Monday, March 01, 2004

Warren Ellis: Hypocrite?

This is about the comic book writer, Warren Ellis. Up until last year, he ran a web forum, where he preached waiting for the trade, instead of buying individual comics, and also was vehemently anti-superhero. Now, he has signed on to write Ultimate Fantastic Four.

From Barbelith

In response to a few things on the thread.

I think the WEF certainly hurt Ellis' output, and gave him this reputation as one of the top writers in the medium, when (other than Planetary, IMO) he's never produced anything truly great, certainly nothing on the level of Moore or Morrison's better work. It always amazed me that he had time to read every single post on the WEF, and reply to hundreds of them a week, yet he was so slow writing the script to Planetary 16 that Cassaday had to take on six issues of Captain America to fill his time.

By the end of the WEF, Ellis had only Transmet coming out on any kind of a regular basis, and while still good, it was so decompressed that what would have taken six issues at the beginning of the book took 12-18 by the end. Look at Back on the Street, or particularly Lust for Life, versus the end of the book. The beginning had some tightly structured stories, that were well told. By the end, there were so many essentially pointless splash pages that reading it in 22 page chunks was futile. Ellis' greatest contribution to the medium is probably the two page spread which contributes very little to the story, but takes up space.

I think Ellis' greatest problem is the hypocriscy inherent in his writing vs. his online commentary. Ellis spent years on the WEF disparaging "pamphlets," and basically creating the wait for the trade atmosphere. Then, he creates Global Frequency, a book designed to be read in singles, targetted at an audience that has been trained to disparage the single. Not to mention, encouraging people to buy that run of miniseries he did, which should have been put out as OGNs, but instead were packaged as three issue minis.

This isn't to mention the fact that while spending all his time disparaging superheroes, he goes out and writes a series of miniseries that are basically superheroes without the capes. And, then he brings out Ultimate FF, which is going against all he's been talking about for years.

I used to post to the WEF on occasion, and it was a really strong community, that I wish was still around. But, it also gave Ellis an inflated sense of self worth. It was not a good place to discuss his work, becuase any attempt to even suggest a flaw would be met with flaming, often from Ellis himself. So, now without his promotional machine, his sales have suffered.

As for the question of whether there can be really good writing in comics, I think the answer is undoubtedly yes. Work like Watchmen and The Invisibles represents a strong artistic vision from the writer, and accomplish feats that could not be accomplished in any other medium. Bad writers give comics a bad name, but at its core, it's a much easier medium for a writer to get their vision across than film.

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