In Transmet you never really question the power of the press.
The people of the city are overwhelmingly shown as self-absorbed, Epicurean, sadistic fucks, barely able to hold a whole idea in their head at once, much less aspire to things like altruism or civic duty. When they're not actually the johns fucking little kids, they're lost in their own worlds of drugs, body manipulation, sex, or often all three at once.
So it seems anachronistic that a president still holds press conferences, that a journalist can be universally loved, and that a column feed can stop a riot.
Transmet drew details from current events, but not the big picture. In a year where one news corp. runs attack ads against another for not being pro-administration enough, and Helen Thomas is sent to the back of the bus for not being a simpering twit, the most famous journalist today is... Geraldo. What makes you think a competent muckraker will have any kind of influence at all, starting, let's say, negative ten years from now?
That's because it's fiction, and fiction has no responsibility to balance. Next.
After reating through a great deal of Transmetropolitain, I cannot help but note that (And I've read many visions of the future) it is by far the most realistic portrayal of the future of our civilization I have yet to come across, and yet ot obviously has satirical and comedic undertones. My question is, when you originally envisioned this society of the future, were you thinking more along the lines of parodying our own society, or extrapolating on its development?
The thing about extrapolation is that... well, for one thing, you won't get it right unless you're a genius or a savant. For another, I am completely crap at all sciences and could never ever get it right. My girlfriend still taunts me about never having gotten any kind of science qualification.
So what I wanted to do is use science fiction as a tool with which to look at our own society. And if you take as your basis the assumption that human society will do the most absurd thing possible with any technology (telefactoring = remote masturbation/teledildonics", for example) ... then you see how I approached the "extrapolation" of the book. I really just sat down and made shit up, knowing full well that truth is always stranger than fiction...
Question derailed by rank stupidity of interviewee. Next.
I've been reading your columns and I'm pleased to see that there are those working in the comics industry who actually think about what they're creating and refuse to lend a helping hand to reversing the story-telling progress that was made in the 80s and 90s.
However, I have to disagree with you on The Authority. I don't think the sexuality of Superman and Batman... er, Apollo and Midnighter ;) had anything to do with the decline of the book. Yes, the book then side-tracked too often toward that topic and yes, the original setup gave depth to the story without having to be a "gay superhero" thing.
But, do you think they could have been overtly gay and still managed to be "just another couple of members of the team"? To put that another way, if there had been a wealth of plot and character development available (as there was when you were writing it), can't you imagine simply dropping the answer to the question and moving on to other stories? Is it an inescapable trap or just an obvious one?
I think you're misreading my characterisation of Mark's run as a "decline." But, yes, I think those two characters could easily have been overtly gay and still managed to be "part of the team" or whatever. Do you ask that when characters in ensemble dramas are overtly heterosexual? There's something to be said for answering a question and moving on. Particularly in a book which, after all, is all about people in fetish gear killing many thousands of cannon-fodder objects in every episode.
In recent years, there has been a minor trend of comics which feature updated or slightly reworked versions of the heroes and villains from old pulp novels and radio dramas. Many of these characters were created in and for the consumption of a society than was sexist, racially biased (if not outright racist), and generally more spiteful and discriminatory than modern society. Many of these characters' stories were filled with ethnic and racial stereotypes that have been (in most cases) culled from their representations in contemporary comics; however ignorance and hate remain a part of their past. In talking about this issue with some friends, it was pointed out to me that characters like Tarzan and Fu Manchu are archetypes (the wild man and the evil genius) which are present in many cultures ? that may be so, but the fact remains that those specific characters are also stereotypes (the great White hunter and the Yellow Peril). Considering that you have featured a Tarzan-like character in Planetary, and a Fu Manchu-like character in both Planetary and the Authority, how do you draw the line between using an archetype and using a stereotype? Is it even necessary to use those specific characters, when the archetype can be used to create a new character that is not tied to the close-mindedness of the past - or do you believe that reworking the character to remove those ties exonerates the character from its past? Do you plan to address this issue in Planetary or any other comic where you use pulp characters, and do you believe it is something other creators should consider?
I couldn't care less what other creators "should" consider, and if you ever say something like that within my physical reach I will slap the life clean out of your little body.
Yes. The Yellow Peril characters Ð Fu Manchu, Wu Fang, etc - were disgusting. Part of the extended joke that was THE AUTHORITY was in seeing people really not react to Fu Manchu sending out thousands of his inscrutable Oriental menaces to divebomb major white world cities. (For those who need the cheat sheet, THE AUTHORITY was a twelve-episode superhero fiction series where the eponymous team fight Fu Manchu, Ming the Merciless and God (dressed up as Cthulhu).)
PLANETARY's intent was different. As the last half of the serial goes into publication, you'll see some examination of the underpinnings of these characters. In fact, you've already seen some questioning of the Oriental Genius type. I don't want to "exonerate" these characters from their pasts, or even exonerate those who created them. It's easy to say, well, it was a different time back then, of course they were racist. Or that, yeah, these archetypes exist in every culture. But while Tarzan is the "feral child" legend writ large, Fu Manchu is not the "evil genius". He is specifically the Evil Chinee. And that's something to be explored from many angles.
If I get too far into this, I'm going to be writing the actual comic, so I'll drop this one here
There was a lot of controversy on your run of DC's Hellblazer, which seemed to start with the (understandably) cancelled Columbine-like issue. What can you tell us on what's happened (without naming names) and how does it affect your relationship with DC to this day?
Second question, if I may. We often hear about which book/character that a comicbook writer would love to work on. What character or book from the big 2 wouldn't you touch with a 10 foot pole?
I swear, I thought a slashdot interview wouldn't ask me the same bloody questions every other website interview does...
Short version; the story was written before Columbine, Columbine happened just as the book was going to press, there was objections to the story, I refused to do the rewrite that would defang the story and bring it into line with demands, DC declined to publish the story, I left the book. Our relationship today? I signed an exclusive contract with DC last year - an offer they made to me after the Hellblazer thing. These things happen.
Current status of Transmet movie / Patrick Stewart (Score:5, Interesting) by x mani x (21412)
Patrick Stewart, being a vocal Transmet fan, has expressed interest
in starring in a Transmet movie or TV (mini?) series. I think you too
have expressed interest in this kind of venture. Basically, my questions
1) What is the status of a Transmet movie or TV series? Have any studios shown interest in this kind of project?
2) What kind of role would you play if such a project was green-lit? Which story arc from your comics do you think would be best suited for the big screen, or would you develop an entirely new arc?
3) Are you friends with Patrick Stewart? I honestly can't picture him either reading Transmet or portraying Spider in a movie. That being said, I would love to see how Patrick Stewart would interpret Spider Jerusalem.
1) There is no status. It's not being actively shopped right now. Patrick and I tried to put it together in a couple of forms - including an online animation project, which got very very far along before the company decided to try and ratfuck us at the last minute -- another director got interested and took a shot, and nothing worked out in any instance.
2) Everyone who's been associated with the project thus far has agreed that I have to write it. My approach would be to use the first three issues as a rough, skeleton basis for a feature film.
3) I'm friends with Patrick and his wife Wendy, and I know Patrick could nail Spider. So does Wendy, who just cringes in those moments when Patrick begins to channel Spider, standing on tables and proclaiming Spider to be his role model and personal god...
Given the revival of Hollywood's interest in comic books, and the general public's interest in Hollywood's treatment of same, how much of your character/world-building is influenced by the prospect of birthing the next big Happy Meal franchise? Do you give any thought at all to how such-and-such a notion might play and/or be accepted "cinematically," when creating (ostensibly) for the comic book medium?
...oh, and Warren, even though this is SlashDot, it's OK to admit to wanting to make money -- lots and lots of money. I'm interested in knowing how that prospect influences the creation, or whether it is more meaningful (and maybe more profitable, long-term) to ignore such-and-such a trend that could make you a bajillionaire...
This is the sort of thinking that will quickly drive you crazy. You really can't sit down and try to design a work with an audience in mind, let alone a franchise purchaser. I've seen it drive people nuts.
If I'm creating a comic, I'm CREATING A COMIC. It's designed to work in that medium. It's the totality of the beast, without holding back. If someone wants to go and make a film out of it afterwards, great. But creating a comic that's really designed to be a film or a line of collectible cups or a group of action figures... that's just going to get you a shitty comic. And if I do nothing but shitty comics, then I'm not going to be doing films, or franchise design, or comics, or anything else, and it'll be back to the heartbreaking, backbreaking life of a male prostitute for me.
You acted as a creative consultant for Rage's Hostile Waters game, and it showed: the story line is a cut above anything I've played for some time and the cut-scene narratives beautifully eloquent.
How satisfying did you find the experience? (Did you get a say in the voice cast?) Would you do it again?
If you could try another media to work with, which would it be?
I had a great time making that. I had a say in the voice cast, I got to sit in on Tom Baker recording the narration I'd written for him, I got to see the cinematics being built. It was terrific, and I'd do it again - in fact, I am doing it again, but I signed the NDA a few weeks ago, so, you know, I was never here, you heard nothing...
I want to try all media. I've done journalism, I once did a little ghostwriting for radio, I've done short fiction, I've done a book of photography. I'm currently involved in developing something for TV (can't say any more right now, they don't like it when I talk about these things). But I want to give everything a crack. I want to make a music video. I want to write feature films. I want to write a novel - something I've been approached over several times over the years, but the money's never yet made it viable for me. I want to do more in animation - I was involved in several web-animation projects just previous to dot.crash. Alan Moore put the idea into my head to do a spoken-word CD a couple of years ago, and now a small label's interested.
I want to do it all. Life's short, you know?
Even though Planetary is a "Secret history of the Wildstorm Universe", you bring lots of elements from the history of Marvel and DC. Has the direction of Planetary change since your initial proposal?
[Abusing my editorial powers, my wife wants to know what additional Planetary do you have in the works? --CT]
I decided early on to soft-pedal a lot of the Wildstorm U stuff. I bring elements in from all over because, really, so did Jim Lee and the others when they were generating their "Wildstorm Universe" superhero environment. It's all mix-and-match. And that's nothing new, people have been doing this for years, especially during boomtimes in superhero publishing. But that leads to a terrible dilution of what made those core concepts great in the first place, and that's a big part of what Planetary's about. Showing you why millions of people were interested in that stuff in the first place... and what's been lost.
And now, the corruption of slashdot.
I've had script for a hundred pages of PLANETARY in the can for some time now. That's PLANETARY/THE BATMAN: NIGHT ON EARTH, issues 16, 17,and 18, and part of issue 19. I stopped there because I'm going to let John catch up with me a little.
So I've been reading comics for years. A big part of my reading is graphic literature. I've brought many people into the fold from many many walks of life. It is hard to convince people that it's not comics they hate, just superheros (as you wonderfully point out in COME IN ALONE).
Anyhow, I have generated a list that I use to get people into comics. The 5 or so graphic novels that I actually use to start people changes between people, but the rest of the list tends to remain the same. I have my list.
But someone approaches you. They've just read Kavalier and Klay or maybe they've read about Maus or read Gaiman's successful book in transition from Stephen King. Or even better, they see you reading Alias on the train and wonder what a comic book is doing saying, "Fuck." Where do YOU, Warren Ellis, point them to?
And don't say Watchmen, cause that's (fantastic) genre crud.
I'll say whatever I like, thanks.
That said, no, I wouldn't test people out on WATCHMEN, though I know it's worked for others. It was the first comic one of my girlfriends had ever read, and she got so immersed in it that she actually threw the issue where Rorschach gets captured across the room in anger and disgust, yelling "It isn't FAIR!" That book worked on people, and had a far wider reach than you'd think.
Okay, let's test this. I haven't read KAVALIER AND KLAY because the few people who seem capable of articulating what the book's about tell me it's about comics, and I write comics all fucking day and have absolutely no interest in reading about them in what we laughingly call my spare time. So what happens is that I beat up your friend for suggesting it. As he lays there clutching the point in his chest where I kicked his nuts up to, I would doubtless cast MAUS and THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT on his twitching form. Because what's better, reading about MAUS or actually reading MAUS? ONE BAD RAT is a brilliant piece of English contemporary fiction about child sexual abuse and Beatrix Potter. This is apt because I would in fact sell your friend to child sexual abusers.
(Bryan Talbot did ONE BAD RAT. I met him on a train once. He'd just started work on it. "Let me show you me new buke, Warren. It's about child sexual abuse and Beatrix Potter." Did you ever have one of those moments where you find yourself calculating whether or not you can survive throwing yourself from a moving train?)
(And ONE BAD RAT is the second most requested graphic novel in US libraries. The most requested is MAUS.)
...the thing with this is that so much of it depends on what the person likes in other media. I mean, if your friend watches nothing but Jerry Bruckheimer movies, you're probably not going to give him Grant Morrison and Philip Bond's KILL YOUR BOYFRIEND, which is the best book about life, rebellion and teenage rampage ever. If your friend has every movie Bette Midler ever made... well, shit, it's too late for them and you may as well just have them killed.
When you talk about movies, there's always that which bookstores live by; the book is almost always better than the movie. You could have no better case in point than FROM HELL, Alan Moore's best graphic novel to date, brilliantly illustrated by Eddie Campbell. It's hard to describe just how much better the book is. It's like, "If the movie was an episode of ÔBattlestar Galactica' with a guest appearance by the Smurfs and everyone spoke Dutch, the graphic novel is ÔCitizen Kane' with added sex scenes and music by your favourite ten bands and everyone in the world you ever hated dies at the end." That's how much better it is.
Take a look at Artbomb.net. It's aimed specifically at people who don't read graphic novels, or just took an interest in the medium, to show that there's a graphic novel for everybody. We even got Jessica Abel to draw an introduction to graphic novels and reading them, which libraries are printing off and displaying. Your question is exactly what Artbomb.net is there for.
Anyone who's continued obscurity baffles and confuses you? Writers or artists.
How about the same question for success? No need for diplomacy, what gets said on Slashdot stays on Slashdot
Yeah, right. No-one reads anything on the Internet, after all.
Oh, God, there are so many people who deserve more spotlight... okay, I'll give you two people, for one very specific reason.
Justine Shaw is serialising a graphic novel called NOWHERE GIRL - one of those eerie talents that just appears fully-formed, but totally authentic at the same time. Patrick Farley does graphic novellas, and has produced probably the greatest science fiction graphic novella of the last five years, DELTA THRIVES.
I've always been curious why you and Garth Ennis, among others, spend so much time with stories set in the U.S.?
If the main reason is simply that you sell more of the stuff that way (and I'm not trying to be offensive), what are some of the other reasons?
Because we want to write about America. Garth wants to write about America because he loves it. I want to write about America because it fascinates me (which is not quite the same thing, and nowhere near as benign). And it's not like it stops either of us about writing books about Britain or Ireland. Oh, and piss off.
Warren, you are always talking how you immerse yourself in pop culture, using it to feed your ever growing imagination. This has always troubled me because I can only take so much American Idol and Britney Spears before my brain begins turning into coal and everything ends up looking hazy violet.
I'd like to hear what you mean by pop culture. What sources do you most commonly draw from now? There is practically nothing mainstream worth the effort anymore, so where else do you turn?
Everything is pop culture. The Japanese making little porcelain dolls of anime girls taking a shit. Floria Sigismondi music videos. Web design. Graphic novels. Pop culture isn't a blanket term for "the most dilute mainstream crap you can think of." It's whatever the currency of the culture is, its expression and iconography in the moment.
Matt Jones, at blackbeltjones.com , has found this word he's been kicking around for a while: Haecceity. The "thisness" of something. "The-thisness-of-now" and "the-nowness-of-this." That's pop culture; the way the arts surf the moment, and the way we walk the wave. That a lot of it is crap doesn't really matter. A lot of everything is crap. But if you're going to write about the world, and the way culture acts on the world, then you need to take a look at "I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!"/"Celebrity Survivor" as well as listening to something really fucking good like "Go" by Kait0 or reading THE FILTH or PATTERN RECOGNITION or watching VISITOR Q.
You look everywhere. You make a point of looking everywhere. Grab a file-sharing program and use it to test stuff. (The technology's out there and complaining about it is like bitching about the shit on the floor of the barn the horse bolted from.) Enter things at random and see what you get. Or just google for free mp3s offered by artists, which works more often than you'd think. If you like it, buy some, and see what buying it leads you to. (This is why I spend more on new music than anyone else I know.) Don't just wait to see what the TV feeds you. You know as well as I do that in most places the TV exists to feed you shit. They spent a full year programming Avril Lavigne in LA and dressing her up to appeal to as many "subculture" strands as possible. She's the Monkees, and that kind of Frankensteinian creature only works if you sit there and passively let that kind of shit-radiation into your brain.
Get up and look for something new.