|Warren Ellis at SDCC 2010
Yesterday my wife walked up to me and showed me a breaking article that explained Warren Ellis was accused of sexual coercion. You can find that article here. I'm devastated. Even though I don't know Warren personally, earlier this year I embarked on a journey to read everything he's ever written. I've always really liked his work, from his amazing original series Transmetropolitan to his comprehensive representation of people of color and members of the LGBTQ community in The Authority, Trees, Injection, Global Frequency, and The Wildstorm. So it's with great sadness that I now confront this awkward situation. Obviously, my heart goes out to the women who were manipulated by Warren. My pain is a parody of theirs, by comparison. Situations like these also become more real when you have a daughter, and consider the future ahead of her.
How does one separate the author from the work? Writers are traditionally fucked up people. How could they be good writers, if they didn't have some kind of trauma that they were working through? I know, for instance, that Alan Moore is deeply moved by the occult. So much so that he wrote an entire series (Promethea) to explain how it works. Likewise, Grant Morrison is convinced that he was abducted by 4th dimensional aliens--after taking a bunch of psychotropic drugs, of course--and since experiencing that he has attempted to justify that experience by writing about it in superhero comics. Neil Gaiman? I think he just read a lot. Who knows?
I remember when Louie C.K. was also outed by the #metoo movement. I remember Sarah Silverman talking about how she felt betrayed and devastated by the news. That she was a close friend of Louie, and to find out was crushing. She explained that she, at the same time, loved Louie but also hated him for what he did. In a way, that's kind of how I feel.
With comics, things get even more complicated. I would argue that if writer X, makes Batman say Y, there is a degree of separation between the author and the work. Mostly because, with comics, the writer is becoming a mouth piece for a corporate property. This property is controlled by an editorial staff. A writer can't make Batman antisemitic or homophobic, because there are a team of editors in place to make sure that doesn't happen. (Though maybe Frank Millar is an exception to the rule?) So, when I read Warren Ellis, I hear Batman's voice. I see through the eyes of Spider Jerusalem. I listen to Midnighter's rants. I feel the electricity in Jenny Sparks' hands. I taste the dankness of the Venture space shuttle, after ten years of travel in deep space. And, regardless, of what Warren did, I feel those things. And his work has strengthened the medium of sequential art as a whole.
I'm just pissed off.
It's integral to my faith in Jesus Christ that people are inherently fucked. They have no hope of being good apart from Christ. Every act of good will, of sacrifice, can be linked back to the implicit self-interest of the individual. So why should I expect any different from Warren? Like every human that has ever existed, he has made bad decisions. He has been cruel, lustful, depraved, dishonest, and cowardly. I would hope that, after all of this, he can repent of his wrongdoings and seek forgiveness and restitution.
But I can't demand that. I just have to hope.