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WAITING FOR TOMMY: WARREN ELLIS
By Richard Johnston

RICHARD: You create your own nemesis. You fight for the superiority of the trade paperback, then fall foul of lower monthly sales as your legion faithfully wait for the trade. Lost in comics, you used the internet as a way to uniquely promote your work, then everyone started doing it and you've found your voice lost again. Is this your fate, are you planning to reinvent yourself again, and what inherent dangers would such a reinvention bring?
WARREN: Oh, you miserable old git... yes, it's all over for Warren Ellis...

I mean, sure, you're not wrong. On the other hand, there are more than five thousand people on the Bad Signal mailing list right now, or over double the number of people who used to hit the Forum every day. The voice still gets heard, it's just that there are vastly more voices around it. And, I guess, that the nature of the soapboxes has changed.

It's swings and roundabouts. Very little original work sells with any real strength in the current singles market, but I do very well out of trades, and the latter was always my hope and intention. Scott Dunbier told me just before Xmas that PLANETARY still moves in the forty thousands in singles form, which you can't complain about.

Am I as visible to the mainstream comics audience as I was a few years ago? Absolutely not, for many and various reasons. Is that my fate? Well, probably. Once you prove something works, everybody will go ahead and use it. And you can't be sorry about that. The book of tricks creators had at their disposal circa '98 just wasn't working anymore, and someone had to rewrite the book. If it hadn't been me, it would've been someone else, as internet-as-promotional-tool was just too obvious. If I have a regret, it's that no-one followed up on anchoring an internet base with shoestring whistlestop tours like the one I did in 2000. That would've been fun to see.

 

THE AUTHORITY: UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT TPB

I suspect that your question is, really, am I content to be the forgotten man of comics? And the answer is: probably. The American medium still hasn't moved to the point where it's prepared to pay for original affordable graphic novels. Right now, it feels like 2004 will be my last very active year in American comics.

This isn't a big splashy f*ckyouall I'm-retiring I-won't-play-Bond-again you-won't-have-Dick-Nixon-to-kick-around-any-more kind of thing. I'm not flopping on the ground in weeping martyrdom or anything. I just think maybe I've taken this gig as far as I can go. I've got two new monthly series launching in '04, DESOLATION JONES and JACK CROSS, both creator-owned (I've already written eight issues of JACK CROSS); obviously, I hope they'll both find an audience, and I have a couple of internet-related tricks that no-one else seems to have tried yet that I hope will bring that audience to them.

At this stage, re-invention really means either going back and becoming a corporate agent again, producing work in the only genre the remaining stores seem to support and probably placing close to the top of the mid-list -- or going and finding something else to do. As several of my friends have pointed out to me more than once, going back to superhero comics would make me a lot of short-term money and boost my visibility massively. None of which is necessarily a bad thing. But right now (and this could change tomorrow, I don't know) I feel like going the other way, finding something else to do and taking myself out of the game completely. Partly, I think, that's due to some recent events that I don't really feel like talking about right now. But yeah: it feels like time to go.

And that was it, four questions used, me still wanting to ask twenty more. Warren was very 'no comment-y' about the affect on his mood of John Cassaday jumping ship from the Planetary schedule to give wads-of-cash-paying New X-Men a spin. But after that last answer, I can't see it improving much.

But who knows? By the time Planetary is actually finished, Ellis might have decided to leave films, TV and games and come back to comics again. Do you think five years might do it?

Warren Ellis writes regularly on Die Puny Humans Rich Johnston has just written his Comics Rumour Awards 2004, and, after successfully selling lots of comics for Dynamic Forces on QVC, is trying to replicate that on eBay to pay for that X-Men 1 Alex Ross lithograph he wasn't able to steal out of the studio.

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3

The Waiting For Tommy Archive

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