For the Chinese it may be the Year of the Metal Hare but if Sequart ran a Szechuan carry-out they’d tell you 2011 is the Year of Warren Ellis.
Sequart is a non-profit organization that works to promote the reading and study of comic books and graphic novels. They’ve produced not only books, but beginning last year they made their first foray into films with the Grant Morrison documentary Talking With Gods, which developed out the research on the Invisibles companion Our Sentence is Up. At the first C2E2 in 2010, they premiered footage from the documentary on a panel, and teased the audience at the end with a trailer for their next film:
…Thus winning the hearts of millions.
They’ve upped the game though, bringing out not only the Warren Ellis documentary Captured Ghosts, but also <b>three</b> books on Ellis’ work, Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide, Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan, and Voyage in Noise: Warren Ellis and the Demise of Western Civilization. Onhand to talk about the many Ellis-centric projects were Kevin Thurman, author of Voyage, Shot contributor Brett Williams, and Captured producer Julian Darius, as well as Bleeding Cool’s own Rich Johnston.
Darius opened up by identifying Johnston as having known Ellis longer than anyone else in the room. “I knew him when we were both thin!” joked the BC writer.
The discussion opened up by talking about Planetary, tying in with the first of Sequart’s three book releases. Planetary, a book about a trio of “mystery archeologists” uncovering the secret history of a superhero universe, was acclaimed not only for it’s characterization and drama, but for the way it commented on genre. “Planetary showed that even if you are tied to a genre, you are not limited to the conventions of that genre,” said Thurman, who called the title “a love letter to comics.”
“It’s the king of the backstory,” said Johnston, who pointed the influence of Planetary on such current titles as Marvel’s Fear Itself. Regarded often as an “anti-fan” of superheroes, Ellis’ Planetary nevertheless is an out-and-out superhero book, albeit one that treats them with more dignity, complexity, and fun than they usually get.
The panel then moved on to the focus of Thurman’s book, which addresses the greater arch of themes in Ellis’ writing. “It’s really about the sociological and philosophical implications in his work,” said Thurman. “As much as he is a writer he’s a journalist, and he really cares where the world is going.” Thurman pointed out as an example the interesting philosophic triptych wherein Ellis killed God in the Authority, the Devil in his JLA story “New Maps of Hell,” and Atheism in Starjammers.
Darius moved on to Williams’ piece in the Transmet book, “Bald of Bust,” an essay examining why the acclaimed and beloved title was the only survivor of DC’s short-lived sci-fi imprint Helix. “Sci-fi comics don’t sell,” said Williams. “You can put Superman in Space, you can put Thor in space, but if you put original characters in space, comic fans kinda pull out.”
Transmetropolitan of course stayed squarely on the ground, presenting the exploits of a cynical journalist and his sexy female bodyguards- Robert Heinlein’s Jubal Harshaw redressed for the millennium, as Williams described him, adding that Transmet presaged the Bush administration years with its themes of deception and media manipulation. “Transmet was Warren saying ‘We’re heading somewhere dark, and you need to get ready for it.’ Just because [Spider Jeruselum]’s yelling at you that the world is fucked, doesn’t mean it has to be that way.” Johnston pointed out regarding the impact of Transmet on Vertigo, that titles such as DMZ-itself a sci-fi journalism story- couldn’t have exist without the ground work of the title.
On the balance of cynicism and hope in both Spider’s character and Ellis’ writing in general: “You have to love the world to look around and say ‘This is sick.’” He then presented both the original teaser for Captured Ghosts and the new trailer.
JULIAN DARIUS: In about 8 hours of interviewing, Warren drank about nine Red Bulls, smoked three packs of cigarettes, and we killed a bottle of Whiskey.”
RICH JOHNSTON: Oh good, so he’s cutting down then?
The new trailer, soon to be available online, opens with the Internet Messiah and Friend To Children Everywhere reading the opening monologue from Doktor Sleepless #1: “Today, I stopped being real…” From there we got to see excepts from some of the interviewees, including Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, Kat Lan Foisy, Molly, Crabapple, and Darick Robertson. “
To make it stand out from their previous documentary effort with Grant Morrison, the video has more of an industrial feel than Talking With Gods psychedelia. The film will also feature dramatizations of excerpts from his work, including the Sex Puppets from Transmet.
There is a Warren Ellis puppet.
Repeat: There is a Warren Ellis puppet.
You can find out more at http://warrenellismovie.com/, which also links to a Kickstarter page set up to help with the end-production costs. Various degrees of contribution can get you a copy of the DVD, Sequart books, a mention in the credits, and if you have $700 bucks to spare: The Warren Ellis puppet.
Again: You can OWN the Warren Ellis puppet. This is probably the safest and most comfortable way for you to put your hand inside Warren Ellis and make him say things, both for you and Mr. Ellis. Plus, you’d get to help an excellent film get made and get an associate producer credit in the film. They need to raise $6,000 by May 2nd, and it’s an excellent way to preorder the DVD.
WARREN ELLIS PUPPET!
Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide, edited by Cody Walker and priced at $19.95, can be ordered through Diamond, code MAR111401
Greg Baldino is a Chicago based journalist and writer, who’s been published internationally yet still has no puppet of himself. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, especially if you’re Sequart responding to his pitch for Bleeding in the Gutters: Essays on the journalism of Rich Johnston.
<i>Seriously people: Warren Ellis Puppet. Do you know how much havoc you could unleash on YouTube with that?</i>