WWC: An Evening With Warren Ellis

WWC: The Ellis Evening

Newsarama Note: We sent Sarah Jaffe to Friday's evening with Warren Ellis at Wizard World Chicago, and challeneged her to come back with a report that would give people a feeling of what went on.

We think we damaged her.

What follows probably shouldn't be read by those with delicate sensibilities, or those with any sensibilities at all. And certainly not by children. Unless you want them to grow up to be like Warren Ellis.

“Save us, Internet Jesus!”

He walked in through the center and then back behind the curtain, Wizard of Oz style.

From Avatar’s William Christensen came the introduction: “One of the undoubtedly greatest authors ever to work in the industry.”

There are slideshows of his books playing on big screens on either side of the giant room.

Jacen Burrows, Mike Wolfer also put in appearances.

Christensen, Avatar editor-in-chief, introduces him. “The man, the myth, the legend: Make a whole fuckload of noise for Warren Ellis.”

“Are you drunk yet?” he asks. “I get to smoke, you don’t. This is performance art.”

“Guess there’s fuck all else to do in Chicago on a Friday night.”

“We’re all still surprised I even get let into the country after Black Summer. Fox News did a story on it, and they found some ex-FBI fucker who said that if there was ever an attempt on the life of the president, I was the first one who should be arrested.”

“So they take my ticket at Heathrow, and they said ‘Please excuse us a moment,’ and the nice lady went away, and didn’t come back for five minutes.”

“And then she came back with this burly Caribbean gentleman, and I thought the gig was up, but he put my passport through the machine and said ‘You just have to show the machine a little love.’”

“I thought I would read to you as if you all had learning difficulties.”

“I wrote this book a year ago, and people ask ‘What’s it about?’ And I say ‘I’d like you to find out for yourself.’”

Ellis then does a reading from his book, Crooked Little Vein, which he says is about a man “to which the worst things in the world happen.”

He’s been hired to find the secret emergency Constitution of the United States, which was sold to a Chinese prostitute by Richard Nixon back in the 1960s.

From the novel:

“Bukkake, whatever it was, appeared to be hip among the young folk of today.”

“I looked over to see a woman rubbing her boyfriend’s lap with a lizard-paw glove. ‘This isn’t fair,’ I whispered. The guy next to me leaned over and whispered ‘Dude, you didn’t get a glove?’”

“Macroherpetophile—people who want to fuck Godzilla.”

“This is the only genuine and authentic Godzilla bukakke night in America.” –excerpt.

At this juncture, Christensen appears with a bottle of what appears to be expensive brandy or whiskey and pours Ellis a glass.

“I’ve ruined sex for all of you,” Ellis cackles.

Crowd members shout for the “saline section.” Ellis said, “That wasn’t the bit I was going to do, but if you want it…”

He continues to read, “You’re not injecting salt water into my testicles, and that’s that.”

“You’re in shitty shape for a private detective.”

“I get some buddies around, we shoot some saline, it’s fun.”

“It is being trapped in a shower with a gay cop who wants to mutate my nuts.”

“I stripped, picturing their corpses being eaten by weasels.”

“My testicles were the size of a champion prize-grown onion that I’d seen at the market when I was a kid. And they were growing.” –excerpt

“I sat down gently on the edge of the bed and tried very hard not to cry, with my testicles laying on top of my legs.”

“There we go, Mike, an inch over your nuts, you clever bastard.”

“My general front-of-pants area looked like a watermelon stuffed in a kangaroo pouch…But I found if I left my shirt untucked it fit over my testicles quite well.”

“I held onto my pants with my left hand and lifted my scrotum with the other.”

“I like churches. They like anal sex. I like families and children, and they like having abortions. They are all secular Jews and they hate Jesus and America.”

end of excerpts

“I will take questions, I will ramble on at length and at the end I will not have answered your question at all.”

Question. “As much as we all know you love the idolatry we throw at you—Planetary is the single best thing I’ve ever read. Could you just talk about it? I want a fuckin’ seminar on Planetary right now.”

Answer. “I wrote Planetary #27 over a year ago and he’s just started drawing. So it could be a Christmas present, who knows.”

Question. “How is writing for a webcomic different from writing for print?”

Answer: “Not at all. I’m really just writing it as if I was writing a graphic novel, but slightly less dialogue per panel. Which is why there isn’t always a cliffhanger at the end of the six pages, sometimes it just seems to stop, because I’m really looking at the 144 pages, rather than the six pages.

The biggest appeal for me with Freakangels is that I’m a British comics writer and the British comics form is six pages a week, so it’s going right back to my roots.”

Question. “Do you ever get writer’s block?”

Answer. “Writer’s block? I’ve heard of this? This is when a writer cannot write? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. The job is getting up in the morning and fucking writing. If you get up in the morning and you cannot write, you’re something else, aren’t you?”

Question. “Your analogy for your work for hire is painting someone else’s house. What of your work for hire would you like to go back to, and could you ever be paid enough to take over Brian Michael Bendis’s job?”

Answer: “I did one issue of Daredevil once, Daredevil might be interesting but I wouldn’t touch it for a few years. I have thought about The Authority from time to time. And then I repeatedly punch myself in the face until the feeling goes away. Would I touch any of the Bendis books? Would I touch anything that had been in Bendis’s mouth? I love Brian and I wouldn’t go near any of the things he’s been working on.”

Question: “If Marvel offered you the opportunity to be the architect of the Marvel Universe, would you?”

Answer: “I would go outside and shoot myself immediately!”

Question: “What is the deal with Lambeth Road?”

Answer: “It’s on the wrong side of the river. I’m second generation Cockney, half my family is from proper East End, and I’m afraid I’ve inherited this bias. Everything from that side of the river looks like a piece of ham that’s been dipped in an ashtray.”

“As I headed over the river, I said to the cabbie, ‘here we go, wrong side of the river,’ and the cabbie’s like ‘No, no, it’s fine!’ but the minute when we get across the river two police cars and an ambulance rip past.”

Question: “,b>Transmetropolitan #25, “Here to Go” is one of my favorite comic stories ever. So once you get around to doing some more of Fell, could we see a day in the life of the nun?”

Answer. “You can’t overuse the Nun. The more you find out, the less scary she’ll be. She’s going to appear, but you don’t know where, like herpes. Herpes in a Nixon mask. Can I get a catchy tune out of herpes in a Nixon mask?”

Question. “Have you thought about doing anything with DC, any of the superheroes?”

Answer: “No. I did six issues of JLA once, because it was part of the contract with them that I had to do six issues of something.”

Question: “Would you tell us all the last word on the last page of the final issue of Planetary?”

Answer: “I haven’t looked at that script in 14 months! But I can tell you what the last word on the last page is: ‘way.’ The sentence is ‘Yes, Elijah, I like it that…’”

Question: “Who is Desolation Jones based loosely on?”

Answer: “A painter. Maybe Klimt, but don’t hold me to that.”

Question: “Is there something you know about writing that you’d like to share with aspiring writers?”

Answer: “Learn when to shut up. The absolute worst thing about a fledgling writer is knowing when to shut up and let the art carry the story.”

Question: “If one of the big two offered you carte blanche with any of their characters, what would you do?”

Answer. “I do actually get carte blanche at Marvel. If I want the Green Goblin to literally walk around naked for 25 pages, then I do it. My deal at Marvel is I do what I like and they say ‘Thank you, Warren, here’s the money.’”

Question. “As a writer, what is the relationship with the artist?”

Answer: “It’s down to that question in that Chaz Palminteri film again, would you rather be loved or feared? I prefer fear. I tend to write the character designs and everything, but I don’t describe it down to the color of their pants and what they had for breakfast that morning, which some writers do.

Have you ever seen an Alan Moore book? Alan spent a page and a half on the first panel of Watchmen. But Alan’s crazy. Alan’s the guy who built a tunnel under his house. Alan’s the guy who essentially worships a sock. The roman snake god, who was always represented by a puppet of a snake, which is essentially a sock.

I love Alan, but I haven’t spoken to him in years because I haven’t got that much time in the day. Alan speaks very slowly, and when he’s got you on the phone you’re kind of a captive audience.

Alan did a convention once in the states and his signing queue followed him into the bathroom.

The first time I went to Iceland I spoke at the university there, had a fantastic time. And they said ‘Do you by any chance know Alan Moore? We’d love to have him as a followup visit to you.’

So I rang up Alan and said, ‘If you’d like, I got you an all-expenses paid trip to Iceland, it was brilliant.’

And he said, ‘I don’t really leave Northampton much. In fact, I don’t really leave the house. In fact, I don’t really leave the living room, and truth be told, I stay on this side of the living room. The other side of the living room is a strange and different place, and it scares me.’”

Question: “How much research do you do? Have your testicles ever been filled with saline?”

Answer; “If they had, like I would tell you? Thank fuck for Google. In general, I do a lot of research. Now I have the Internet, which saves me a heck of a lot of money. But I do not get my testicles shot full of saline, you may go and sit down now.

“I subscribe to a lot of scientific journals. The problem I have with Doktor Sleepless is that I’m trying to stay 3 weeks ahead of the scientific journals, because I had to rewrite something when something I’d invented, clever me, a friend of mine went down to the store and bought one.”

Question: “When are we going to see more Nextwave?”

Answer. “Sure, make me the bad guy on that one. Stuart is going to be tied up on Ultimate Spider-Man until he dies. He’s a Canadian, you can’t trust him.

“Any Canadians in the audience? Canadians, not Canadian wildlife?”

Question: “Aside from Global Frequency, I don’t know if Hollywood has ever shown up at your door, but if they did, would you be like Frank Miller and be involved at every step, or would you be more like Alan Moore?”

Answer. “I couldn’t help but call Alan Moore and tell him that with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen script they’d put in Dorian Grey as an assassin. ‘No! Stop!”

Ocean has been sold to Warner Brothers, there’s a few other things floating out there in the ether that I’m not allowed to talk about. We were going to do Transmetropolitan years ago, Patrick Stewart—Patrick Stewart is not like you and me. There’s a certain eccentricity that British actors of a certain age have. We went to a fancy restaurant to talk about Transmetropolitan and the maitre ‘d came out because You Do Not Belong. You do not smell of money.

“Patrick’s got all the tics of that particular generation of actors. They laugh with pleasure. ‘Sit down, have some champagne, what do you know about killing rabbits?’

“’I live in Yorkshire, Warren, and the foundations of this house are being eaten by rabbits. Tell me how to kill them, Warren, I know you know.’

“’Spider Jerusalem is my role model. I was in line to get my medal from Prince Charles recently and I was in line thinking ‘What would Spider Jerusalem do?’ He’d headbutt the bastard! So I wasn’t listening to what he was saying because I was trying not to headbutt the bastard!’”

“All the actors of his generation, utterly, utterly bugfuck.”

Question: “What was your inspiration for Doktor Sleepless?”

Answer. “It was time to write something about the bad guy. It was time to write something about a mad scientist. It just feels like the time for mad scientists lately.”

Question. “What inspires you so much about the future?”

Answer. “We’re all going to live there one day, but we have no idea what it’s going to be like. The future’s a stormfront, and you don’t know where it’s going to break and you don’t know how long it’s going to rain for.”

Question: “Someone has been spraypainting ‘Where’s my fucking jetpack’ all over Chicago.”

Answer. “Someone in New Orleans had painted a big S on top of the X on one of the houses that had been checked out by FEMA, fucking Snowtown.”

Question. “What’s your connection to the steampunk movement?”

Answer. “I don’t know if I’ve got one.”

Question. “Please talk about Planetary!”

Answer. “William, please hit him! Sit down!”

Question: “Have you ever seen the Bollywood version of Transmetropolitan?”

Answer: “You’re winding me up now. Someone would have sent that to me!”

Question. “Did you ever receive any feedback from Hunter S. Thompson about Transmetropolitan?

Answer: “I caught one of his interviews on the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas movie tour, and he was wearing a hat, and on the brim of the hat was a black plastic spider, and I had a feeling that I was being sent a message. And the message was ‘I know where you live.’”

Question: “How do you decide where your ideas go?”

Answer. “The Marvel stuff is just about always direct commission from them. It usually begins with a phone call from Joe Quesada saying ‘We’ve found this incredible piece of shit in the basement and we’ll let you do whatever you want with it.’

“The creator-owned stuff, it’s a matter of finding the right publisher. Most of my creator-owned stuff will find a perfectly good home at Avatar.”

Question. “What makes you keep writing?”

Answer. “Bills make me keep writing.”

Question: “The dynamic between men and women in your work—the lack of romance, it seems like there’s no room for it. Can you explain a little?”

Answer. “Do I come off as an animal if I say romance only happens in romance novels? Relationships between men and women are a lot more complex than that, usually a lot more edgy and nervous and spiky than that, and I don’t think it’s honest to write the kind of romances—Hollywood romances don’t get anywhere near the human condition.”

Question: “What the fuck happened to Desolation Jones?”

Answer. “J.H. went off the book, Danijel came on, then my computer died, and we decided to get some issues in the can, but we’re getting back on top of it this summer and when it’s relaunched it’ll be monthly for a while.”

Question. “Do you deal with anybody sane?”

Answer. “This is comics, man! They’re all mad!”

Question: “You have 12 open titles, so you’re either a chain-smoking robot or you have some awesome multitasking skills.”

Answer: “I work for a fucking living. It ain’t that hard.”

Question. “Which of your characters makes you most proud? And is it true that Hitler had a porn collection?”

Answer: “Hitler at one point had the largest collection of nude art in Europe. And the Nazis had a newsletter with dirty stories in it to help to propaganda set in, and Hitler kept all the dirty stories. So he was clearly a dirty fucker.

“Characters as my children, what a disturbing thought. Spider Jerusalem, I wouldn’t give that bastard houseroom. I’ve abandoned a whole lot of them, I’ve essentially dropped them off outside of town for the chickenhawks to finish off.

“You’re up on charges because you abandoned the Authority and then Mark Millar got them. You left your children in the care of a Scottish Catholic, what do you have to say for yourself?”

Question: “Do you have any musical influences? And is there any medium you would like to work in that you haven’t?”

Answer: “The Pixies, 1988 was a hell of a fucking year. The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, Nick Cave. I was living in a single room that was six feet by six feet, and I could fit a bed and a typewriter and I did nothing but listen to music and commit several minor crimes.

“I’ve done kind of a lot of formats. I’m the idiot who thought a 16-page comic for $1.99 would be a good idea. Because I was as poor as you once.

“I’m completely off track now and I’m pissed as a fart.”

Question: “Do you own things outright or do you share it with the artists?”

Answer. “The relationship with artist is kind of like an arranged marriage. The groom looks all right but he could be a rapist, and you’re never going to know unless you’re living with him.”

Question: “Who are some of your favorite contemporaries?”

Answer. “I love the way Bendis writes dialogue. I like the way Mark Millar comes up with just the simplest possible ideas and just gets such a fantastic marketing plan out of them. Matt Fraction, I knew him when he was that tall, Jonathan Hickman, Colleen Doran, and Brian Wood of course.”

Question: “How do you find the time to bring us all the freaks on the Internet?”

Answer: “I’m outside, too! That noise in the bushes that you thought was a dog? That was me. A lot of these people just contact me directly and say ‘Hi, we’re mad, we thought you’d be interested.’”

Question. “Have you been able to meet any of your idols?”

Answer. “They wanted to send me out to Woody Creek to meet Hunter Thompson, and I turned them down both times, because I figured this wasn’t going to go well, and then I wouldn’t be able to read the books then, because I’d have the scars. On my back and on my legs.”

Question. “Have you ever had an idea that was too much?”

Answer: “Right now, somewhere in America, there’s a group of guys shooting their balls full of saline. And I didn’t make up macroherpetophiles either.”

Question: “Planetary? Please?”

Answer: “I didn’t grow up with superhero comics. It’s a genre I had to learn. So by 1998 my head was just full of this shit, and it was taking up the parts of my brain that were usually used for remembering to do the washing up. I wanted to do a superhero comic about the superhero genre, about why it had such an attraction for people before it had all the barnacles all over it.

“It’s hard to see why people love these characters now. You just can’t see around the mud of decades around them.”

Question: “What about Castlevania?”

Answer. “What first intrigued me was the pay packet. They came to me and said ‘We want to do the first movie based on a video game that’s good.’ And I said if you want to do the first video game movie that’s good, you have to do the first video game movie that’s for thinking adults.”

Question. “What about Apollo and Midnighter as a gay couple?”

Answer. “I didn’t tell Hitch that they were gay until issue #7 or #8. I didn’t want someone to sit there and have a weak moment and think ‘I have to draw these characters as if they’re gay.’”

Question: “Have you ever thought about co-writing with Grant Morrison?”

Answer: “God, no, that man’s on drugs! He’s just sitting there going ‘The cornflakes are talking to me.’”

Question: “Have you been in Alan Moore’s cave?”

Answer:“I don’t think I’d get out of there alive. I’d be stuck somewhere with socks on my mouth and Alan would be saying, ‘Don’t chew on my god.’”

Question: “It would be an honor if you told me to fuck off.”

Answer. “Fuck off!”

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