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Waiting For Tommy XVI
ARE THE WARREN ELLIS YEARS OVER?
I went into Gosh Comics last Thursday, to pick up a stash of stuff - I divide my buying between Gosh, Comics Showcase and comix-shop.co.uk these days.

Mek, the new Warren Ellis book, that had come out the previous week was lying in a dejected manner on the shelf, a full hand span deep. This is not good.

Mek is an alright Warren Ellis book. One issue in, it's not his best work but then neither is it his worst.

I was a fairly early Warren Ellis reader, probably earlier than most of you lot who stumbled across Authority or Excalibur. No, I vaguely remember a strip he wrote for “Deadline” magazine, a review here and there in “Speakeasy” (Ellis' review of the first Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison was stuck on Morrison's wall for years as confidence-boosting inspiration) and then his first full time ongoing strip, the wonderful Lazarus Churchyard in “Blast,” with D'Israeli illustrating.

That's been reprinted now in TPB form by Image. Get it. It's not too harsh a comment to say that there has been something about old Laz in almost every book Ellis writes. Whether that's the future tech, the body modification, an attitude to Authority, or simply an innate understanding of explosions and kicking.

Add that to superheroes, and you had an addictive combination that saw Ellis' name elevated to the ranks of those he once fawned over in Warrior letters pages.

But lately, there have been criticisms rising that he's a one trick pony. And not just from the usual sources, who have been moaning for eons, those who hate what he's added to the superhero genre, call him an elitist snob and generally fail to respond to what seem like broad sweeping of humour.

Instead, these comments have increasingly been coming from what was his fan-base. The exiled denizens of the Warren Ellis Delphi Forum. Those who found a new pizzazz in his work years ago. Those who once said "put everything from Warren Ellis on my pull list" who have now become more selective. Even some of his close colleagues.

There has been some conflict as artists who didn't receive scripts on time started to moan. There are projects announced that never got off the ground or occasionally were just never finished. And maybe the hype machine got stuck in a rut, putting off potential readers.

Is it a tiredness on their part? An unwillingness to move on after their Ellis fix has been oversatisfied? Perhaps they're just waiting for the trade?

Could it simply have been down to a lack of PR?

Or has Warren Ellis jumped the shark? Was Strange Kiss and Strange Killings the warning of the fin? Has Mek been to Warren Ellis what Wonder Woman was to John Byrne?

Whatever the reason, those who bought Transmetropolitan, even those who picked up the first issue of Global Frequency, they haven't been picking up Mek.

As a result, retailers may find themselves inclined to order slighter on his next project. And as the market loses confidence, no manner of exclusive contracts can stop a star from ceasing to shine.

Now mealy-mouthed me, I'm still a Warren Ellis fan. I buy all his stuff (though on some I've been trained to wait for the trade). But it hasn't escaped me that fellow completists have been dropping away.

Warren, ever the adapter, has been making moves away from comics. On his mailing list he talks about multi-media projects, TV work, possibly films. Or something totally different - that's the thing about Warren, he's always got something up his sleeve.

Maybe that's both what he and his readers need. A break from the comics. Warren knows very well that his name is a brand, and overexposure can dilute that brand's power.

But Mek still sits on that shelf. Hauntingly. Like a bad case of the Lab Rats, it’s a spot that may well grow.

However, I bet you this. For all their moaning, just wait and see what happens if he ever does what he's threatened and returns to The Authority...

Just hope he does to it what Miller did to the Dark Knight.

The Waiting For Tommy Archive

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