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Image Comics Reneges on Warren Ellis Comeback Series After Internet Outcry

The Castlevania writer broke his yearlong silence after multiple accusations of sexually predatory behavior.

Comics and TV writer Warren Ellis

One year ago, British comic book writer Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Global Frequency, Red) was accused by writer Katie West of coercion, manipulation, and sexually predatory behavior on Twitter. West’s tweet was immediately met with responses from dozens of women and non-binary individuals who shared similar experiences with Ellis, establishing what appeared to be a broad pattern of a giant in the comics industry abusing the power he held over fans and followers. Since then, victims of Ellis have formed So Many of Us, a group of over 60 people who accused Ellis of years of grooming and emotional manipulation.

Ellis issued an apology and largely withdrew from public life, but like most canceled men of the Me Too movement, he has resurfaced. News broke that Image Comics would be bringing Ellis back to finish his mid-2000s series Fell with artist Ben Templesmith. Templesmith made the announcement on his Patreon account, where he wrote of Ellis, “I’m glad he’s going to be doing some comics again. I don’t think anyone thought he’d bugger off and work in a shoe factory or anything, … He is after all, one of the most important comics writers of the past few decades. It means a lot to me to finish this thing, finally, so I couldn’t say no. I guess we’ll let the market speak as to how things go.”

Image Comics initially stood by the announcement, saying “Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Image Comics series Fell will indeed return for its long awaited final story arc in graphic novel format. We will have more details to share about this very soon.”

But as public outrage grew, they backtracked and issued a new statement saying, “This week’s Fell announcement was neither planned, nor vetted, and was in fact, premature, … While finishing Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Fell is something we’ve been looking forward to for years, Image Comics will not be working with Warren on anything further until he has made amends to the satisfaction of all involved.” I guess the market has spoken.

So Many of Us released a statement on June 23 regarding the Fell announcement, saying “Since his public statement a year ago, to the knowledge of these authors, Ellis has still not taken direct responsibility for his destructive behavior nor attempted to tackle the circumstances that allow such behavior to go on unchecked both on and offline.”

The following day, Ellis reached out to So Many of Us to begin a “mediated dialogue”. He also reactivated his newsletter Orbital Operations to respond to the ongoing saga.

Ellis wrote, “I was made aware today of the So Many Of Us collective’s offer of a mediated dialogue, and have today asked their permission to enter that dialogue. Where that will take us, I’m not sure, but I know I want to make certain that I’m doing all I can to no longer be part of the problem or in any way still perpetuating the past. I hope these conversations will be ongoing and productive for all.”

He continued, “In the past, I have been careless and unthinking in my personal relationships, and I again apologise without reservation. In the last year, I’ve entered therapy and taken other measures to change my behavior, and am continuing to process the help and advice I’ve received. I’ve had a lot of long, hard conversations with people who are or have been close to me, and I need to have a lot more. I’m working on change. I’ve been silent because I had a lot of work to do and still do, and have repairs still to make, and wish to proceed mindfully without causing further harm. I have, of course, been silent and isolated for too long, and should have addressed things sooner and proceeded with more speed. I apologise.”

Ellis added, “If you are a reader who supported me, then thank you, but please don’t defend me anymore, … Change doesn’t happen overnight—I’m at the start of a long road, and it’s not a road with a defined end—and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you want to support me, then support efforts towards transformation of communities, industries and workplaces.”

Ellis added that he was in therapy, and had made charitable contributions to “women’s support groups”. If Ellis does indeed engage with So Many of Us, he would be one of the first men of the Me Too movement to take active steps towards rehabilitating his image and acknowledging his behavior.

But what would amends look like, and how would they be implemented? Because so far, the pattern established for men caught behaving badly is a 6-12 months of self-imposed silence followed by a return to business as usual. So Many of Us wrote that they seek “mediated transformative justice action” with Ellis, and outlined steps that included him acknowledging his behavior and working towards dismantling the systems that foster this kind of behavior.

There is an opportunity here for Ellis to not only earn back the trust of his fans, but to create a framework for the redemption of men like him. Time will tell whether he’s bold enough to take it.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.