Warren Ellis interview

Warren Ellis is the popular writer whose list of credits includes Authority and Planetary for DC/WildStorm, Strange Kiss for Avatar, Excalibur for Marvel, and Transmetropolitan for DC/Vertigo. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently contacted Ellis to find out more about his latest projects from DC/WildStorm, MEK and Global Frequency.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story in MEK and who are the characters involved?

MEKWarren Ellis: MEK is about Sarissa Leon, who in her youth helped found an urban subculture based on cyborging - replacing elements of the human body with enhanced mechanical parts. She eventually left the city where it all began to become a political lobbyist for mek rights. Today, she is returning home, because one of the other founders - and her ex-lover - has been murdered, apparently while participating in an illegal mek deal. This isn't her home anymore. Everything's changed. And the founder of the subculture is alone in an inner city where everyone's got mek, and no-one cares if she lives or dies.

Westfield: The idea of mechanical enhancements sounds very much like something that could happen. Do you expect to see this actually occur in the future?

Ellis: It's already happening. The Australian performance artist Stelarc has been using mechanical limbs wired into his own musculature for years. Kevin Warwick in Britain experiments with low-level enhancements. People have been playing with the idea of implantable telephones for the last decade. What is art and experiment today will be high-end consumer goods in ten years, and cheap enough to be street goods in twenty years. Wearable computing is already a $3000 item. My stepfather has an implanted battery-powered pump that injects morphine into his system to control the pain of his damaged leg. Imagine what clever demented teenagers could do with that idea. William Gibson said it smartest: the street finds its own use for things. And what is experimental, medical or military eventually finds its way down there. Like the Internet.

Westfield: Another series that's starting soon is Global Frequency. What can you tell us about that?

Ellis: When intelligence agencies succeed, we never hear about it - and we never learn what they succeeded against. When they fail, things that we thought were impossible kill thousands of people. When it looks like intelligence agencies are not going to meet the challenge of all the world's secrets and conceptual landmines, a private group called Global Frequency is there to stop us all falling. There are a thousand and one people on the Global Frequency. You could be living with one of them, and you'd never know until they got the call...

Global FrequencyWestfield: An interesting aspect of Global Frequency is that each issue is drawn by a different artist. Did you write the story first and then find artists to fit the issues, or did you line up artists and then write to their strengths?

Ellis: A little of both. Some - like the story planned for David Lloyd, artist of V For Vendetta - were conceived especially for the artist. Some were pre-existing ideas that I wrote specifically to play into that artist's strengths. Steve Dillon drawing action in New York City. The range and starkness of Garry Leach, and the rugged strangeness of Glenn Fabry. Jim Lee always says I bring out the best in every artist I work with, and I'm trying to live up to that.

Westfield: Is there anything you can tell us about other projects coming from you in the future?

Ellis: Scars, a six-issue crime serial from Avatar Press, is probably the best thing I've yet written for them. Brilliant cinematic art from Jacen Burrows. Starts in November. Orbiter, a 100-page graphic novel from Vertigo, a science fiction mystery with world-beating art from Colleen Doran, should be out at the end of the year.