Since 1990 Warren Ellis has written more than 30 graphic novels,
including the award-winning SF work Transmetropolitan,
Wolverine: Not Dead Yet, Stormwatch and Planetary.
He was also responsible for writing the PC game Hostile
Waters and has featured in Entertainment Weekly's
100 Most Creative People In Entertainment, and in Rolling
Stone's Hot Issue list of creatives. Keri Allan caught
up with the man whose twisted mind is responsible for creating,
amongst others, the warped Spider Jerusalem...
Allan: Why do you think comic books are seen as geeky, when
there are so many good writers out there?
Ellis: Because there are a lot of geeky comic books. I mean,
it depends who you talk to. There are people out there who
have only read From Hell or Transmetropolitan
or Sandman, who genuinely have no idea that Transformers
and GI Joe comics are still being printed and buy their
comics in graphic novel form from the bookshop. If people
go to a James Kochalka or Kid Koala gig and buy one of their
graphic novels afterwards, are they going to think they're
What's the worst thing about your profession at the moment?
Are there any artists you'd love to work with?
The ones I'd like to work with the most are all dead. Which
may simply indicate that I like artists better when they're
dead, I don't know. We should kill some and find out. I know
you would help me.
Have you ever seen your vision destroyed by a megalomaniac
As a rule, the only megalomaniac on a project I'm involved
in is me. When an artist goes sideways on a script, I have
it changed back, and then I have them fired. I mean, e-mailing
or calling me and saying, "this bit isn't quite working for
me, can I do it this way" is one thing, and that's fine. But
I've had artists completely change the last five pages of
a story, just drawing something completely different without
talking to me or anyone else first. And I had it changed back,
and I had the bastard fired. What can I say? I'm a horrible
Are you, or the Transmetropolitan artists, fans of
the League of Gentleman? - I noticed two characters
appear - getting shot - in the latest graphic novel.
Yeah, Darick discovered it when it was shown on BBC America
and worked them into one of the pages during the period of
his obsession with the show. We forgive him for this because
he is American and therefore manifestly "Not Local".
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you take from you
own personal experiences when you're writing?
You take it from everywhere. It's like making compost: you
stack up a big pile of crap until it starts steaming, and
hope something useful fuses together at the bottom of the
pile. You take in as much information, as much experience,
as possible, and let it float around until bits connect together
and form something new. That's inspiration. That's writing.
How do you feel about the success of Transmetropolitan?
Did you think its following would get as big as it did?
I knew that if we could get two graphic novels collections
out, we'd get somewhere. I knew that half of the book's potential
audience would never go into a comics store - that they'd
buy it from book stores and record stores. So, while I wasn't
expecting it to become this big weird cult thing, I thought
we had a shot at getting somewhere.
Do you feel that any of your other work has been overlooked
due to the success of Transmetropolitan?
Hard to say. I've got 30 or 40 different graphic novels in
print, all in different genres, written at different levels
and with their own audiences, and there's not a lot of overlap.
Many people devoted to Transmet have no interest in
Planetary, and not a lot of Planetary owners
possess a copy of Stranger Kisses. I'm slightly disappointed
that no-one bought Scars outside of (apparently) fellow
professionals. I'm still pleased with a lot of that.
What do you think of movie/comic book adaptations?
No opinion, really. If they make good films, then great. If
they don't, then it's not really harming anything.
There have been rumours of a Transmetropolitan film
for a while now. Is there any truth to this? There's
also been rumours that Patrick Stewart would be in line to
play Spider. Do you think he's the right man for the job?
Nah. Once or twice a year, someone enquires after the rights
and opens a conversation - you'd recognise some of the names
if I told you - but nothing's come of it yet. We also got
close to setting it up as an animated series for broadcast
on the web, with Patrick Stewart doing Spider, but the web
people decided to be pricks at the last minute, so we told
them to go away. And then they all got fired. Ha ha.
I think Patrick would do an excellent Spider. There's a whole
other side to Patrick that you don't see if you're just watching
X-Men or a Trek rerun. There's a streak of genuine
eccentricity in Patrick, and it is a thing of pure joy to
imagine him yelling profanities at complete strangers in the
street. Patrick's also very politically engaged, and, oddly,
started out as a journalist... Patrick's a friend, and I'd
love to see him do it. All we need to do is convince someone
Which of your work would you like to see turned into a movie?
And which would you not?
I'd still like to see Transmetropolitan made. I think
Patrick Stewart would still like to do it, too. I'd kind of
perversely like to see Global Frequency as a movie
or a TV series. Planetary was optioned for TV a couple
of times, but no-one could really see how it'd work. Orbiter
is all there, bar maybe a few second-act scenes - a movie
gotta ask - do you bring a lot of yourself into Spider? In
what ways is he like you (if any)?
Spider is me when I get up in the morning. I hate everything
in the morning. I hate mornings, too. I don't hold all of
Spider's opinions, by a long chalk, and I hope to god his
personality is radically different to mine, but the voice...
yeah, it's the voice. I loved writing that voice. Suffused
with hatred for everything.
What are you currently working on, and what plans do you have
for the rest of this year?
Short works for the rest of the year; completing Global
Frequency, publishing Tokyo Storm Warning, Red, Two-Step,
a few other things. Completing the script on a new graphic
novel, Stealth Tribes, that'll be out next year. And
then dying a little before Xmas and coming back in January
as a horrible sexy zombie. I don't think there's anything
wrong with that.
Thank you for your time.