Whew, I’m glad we got past the Cameron Stewart story!
It’s just so hard to imagine why anyone in comics would think they could take advantage of their fans!
How could any comic book creator look at the people who have made it in their business, Comics’ Greatest Success Stories, and then still somehow conclude that it is okay to mistreat anyone?
It's too hard to--
WARREN ELLIS ALERT!
Can this guy be involved in just *one story* where there isn’t a generic “bastard” character??
Who is Warren Ellis?
We are not referring to the famous musician, but instead, a British comic writer mostly known for his work on children superhero comics like Iron Man, Moon Knight and the Ultraverse crossover series, Ultraforce/Avengers.
One of his lesser-known comic books was adapted into a direct-to-forgotten Bruce Willis movie franchise that had audiences asking the question “Are they out of copies of Two Guns at Blockbuster Video? What else do they have to rent?”
He is especially famous in mainstream comics for having invented the Warren Ellis Forum (the WEF), one of the many internet comic book messageboards that existed back when lonely people cared about messageboards and smart people were busy inventing Twitter and Facebook. For that reason, he is considered very influential to a generation of mainstream comic book writers who came after him, in their work in the superhero mainstream and superhero mainstream-adjacent industries, writers who have dazzled us all with their many four-quadrant pitches for television shows and movies and *squints at notes I was handed* …Tucker, it just says “Dungeons & Dragons”...? That can’t be right. Who wrote this??
At the time these “controversies” have erupted, Ellis was working for DC Comics, on Batman comics.
Have you heard about someone in comics being sexually creepy?
DC Comics: Now and Forever.
A Rough Timeline of the Allegations:
On June 16th, 2020, an artist was discussing the Cameron Stewart situation on Twitter when she started talking about how she thought it was important that young women be protected from grooming-- and in the process, referenced her own past experiences with Warren Ellis and Brian Wood.
(Even though she is still very much involved in this story, she seems to desire anonymity so I am avoiding mentioning her name, even if it may be available elsewhere).
She then deleted those tweets, and replaced them with a statement that her point was not to “call out” any individual but to discuss the greater issues involved, namely how men in comics like to “serially Bluebeard young women.”
But by then, other twitter accounts had tweeted a similar disgruntlement about how Warren Ellis had behaved. Many of those accounts were then deactivated or the relevant tweets were deleted. But in that process, photographer Jhayne Holmes offered to put together a “chat server” for those effected by their relationship with Ellis.
Ms. Holmes soon reported that the number of individuals reporting to that chat server was growing rapidly-- at one point, two women (and/or femme-presenting individuals) were supposedly reporting that they’d had negative experiences with Warren Ellis per hour.
On June 18th, the Warren Ellis twitter account issued a statement entitled “Warren Ellis” which some curiously characterized as being an “apology written by Warren Ellis.” That statement concludes with promises that Warren Ellis would be “listening” to what women would be saying.
He would not have to wait long to find something to "listen" to.
On July 12, 2020, the Daily Beast published “Inside the Comic Book Industry’s Sexual Misconduct Crisis—and the Ugly, Exploitative History That Got It Here”, which detailed accusations with a little more clarity. Among other things, the article detailed Warren Ellis’s relationship with Lea Seidman.
Seidman (then working under the name Lea Hernandez) might be a familiar name to comic fans from the heyday of the WEF, as they may remember her work being heavily promoted by Ellis. The Daily Beast account describes her side of that story: Ellis flirted with her, but in 2000, Ellis allegedly visited Seidman for a signing/talk in San Antonio (where she lived with her husband and kids), and conducted himself in a way that she describes as an “inappropriate invitation” to her at his hotel room, which she “fled." That thereafter, Seidman feels her relationship with Ellis not only cooled personally, but that she “found herself erased from Ellis’s forum and all of her messages scrubbed”, was the subject of career-destroying “rumors that she was unstable”, and her work dried up. (Note: Ms. Seidman's corrections to this paragraph here).
The Daily Beast article concludes by stating that she feels like being “iced out by Ellis” caused her to have difficulties paying for occupational therapy for her autistic son, as well as severe emotional distress.
On July 13, 2020, the Holmes Group (numbering more than 60 individuals) published a group statement entitled “So Many Of Us” -- a website cataloging the stories of 36 women and non-binary femme-presenting individuals about Ellis, with stories ranging from over 20 years, along with a lengthy statement detailing how Ellis’s conduct fit the classic patterns of grooming, a detailed description of the group’s motivation, and certain calls for future actions. Perhaps most spectacularly, the Holmes Group alleged that Ellis had continued sending sexual text messages even after the June 18th statement posted to his twitter account.
And on July 13, 2020, the UK newspaper The Guardian published a detailed article which includes additional statements from Warren Ellis as well as people who claim that he mistreated them, reporting that “several industry figures who have spoken out recently say his relationships with the women working on his forums were an open secret among those who used them.”
A Curious Feature of Siedman’s Ellis Story:
Seidman claims that after the hotel room incident, she became the victim of industry rumors that she was unstable. This might ring a bell for Brian Wood fans, who may remember that in 2013, it was alleged that he used the same tactic, though that time, Wood spread vicious gossip through Rich Johnston, future proprietor of industry website Bleeding Cool.
Brian Wood was, of course, a close collaborator of Warren Ellis, for many years.
Sooo (if you think these allegations may be true): who do you think gave that idea to who first?
Some might say that both men were perfectly capable of having the exact same idea on how to abuse women without taking tips from one another. But the flaw in this argument seems obvious: y'think Brian Wood was creative enough to have an idea?!
What were the “So Many Of Us” stories like?
Damning in the aggregate, perhaps all over the map on an individual basis.
But I have had the experience of working with people with distress of varying levels of severity, in an environment that I’d describe as the exact opposite of therapeutic-- one where they’re being subjected to harsh questioning, stress, scrutiny, etc. It’s been a real gas! So. there were things about some of the Ellis stories that were recognizable from having had that experience, which is that...
Some of the stories might not on their face seem troubling-- their authors may spend more time talking about being victimized by unrelated individuals; in some stories, Ellis can even seem almost sympathetic, though the authors are trying to express an anger about him.
And if you’ve never seen anything like this before, I can imagine that might be confusing-- but for myself, I have seen it, up close-- had to watch people who struggle to tell their stories because...
It’s like they’re trying to play the music, but they want to hit all the notes in the song all at once? Trying to play the music but every separate note is playing in their head simultaneously, because they’re in so much pain that separating the notes out is too hard? Or they have to play all the notes NOW because the world could end a couple seconds from now-- because for them, their life is always just sitting on a knife’s edge since they were hurt. Everything could be violent again any second, their brain is telling them-- so they want to play the entire song in one second. They can’t risk presenting information in a understandable way over time because they’ve not lived in a world where time is guaranteed.
Ellis may not be a tremendous villain in some of those stories. But the damning part for me is the bit where you stop and think,
“Wait a second-- why is Warren Ellis a character in this person’s story at all? Warren Ellis wasn’t a fucking therapist! He was a comic book writer. Why does a comic book writer keep showing up in these hurt people’s stories?”
In my experience, there are people out there can smell out victims and shoot at them like cruise missiles, hellbent on making sure they don’t get the space they need to breathe in this world…
If you’ve ever seen predators with that talent and that drive, then Ellis’s very presence in a story becomes disturbing, even for those stories which might not be able to explain the grievance as coherently as one might ideally desire.
Also: in the aggregate, themes tend to recur. More than once I found myself saying, “This is why we all stopped reading Warren Ellis comics-- it was just the same thing, over and over.” And where something might have an innocent explanation when you hear it referenced the first time…
After the 9th or 10th time you hear a woman talking about Warren Ellis texting a photo of him posing with his shirt off…
After the 15th or 16th time you hear a woman talking about Warren Ellis texting a photo of him posing with his shirt off…
After the 23rd or 25th time you hear a woman talking about Warren Ellis texting a photo of him posing with his shirt off…
You start to say to yourself (1) “Did he even own a shirt?? Where did your shirts go, Warren Ellis?! Did your shirts go to wherever your early promise as a writer went, and die in that airless crypt, too?”, and (2) “Ohhhhh okay, he had a plan. This was a system. There was a machinery in place, and everything, it all fed into this horrible machinery-- the WEF, his run on X-Man: Man of Mutations, everything.”
Was there a Secret Origin moment?
Assuming arguendo that there's any truth to the allegations, was there a first moment when Ellis realized what he could do with the WEF? And if so, what was that first moment like? At some point, one morning, Warren Ellis might have woke up, had a cup of tea, put on some of the worst fucking music I’ve ever heard in my life, and opened up that WEF … and that morning, the clouds parted, a light shone down from the heavens, some chemicals in his brain clicked and it was like Vincent Vega opening up his boss’s briefcase; it was the lightning bolt hitting Ben Franklin’s kite: Warren Ellis mighty've realized he had created in the WEF an engine that could supply him with young women (and/or femme-presenting individuals) to manipulate, abuse, and hunt, without anyone who could stand up to him, without any threat of repercussion.
“This is my design.” -- Warren Ellis whispering to himself, gazing upon Matt Fraction and Sam Humphries debating Namor the Sub-Mariner’s understanding of lube.
Uhm... Were there any, you know... unusual “details”?
Most of the stories are about abuse, exploitation, manipulation, being discarded, etc. When read altogether, the stories suggest Ellis might've been getting off on a creepy level of CONTROL-- and these poor people not realizing that that’s what he was getting off on-- not getting off on them, but getting off on how he was treating them.
But there were a couple curious details, if you’re interested in more salacious details:
First, and perhaps most importantly… what was that part about Warren Ellis wearing a cock sock, you guys? One of the accounts:
“Warren invited me to chat on the webcam. Almost immediately he reached into some weird hose he was wearing for underwear and whipped out his penis. “Show us yer tits!”
And so I think we’re all on the same page that the important part of that excerpt is a woman having to be harassed on a webcam. That’s the important part. We’re-- we’re good people, we know what the important part is, sure we do, we’re good and decent people.
What was that about a hose he keeps his maracas in?
Is she describing a cock sock? Just so I understand how to imagine this in my head: was Warren Ellis wearing a cock sock while sitting at home on his computer, with his open-marriage wife in the kitchen playing with his daughter? Or is she trying to describe some kind of jock strap or some kind of novelty lingerie? Or does he just put a Christmas stocking on his junk in order to make his allegedly abusive manipulation of women more festive?
Second, Warren Ellis was apparently fond of saying “if I were only 10 year younger” to various targets on Livejournal (even though he was about 20 years too old to be on Livejournal to begin with!!).
I’ve aged 10 years before-- it sucked, but I can still perform some level of incompetent service to society (ladies). What the hell happened to Warren Ellis in the intervening 10 years that he keeps saying he’s lost total sexual function?
Was his dick blown off at a “Breaking into Comics” panel at a New Mexico comic convention (the most dangerous of all con panels, what with men strapping explosives to their wieners and all-- yelling “this is all for you, Akira Yoshida!” like the nanny in The Omen)? Is he in some kind of The Sun Also Rises Situation?
Third, the description of Ellis’s break-up techniques. There’s one glowing like the Hollywood Cross:
“When I told Warren about talking to another creator in the industry, he was not as happy. He basically ended it by saying “ALIENNNZZZ” to a pic I sent to rekindle the spark and then I was dead to him.”
… Look, I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve not always been the person I want to be in a relationship. I’ve said things I regret. I borrowed things that I never returned. I’ve “ghosted” girls-- that’s what we call it when you take a special lady on a date deep into the woods to a strange shrine of sticks and pine cones left there by God-haunted Puritans, and then kick over the shrine and run for it, leaving an innocent paramour to deal with the ancestral consequences.
I’m not saying I’m perfect… But I’m trying to think of a time when I was over 30 years of age, where I peaced-out on a girl by just hissing “ALIENNNZZZ”...
Goofum: Dad, how do I tell Lucy Anne that I don’t want to take her to the Sadie Hawkins Dance after all?
Dad: Well, son, when I was your age, and the girl I was courting didn’t appreciate the whimsy of my affections, I would ask her to join me at a soda shop. I’d buy her a nice, refreshing soda so that her final memory of our time together was a pleasant one.
Goofum: And then what, Dad? What would you do then?
Dad (leaning close to his son’s ear but then shouting as loudly as possible): ALIENNNZZZ!
*Dad runs out of suburban house and moves to the big city to be a male burlesque dancer, abandoning forever his suburban family and the life he once knew*
Goofum: Dad, no-- come back! Dad! Why did he say ALIENNNZZ before abandoning me, his child? I’m an orphan now! An orphan! I’m going to take out my abandonment issues and lack of positive male role models on Lucy Anne, creating a cycle of trauma that ruins countless lives!
Norman fucking Rockwell!
Fourth, just this sentence:
“As we discover his methods, it’s obvious he sifts through the hundreds of new people who likely contact him every day.”
Fifth, apparently Warren Ellis is like me in one material respect, in that I think on Facebook we might both describe our sexual orientations as “basically the creepy parts of Ari Aster’s Midsommar.”
At least, that’s what I concluded when I read this account that besides having women “do research on hypnosis” (you know, vanilla shit), Ellis allegedly also liked to have women (and/or femme-presenting individuals) watch him masturbate while they “chanted to him.”
Like all of us, Ellis allegedly had very particular sexual appetites. He allegedly likes lips; “opera length satin gloves”, choking, ball-gags, rape fantasies; supposedly, he likes to
...use odd vocal queues, that I that I thought nothing of at the time, like counting down and then a command of some nature... I was lucky that it didn't seem to have an effect on me, I played along as I thought it made him happy.
Look: I’ve met people who have told me about their collaring ceremonies and sex clubs and “intimacy” and “sincere emotions”-- all things that I just don’t think I’m built for. But they all seemed like “decent people.” Some people just need what they need sexually, but if everyone’s on the same page, then great; good for them having found that. If everyone knows the rules of the game...? Play ball.
But once again, I’m not hearing the “on the same page” part. It sounds instead like he wanted women to essentially provide him for free with what I think you’d have to describe as bespoke pornography!
And this was somehow sadder than that-- it just sounds like he was masturbating in the most hurtful way you could. Even though we live in the Golde Age of Masturbation! It’s the Golden Age! Do you even know what’s going on over on Patreon?! This is a bean-flicking Valhalla. Nobody needs to get hurt in Valhalla!
But if it’s 60+ people (that we know of! how many women didn’t want to talk? how many women didn’t even hear about this??)...
There’s a lot of stories on that website of people telling Ellis explicitly that he had hurt them. Women wouldn’t just evaporate into the ether after relationships “ended”! They’d reach out to Ellis, tell Ellis how he had made them feel, etc. But his … behavior continued regardless!
It suggests that might have been the part he really got off on: the “you hurt me” part.
Listen: there were fucking dating apps and dating-type websites he could have gone to that entire time, if he wanted to be on the same page as someone else about a fetish. The fact he wasn’t going to fetish websites-- the exhaustive and time-consuming hunt he supposedly went on, instead… If true, it all suggests that the real fetish wasn’t corsets; it was the abuse; it was them begging him to be treated decently; it was their misery.
If someone’s addicted to how causing suffering gets them off…
Are there even 12 fucking steps for that??
When I was a little kid watching Fat Albert, I always wanted to read a Brown Hornet comic book.
Now, if the accusations are true, comics finally gets a Bill Cosby, but damn, it just doesn’t feel the way I thought it would.
So Warren Ellis is a Boo-Berry?
No-- what? No, Boo-Berry is a cereal mascot, you fool!
And like the Trix rabbit mentioned previously, one very similar to my dating life, in that Boo-Berry is very dead and has extremely blue balls.
*The author of this article begins sobbing into a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos*.
*The crying continues. It becomes uncomfortable to watch*
I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.
T-t-the correct term of art is Bluebeard. And the So Many of Us website suggests that it might apply here-- that Ellis groomed people for abuse, treated them as playthings, and then discarded them when his fantasies were somehow disrupted or he was otherwise inconvenienced.
Emotional abuse is a real violation. Unlike with physical abuse, it's not always immediately recognized as abuse. People suffering from it may not even know it's happening at the time, only that they feel terrible and uneasy. With the perspective of things like time and autonomy abuse can be properly identified.
The So Many of Us stories seem to check all the boxes of our definition from Day One: (1) relationships more about control than romance, (2) unexplained rules, (3) confusion about other women (including a rumored-about wife), and (4) as we'll discuss in a moment, perhaps a culture of silence around the man in question.
Okay, so Warren Ellis is allegedly a Bluebeard-- but is it significant if many of the alleged victims weren’t aspiring comic creators?
Before the So Many of Us website came out, this is an argument I’d see quite a bit on the internet, that the fact that many of these alleged victims were not aspiring comic creators was somehow meaningful-- “its not quid pro quo harassment”, some would say.
First, the Seidman story, at a minimum, should put an end to that argument.
Second, there’s other wrongs besides quid pro quo harassment-- that’s not even the only civil kind of harassment that gives rise to liability! That argument wouldn’t even survive the standards of the Court system, let alone ethics.
Third, this argument was always flawed because it ignored the obvious fact Ellis could reach into communities other than comics-- he had fame; he had connections.
Ellis wasn’t just “in comics” -- he was friends with the Great Husbands of Hollywood, true feminist icons like Joss Whedon, who is a friend to women everywhere, especially pregnant actresses, a great champion of Girl Power and... Wait, folks, I’m being handed a piece of paper… OH MY GOD! Oh my god. Oh no. OH NO! There’s someone in my house handing me paper!!! I thought I was alone! AAAAAH!
Yes, coincidentally, Ellis had connections with other powerful men with sinister “reputations” with women. Or to put it more delicately, Joss Whedon seems to be sentient feces and Warren Ellis seems to be his buddy and these two assholes have both been accused of setting themselves up *nearly identically* as Nerd Kings in order to prey on women (allegedly), like a fucking recursion loop gone wrong -- the computer simulation is breaking, bleep blorp crash.
Fourth, think how valuable a successful writer’s mentorship could be even to a non-writer! Think of how many questions that a good mentor could answer for a young aspiring artist just beginning their artistic journeys-- even artists who don’t want to work in comics but want to instead be models, musicians, etc.
A mentor can so many questions, like:
How do you even get the courage to say “I’m an artist” with a straight-face when you’re just starting your journey?
How do you make time for your art while paying your bills?
How do you know when you’re on the right track to finding your own voice?
How do you avoid having a British comic book writer try to use you as a disposable sexual plaything?
How do you politely tell a British comic book writer that their favorite album of atonal, unlistenable techno music is actually just an audio recording of some geese getting fucked by a local goose-fetishist?
Is this an easy issue for comics to fix-- Ellis is a baddie, so get rid of Ellis; problem solved?
One part that jumps out (of many) in Seidman’s story is her claim that “Seidman eventually found herself erased from Ellis’s forum and all of her messages scrubbed.”
Or consider another story: “In the private server where a bunch of us still hung out, some of the others began to devalue me as well.”
Or consider another story: “None of us spoke to each other about how overtly pervy Warren actually was; it was simply a given. Take it or leave it. [...] You played along or you were dealt out.”
Or consider another story: “Everyone had to put up with his ways or be booted from what quickly became a social and professional hotspot for many of us.”
We don’t know much precisely about the world that surrounded and assisted Ellis-- and we may never. But what we do know: (a) Ellis was at ground zero of an entire generation of comic creators, (b) it’s an open question how much Ellis “influenced” those creators, and (c) certainly, some of Ellis’s female associates were quick to publicly defend him when this all began.
Afua Richardson, for example, was quick to sneer at Ellis’s accusers on June 18th, adding “Yes, Yes, I know it sounds like I’m victim blaming, a label really easy to dismiss someone with”... just before making an absurd, nearly incomprehensible and horrifying argument that the fact one of the alleged victims had happened to have shared artistically- nude photographs of themselves in the past was somehow pertinent to discuss.
And look, I know “seems like she’s a tremendous piece of shit” is a label really easy to dismiss someone with, e.g. Afua Richardson, but… Let’s just say I strongly disagree that someone taking an artistic photograph of themselves should open the door to ritualistic abuse. I’m a hippie that way.
(Also, my entire lifestyle collapses if women stop taking artistic photos of themselves doing hotness; we can not discourage that or else all is lost! *waves fist at Statue of Liberty* You fools! You damn fools!).
Also quick with a sneer was longtime Ellis collaborator and fucking terrible artist Molly Crabapple:
Defending comic book celebs when they’re accused of mistreating people? That’s praxis.
Crabapple’s advocacy of Ellis was probably very persuasive-- because if there’s one thing that Molly Crabapple is known for, it’s that she draws like an untalented child, one of the rare children who you’d specifically ask to stop drawing and instead run around a house banging pots and pans together, so you can avoid looking at their drawings. But if there’s two things that Molly Crabapple is known for, it’s one, that her drawings are Biblically terrible and two, her A+ ability to distinguish good people from bad people:
Based on these reactions and how predictable it was that they’d be made by Ellis’s adoring collaborators?
I think it’s not unreasonable to speculate or worry that perhaps Warren Ellis could have built up a community around himself designed to protect Ellis first, vulnerable people second-- a community designed to kiss ass, and dismiss the ache of other people.
And perhaps you might also speculate or worry how deep that rot went.
As the WEF alumni have always been so fond of mentioning, look at how many special, special boys and girls came out of the WEF!
Ooooooooooh la la.
WEF alumni relentlessly encouraged people to think of Ellis as a gatekeeper of and a spiritual Godfather of their clique-- they appeared in documentaries about his life and they continued to speak of him glowingly as recently as a December 2018 Oral History that Image Comics published on its website. A cavalcade of comic pros appear in that Oral History-- heroes that would never ever never never never look the other way when women were being mistreated, like *squints* Chip Zdarsky.
Hmm, I feel like I just heard that name just recently… Oh, I got it-- I just found a post-it note that says “Chip Zdarsky says not to thank him for his heroism” on my bathroom mirror. Helpful!
Zdarsky: [The WEF] introduced me to the idea of the cult of personality.
Yeah, may have introduced a lot of women to that, too, it turns out!
Or from that Oral History, here’s Kieron Gillen:
When I re-read that this week, I thought “Boy that hasn’t aged well!” But what if Kieron Gillen had written a tedious “Writer’s Commentary” from January 2019 explaining his answers from the December 2018 Oral History of Smooching Warren Ellis’s Butt for Career Advancement? Wouldn't there be egg on my face?!
NOTE: we have linked to and quoted from the Wayback Archive’s version of that Oral History, as Image Comics had taken it down from their website. We reached out to Image Comics to ask why and they graciously and generously provided us with the following statement:
“Due to new information about Warren Ellis and the Warren Ellis Forum coming to light we have made the decision to take down our previously posted web-version of a WEF Oral History that ran in Image+. During this time we feel it is an incomplete retrospective on the Forum and we encourage fans to seek more information about the Forum's history, impact, and effect as reported by members of the comics press and shared by a larger collective of individuals with personal experiences to share.”
But juxtapose Gillen’s enthusiastic endorsement of Ellis with this quote from the So Many of Us website describing the WEF:
“Anyone astonished to hear these allegations is bathing deeply in denial, and/or is inexorably attached to the coattails Warren so liberally drags behind him.”
So, one might want to ask: when Kieron Gillen was yelling about how we needed to give Warren Ellis a prize, was he deeply in denial or riding them coattails?
Did Comic Book People keep kissing Ellis’s ass even when there were warning flags that something was wrong behind the scenes? If so, how many flags?
I forgot a term in the Glossary I wrote out yesterday. Let’s put that term here, just in case:
Enablers are often friends of a “person who is exhibiting poor choices that harm [...] others and for which they are not being held responsible.” Enablers “encourage dysfunctional behavior” (including the behavior of narcissists and abusers) in many ways-- for example, by “keeping secrets for the narcissist” or “hiding an abuser’s dysfunctional actions from public view.”
But we have to be careful with that term enabler. Don’t we? There’s a profound risk at a moment like this to yell “grab the pitchforks and let’s look for other people to blame, too.”
I certainly have that desire, to throw around phrases like “obsequious sycophant” here or “trite sham who scrambled on the backs of targeted women to be the first to shoe-shine Warren Ellis’s boots” there, about this person or that person. Oh, I could make such an argument that it is in fact a noble calling:
“Degenerates never seem that scared about their own reputations-- but if we make life unpleasant enough for people they do care about, maybe that’ll give malefactors themselves more pause going forward, lest everyone who has ever shown them a hint of kindness should come to know our rough caress. Maybe a scorched earth is our only preventative medicine. And if everyone knew-- if everyone knew! as all the dark parts of our heart sing to us-- then there are no innocent victims."
The comix version of the Donald Trump campaign pledge to kill the families of terrorists, basically...
But I just haven’t seen anyone who’s ever been hurt ask for that to happen.
I haven’t seen anyone hurt by one of these guys ask for recriminations to fly all over the place. I’ve never seen that once. And I suppose we have to treat that fact with significance and deference.
I suppose we have to honor that generosity, with our own.
Oh, but truly, it’s not an easy ask for me, though.
I struggle to feel much sympathy for the Good People in Comics whose “relationship” with Warren Ellis boosted their career... now having to deal with being looked at with suspicion and doubt, now having people "wonder" behind their backs how much they looked the other way about.
I’m sure it’s fun being on a roller coaster on the way up, when the sun’s shining and you think you’re just going to be going up up up forever. But screaming on the way down, “we don’t deserve this”, at folks on the ground who saw the drop coming and knew better than to get on the ride...? Come on, son.
But who am I to doubt? I am certainly not a candidate for being one of the "Good People in Comics"-- quite the opposite, as you might have heard. And so who am I to doubt? What right do I have? There can be no question, after all, that I am flawed.
But oh, I have a cynicism to me. And I doubt. I have such doubts.
But Ellis apologized in Mid-June, right?
How did that go?
Imagine what it would sound like if a Netflix attorney or a Netflix PR person slightly revised a form apology they found on Google, and then had him tweet it out.
And then just keep imagining that that was what happened, for the rest of your life.
Welcome to being me! Mazel Tov!
Now again, this is nothing we know for sure took place or can verify. And some people might not think this is a very generous opinion to have. But I would argue that “I feel like Ellis didn’t even write that bullshit” is the MOST generous thing to say, considering what was stated in that “apology.”
In particular, the Ellis apology attempts to suggest that the guy who ran around comics calling himself Stalin while flouting being backstage at a Comicon … didn’t think he was anybody special! Wowie-Zowie!
If I believed Ellis actually wrote that apology, I would then have the opinion that Ellis is so used to abusing people that he thinks he can get away with gaslighting the entirety of the goddamn comics industry. It's not just "self-deprecation"-- it stops being "self-deprecation" if people are accusing you of abuse, and just becomes deflection!
“Ellis didn’t write that shit” is just the kinder way of looking at the world. I’m a cherub!
One thing we know for sure: whoever wrote that shit hilariously entitled the form-like apology “Warren Ellis”, and that is hilarious under any possible theory as to who wrote it.
Have any of the accusers suggested that Warren Ellis wanted to be like Martin Landau’s character Donald Blakemore from the 1997 movie B.A.P.S.? And are you just mentioning B.A.P.S. again as part of your ongoing, multi-year scheme to have The Comics Journal someday be the #1 Google search result for the Halle Berry comedy classic?
Those are tough questions. All I know for sure is that B.A.P.S. co-stars Natalie Desselle.
Do People Understand Why What Ellis Did Was Wrong?
Prior to the So Many of Us website being posted, that answer was probably no. And even after, one could find comic fans sharing some spectacularly stupid opinions, just by scrolling down on Comics Beat articles.
The most common argument I saw being made by fan-men-- and I saw it repeatedly in Comics Beat comment sections-- was worded nearly identical to this:
“Okay, so, a famous guy wants to fuck; he does a little of the ol’ Razzle Dazzle; he gets his unit wet; he moves on…? Big deal; that’s what I’ll do when I finally get to write Shazam comics-- but that doesn’t make us predators. Predator’s just too strong a word to ever use-- I don’t even use that word in Scrabble. I don’t ever use the word predators-- and I never use condoms, I just tell girls that I do as a goof. We ain’t predators-- men just gotta be men! We drink and drive, and we smash with our units-- thats what being a man’s about. And hey, if you think about it, aren’t ladies the one who owe Warren Ellis an apology, for being *un-chill*? God, I love living in San Diego, the perfect city for me! Anyways, what’s this clitoris thing I keep hearing about??”
The So Many of Us website argues why this is wrong better than I could; for example, I like this bit:
Between Warren Ellis’ public standing as a visiting Professor to York St John University, Doctor of the University of Essex, Patron to Humanists UK and guest tutor to the Shadow Channel masters programme at the Sandberg Institute, his deception, manipulation, and the script above, our relationships with him were drastically imbalanced. Such imbalance precludes the possibility of informed consent.
But let me take a spin at it, too: that argument is being made by people coming to a conversation midway through, (a) missing and/or purposefully ignoring what that conversation is about, (b) making wild assumptions about what they think that conversation is about, without heed for what anyone is actually discussing…. and then (c) yelling their non-sequitur opinions at maximum volume, drowning out the original conversation.
The conversation was not about “What should dating be like for Warren Ellis?”
My interpretation of the actual conversation-- the one that you will remember started with Cameron Stewart-- is that it’s trying to answer a very simple question:
What is it like to be a woman occupying space in or near comic books (or the entertainment industries generally)?
To my understanding, that is the essence of the conversation, of all of these conversations.
If you are a man, there are rooms you can go into. And when you go into those rooms, you are safe; you are welcome. But if a woman comes into those rooms, they are not looked at as fellow travelers in those rooms.
They are looked at as prey.
Because of the unstated assumption of those rooms: that according to the men in those rooms, the men of great genius, those women just by dint of being there must be dirty sluts who are only in those rooms cause they’re looking to get fucked.
Because “why else would the silly little things be in the Genius Man Only Room?”
One theory is that Warren Ellis was a Man in such a room; none of the women were adequately warned about him; and they theoretically instead had to listen to toadies like Kieron Gillen drone on how Warren Ellis had never gotten an Eisner award for writing fucking DV8.
Saying “oh, that’s just dating” -- nobody cares what dating’s been like for you. If we wanted to know what your “dating life” was like, we’d truck over to your rest-stop Glory Hole and find out first hand. Because that’s not even remotely tangential to what people are actually discussing!
How did Comics Journalism handle this story?
Prior to the wave of articles from non-comics media like the Guardian and the Daily Beast, I think the response was a little underwhelming.
The Comics Beat’s Heidi MacDonald was part of Image's December 2018 Oral History. She described Ellis therein as “being, you know, a messiah” and discussed how she enjoyed being on his internet messageboard:
“We all wanted it to go on and on and on, but Warren was smarter than we, you know?”
Pivoting from… whatever that is?… to being tough on Ellis and a snow-blind culture that ignored and/or excused what he was up to? That’s a Triple Lindy for anybody to pull off. Heidi’s final comment on the initial Comics Beat article assured assuring comic fans that Ellis had “positive, life changing effect on hundreds of people…and an entire industry”, though. Not quite the Triply Lindy.
She improved slightly in a subsequent July 13th article entitled “Warren Ellis: 20 Years of the Bastard”, as she now fortunately remembered that she had gotten “less and less comfortable with [Ellis’s] open online harem, [and] Warren was less and less interested in my work.”
But let’s not single out poor Heidi MacDonald-- that was Tom Spurgeon’s job (RIP). I don’t want to awaken his ga-ga-ga-ga-ghost. And I doubt Heidi’s going to be the only person to say “you know now that you mention it I was always troubled, even when I appeared in the biographical documentary Warren Ellis: Awesome Guy Who Treats People Awesome.”
People seemed happier with a widely passed around article by a WEF alumni named Doctor NerdLove entitled “On Finding Out Your Heroes are Monsters.” The first sentence of that?
“Warren Ellis is someone who could be credibly referred to as a genius.”
Ooooooh, a genius.
Prior to the Daily Beast article, it was a real question: How many real life people did Warren Ellis have to have hurt before people would stop wedging into article about abuse allegations that this fucking guy’s Doctor Doom 2099 run was a work of “an extra-dimensional genius that… changed an entire industry, and inspired sexy young nursing student Matt Fraction to love again”?
Note: the myth of Ellis’s genius rests on comics that were all about inspiring an audience to get off on being angry, that were all about encouraging insecure readers to think they were better than other people.
How’s that fucking genius worldview working out for everybody?
The NerdLover then talks about how the (actual quote, from real life) “Warren Ellis Forum was a magical place,” filled with “rock stars” (*** ಠ.ಠ ***); and then, even more praise for Ellis ensues, punctuated by Doctor NerdLove repeating that none of Ellis’s conduct was technically illegal like it’s a mantra the David Lynch TM people gave him.
While the article appears on its face to be critical of Ellis, what Ellis may have actually done and why it's wrong seems a bit buried under Doctor NerdLove’s nostalgia for his youth spent making internet posts with “rockstars” like Sam Humphries while alone on Friday nights on the internet. (*Tucker, please insert the WORLD’S LOUDEST GUITAR RIFF here*) At one point, that article even seems to suggest that it is "confusing" and "difficult to know how to feel" when trying to weigh Ellis's "contributions to pop culture" and "the fact that he also has left a trail of so many people who feel used or coerced and manipulated by him."
The math there seems pretty easy to me, guy.
But look-- I know that Doctor Nerdlove didn’t spend 4 years at NerdSucking University to get drug through the mud by the likes of me, some psycho running around yelling about how your parasocial friendships with comic people is a mechanism your brain uses to hide from admitting how lost and lonely you are-- nobody deserves me saying anything at all about--
I’m in the middle of trying to write something about Warren Ell--
DOCTOR NERDLOVE ALERT!
What the-- what the fuck is happening?
My discussion about the Warren Ellis Scandal got interrupted by a completely different scandal???
2020 IS OUT OF CONTROL!
(*Tucker, insert the WORLD’S SECOND LOUDEST GUITAR RIFF HERE*).
I don’t have time to cover Doctor Nerdlove! I don’t even know who he is -- he just seems like he's aspiring to be another tedious FilmCrit Hulk-style bore calculatedly “performing goodness." (Hey, a gig’s a gig).
BUT THIS WOMAN’S STORY SOUNDS AWFUL! I FEEL AWFUL READING THIS!
DOCTOR, HEAL THYSELF!
Nerdlove “apologized” for, uhhhhhh, “fucking up while flirting”, as he put it, in a June 27, 2020 essay…
An entire forum that was filled with these guys!
Entire cons of these guys!
These guys, doing oral histories about these guys!
An industry run by these guys!
An entire artistic medium ankle-cuffed to these guys!
Stadium seating for these guys, to watch movies made by these guys adapted from comics by these guys!
These guys, always, always, always these guys!
And we’re only on Day 2!
CONTINUED NEXT WEEK!