There must be something in the water, over across the
Atlantic. How else do you explain it -- four of the ten reasons to pick up comics
come from the British Isles? Really, between Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Neil
Gaiman and Warren Ellis (not to mention Alan Moore and Mark Millar, who would
have made the list if there were twelve reasons), you have enough writing treasures
to last at least a month or so on a deserted island...
The thing about Ellis, though, is that he has nearly
single-handedly made science fiction cool in the comics industry. While Ennis
has his fascination with World War II and the American Wild West, and Gaiman
has the realms of fantasy and dream, Ellis has brought back the idea of bigger-than-life,
mind-boggling concept to power his books. From Transmetropolitan to Planetary,
Ellis rewards the intelligent among us.
"In Transmetropolitan Warren Ellis has
put passion and commitment back into adult graphic SF. With righteous anger,
compelling action and a tasty touch of modern cyberpunk sensibility, Transmetropolitan
reminds us of what SF and the Fourth Estate should be about -- and does it!"
-- Michael Moorcock
Ellis first came to public attention doing work for
Marvel, writing Excalibur, Ghost Rider (a single issue), Dr.
Strange (a single issue), and others (including the most brilliant and brutal
treatment of Hellstorm ever). He also did some work for DC, but really
gained notoriety with Transmetropolitan, a long-running limited series
bearing the Vertigo imprint. The story follows Spider Jerusalem, a journalist
who cannot write unless he is in the city that he hates. It is a fantastic story,
filled with cynicism, techno punk imagery and an utter bastard of a lead character
-- definitely worth tracking down.
Ellis also wrote the first eight issues of DV8, characters
created by Jim Lee, very similar in some respects to Gen13. However,
Ellis' work was characteristically dark, his violent storylines offset (perhaps
too much) by Humberto Ramos' manga-style pencils. Around this time, though,
he quietly took over the flagship Image title Stormwatch, and while few
people seemed to notice (as the book, like so many other Image titles, had gained
a reputation as style over substance), this was the beginning of one of the
biggest books in recent years.
Stormwatch came to an end after shortly after
introducing characters that would become the grown-up, seedy nightclub version
of the Justice League: The Authority. As written by Warren, and later
Mark Millar, this was the superhero genre the way it was meant to be. The heroes
were proactive, not afraid to kill, and powerful beyond belief. The characterization
and dialogue were brilliant, the situations age-old but with a twist. Further,
Warren showed his true strength, detailing the book with a science-fiction coat
that unified many of his ideas. And the leads? Utter bastards that you can't
help but root for.
Lastly (but most certainly not least) is Planetary.
The first few covers made it appear to be another super team, out to right the
wrongs of the world. In some ways (albeit the most transparent), this is true.
However, Planetary is more appealing to the fan of X-Files or
The Matrix than Spider-Man. The book (sporting numerous references
to the Authority storyline, to boot) is filled with mysteries, international
conspiracies, science fiction elements, and more strong characters that are
largely utter bastards trying to do the right thing.
See a connection?
Ellis is the writer for those who want to read comics,
but can't accept spandex and shiny happy people. There's a lot of darkness in
his writing, and if you're not careful, you might mistake him for a man without
hope. Read carefully, though, and you'll find an author who simply sees things
that we don't.
And bring your imagination -- you'll need it.