By Steven Smith
Warren Ellis is my messiah. This is not an uncommon geek thought, nor a fairly original one, but one I’m certain has crossed Mr. E’s brain once or twice. And well it should. He is without a doubt my favorite writer, comic or otherwise, and I was a fan before I knew I was a fan.
During my issue to trade paperback buying transition (see also out of college and broke time period) I began reading Warren Ellis. Yes, it was “Transmetropolitan” and yes it’s the most brilliant thing ever. You know this. I devoured it, well up until the trades caught up with the monthly series. Stupid wait time – but all this meant was that in the meanwhile I could peruse every other damn thing he wrote: “Planetary”, “Gravel”, “Desolation Jones” et al. “Lazarus Churchyard” fondled my eyeholes and “Ignition City” has been read and reread and reread. And it was a joy to find out he wrote all of the issues of “Excalibur” I actually liked! Bonus!
Much like Neil Gaiman, I followed him from comics to novels, an endeavor I find fascinating. Comics are the ultimate medium to me. I strongly agree with Scott McCloud and truly enjoy the sequential synthesis between writer and artist. What fascinates me is when the writers dive into full on prose leaving the imagery behind and allowing the reader to become the artist.
Which brings me to “Gun Machine”, Warren Ellis’ latest opus, which has already become a New York Times Bestseller. It’s an amazing left turn tale where few police and crime scene procedurals venture. As one who sincerely hopes this is the final year of anything “C.S.I.N.C.S.V.U.”- related on television, “Gun Machine” is where the genre should evolve – take note FX, this is primed and ready for episodic television (AMC will just screw it up.) Now this is not a review but more of a fanboys’ take on that wondrous instance when he can follow his favorite comic book writer emerge into the mainstream.
Now Warren would say he’s always been part of the mainstream as he is a popular writer who makes a living doing what he loves. He’s had movies made based on his comics (“Red 2” trailer out today), TV series optioned (“Global Frequency”, what happened?), and turned “G.I.Joe” on its ear with “Resolute” a few years ago (rough way to go Major Bludd). Warren is part of pop culture, whether you have heard of him or not. Much in the way a lot of people know “Coraline” and not Neil Gaiman. Neil’s path from comics to novels to now spoken word performing and touring is one I hope Warren emulates, if he can make himself travel.
I’ve never met Warren Ellis, but he is without a doubt the top of my list and pretty much a Nostradamus given the bizarre parallels between “Transmetroplitan” and today’s world (super storms, makers, Paul Ryan). His brain absorbs new technologies (Warren was online when many of us thought that meant queuing up at a bodega.) and his auteur tendencies lean toward his frequent writing point of the flow information and history as almost living entities. His magnificent anti-hero and downright bastard Spider Jerusalem thrived on the flow of information and that the truth is paramount. He is labeled science fiction but all of his tales involve the big reveal of something veiled in secrecy. In fact, my one and only interaction with Mr. Ellis was in 2010 while working the Grammy red carpet for Myspace, I remarked to the band MGMT how, though they said they felt like outsiders at the event because they weren’t mainstream, Warren Ellis says “the underground is now the mainstream.” The band had no idea what I was talking about but the great sage did and he was watching.
Steven Smith wishes he had more time to read, his weekly podcast Going Off Track’s new episode is up right now with Fred Armisen (yes, that Fred Armisen,) and is seriously considering changing his last name to Jerusalem. Odd.