, the cities of New Ataraxia and Sheol, on the particular path illustrated in this 'Anna Mercury' book. It happened on October 28, 1943. I'm sure a few moments with Google would throw up one or two interesting events that occurred on that date. That said, it's not the breakpoint that created the weird society of New Ataraxia that we see in the opening scenes of 'Anna Mercury.'
"I'm really, really not giving away the plot, am I? Hell, the population of New Ataraxia -- a place that's a dirty, 1950s-style science fiction metropolis full of electrical sparks, oily smoke, magnetic rails and riveted steel -- don't know much about Anna either. A lot of them don't even think she's real and assume she's been made up by the newspapers
who are otherwise not best placed to speak against the technocratic ruling Ministries.
"But here's a thing," Ellis continued. "Why doesn't anyone in New Ataraxia recognize Anna's accent? She appears to speak perfectly normal English. And why does she care that New Ataraxia has raised a weapon with which to destroy the neighboring island city of Sheol? Why does she seem to act responsible for it?"
Given that many of Ellis's projects develop as an attempt to push comics forward in some unexpected way-such as the pared-down format of "Fell" or revitalizing neglected genres in the Apparat line- the goal or aim of each new title may be as significant as the outward description of plot or characters. "I think of 'Anna Mercury' as having bigness," Ellis said. "Which, like 'embiggen,' may not be a word. But, yes, bigness. It has degrees of scale. When I was a kid, I read the 'Lensman' novels of EE 'Doc' Smith. The prose and details are, as you might expect of a germinal science fiction sequence from the 1930s, kind of painful. But it has levels of scale. The events get bigger, in steps. It's like one long zoom-out, step by step, until you have this massive new science-fiction mythology played out on a universal scale. I wanted to do something that had scale; that zoomed out to reveal a huge sprawling new mythology-- but approached with sophistication and a high level of invention. When I'm drunk, I tell my computer that it's called 'NewPulp.' I don't mention that to other people, of course, because they'd laugh at me. I also, obviously, don't tell people I talk to my computer."
While waiting for the mysteries of "Anna Mercury" to unfold in April, fans will, as ever, have several other new stories from the prolific writer to hold their attention, including the free web comic "Freak Angels," which debuts this week. In the longer term, Ellis mentioned a possible return to the Apparat line. "I currently have ideas for, I think, three or four more Apparat graphic novellas in active development," Ellis said. "I'm finding myself getting more and more interested in historical work, both fiction and non-fiction, and three of the ideas are historical pieces. Also, those three are very much English pieces." Last year, Avatar published Ellis's "Crécy" one-shot, a comic that is both historical and very English, under the Apparat banner.
"I've spent a long time as a chiefly 'Americo-centric' writer, and I'm enjoying having the time to get back to my roots a bit."
Now discuss this story in CBR's Indie Comics forum.