Warren Ellis

Looking at your current workload (Stormwatch for Wildstorm and Transmet for Helix) and your up coming projects (Planetary for Wildstorm, Panic Nation for Top Cow and the Millenium projects for both WS and Marvel) it's clear that you're pretty busy, so why did you decide to take on Vertigo's HellBlazer ?

(Note : Events have conspired to reshape Warren's schedule considerably since this interview.   both of the mentioned 'Millenium Projects' were scrapped, Stormwatch was cancelled and replaced with The Authority, Panic Nation is currently on hiatus and will not be published by Top Cow.   For upto date information on Warren Ellis's projects, check out his site).

Because it was something very different to the other jobs, it's a book that I've nearly written before (long story), and because every bastard on Earth has been telling me I should be writing it... most vocally, Ennis, Dillon and my girlfriend.

Usually when you join a project you're quite open about the amount of time you'll spend on it (you made it clear that after 8 issues you'd be leaving DV8 and initially you promised only a year or sos worth of Stormwatch which has thankfully been extended).   How long do you plan to stay as writer for HellBlazer ?   Will your run be as long as your predecessors which usually lasted around 40 issues ?

I'm looking at a 40 issue run here, more or less.   Seems to be the thing to do, after all...

Your predecessor, Paul Jenkins, gave us a slightly subdued John Constantine (at least when compared to Garth's take on the character).   Despite the trials he faced under Paul's run, John has found relative happiness with Dani and has become a Godfather.    Do you see your run being more akin to Garth's or Paul's ?

Somewhere between Garth's and Jamie Delano's, if anywhere.    Jamie once pointed out to me over dinner, many years ago, that HELLBLAZER is an excellent "voice", a terrific vehicle for opinion and observation, particularly in political terms.   This is something I was and am very sympathetic to.   It's been a while since I wrote any specifically British fiction, and there's not a better vehicle for British social fiction in comics (unless you created it yourself).   This followed through with Garth -- in between the blood and guts, there was some very vigorous social fiction going on.   (That got its ultimate iteration in the marvellous HEARTLAND one-shot.)

Whether it'll actually be *like* either of their runs, I doubt.    It'll be interesting, really -- I'll be the first writer of HELLBLAZER to actually live near London while writing it.   All my family are from London, my accent is foul Estuary English with just the barest hint of education...

I suspect -- and hope -- that my run will be a beast alone.    If not, why bother doing it in the first place?   I have no intention of spending my time re-running previous elements of the book...

I want to get the book back into telling horror stories.   By which, I mean things that scare and disturb you, as opposed to the Devil turning up in his furry underpants every now and then.   The open supernatural elements will likely be much reduced.   To my mind, you see, the scariest thing in the world is people and what they can do to each other.   It is always stranger than fiction, and far more disturbing.

IAs to the "relative happiness" thing; it's always been my suspicion that John is happier -- only happy, in fact -- when he's got his arm stuck in something nasty.   He's an adrenaline junkie.   He looks for the bad shit because it makes him know he's alive.   He's more complex even than that, obviously... but this is all to say that I don't believe domestic bliss is John's place.   He thought it was, once.   But it ain't.

When you took over Stormwatch, and to a lesser degree when you wrote Excaliber, you stomped your authority on the book.   Garth Ennis did something similar when he started on HellBlazer - introducing his own supporting cast and ignoring loose ends from Delano's run.   Paul choose a different path and built on what came before as well as introducing his own ideas.   Which route do you see yourself following ?

The first.   In with as much of a bang as I can muster, no deference to any previous run.   Kicking in the doors, throwing a grenade behind the bar, pissing on the bed.    Putting the big boots on, John.   It is my way, for good or bad.

As I said, I'm not playing with all the discarded toys.   I want to come in and make a fresh start for everybody.   While this may annoy and even drive off some of Paul's fans -- and I could certainly understand that -- I believe it's better for the long-term health of the book to re-invent it periodically.

Transmetropolitan - Warren's finest hour.

Assuming that Warren Pleece continues as HellBlazer artist, who would you most like to illustrate the title apart from him (your old partner Leonardo Manco maybe) ?

Warren Pleece will not continue as HELLBLAZER artist.   We'll be bringing in a new artist for the first six issues of my run -- a self-contained story arc -- and then do six self-contained single issues (perhaps connected by a theme), with a different artist on each.   We have no-one signed yet, but lots of very good (and surprising) artists have declared their interest in doing HELLBLAZER with me.    I'll be working with a lot of unexpected people through the first year.   It's going to be very interesting.

Favourite issue of HellBlazer you've read ?

Hm.   Jamie's one with the monkey was brilliant.   The first episode of his FEAR MACHINE sequence was marvellously solid, too.   Several of Garth's issues were standouts, including the Special, "Confessional." Gaiman's "Hold Me" was, to my mind, one of the most honest and natural things he's ever done, certainly among his best work.   I'd be hard pressed to choose a single issue.

If you were told that HellBlazer was to be cancelled - would JC ride off into the sunset or bite the bullet - how would you retire the character ?

He'd have to wander off into the sunset, I think.   You'd have to be left to imagine how he lived out the rest of his life.

Slightly off topic but still on artists, has it been decided who'll be covering the art chores in Panic Nation yet ?


A friend of mine recently referred to you as 'the hardest working man in comics' - how will you fit in no less than three creator owned books as well as a work for hire gig ?

It's all down to scheduling and organisation, John.   Remember; when I have four books coming out in one month, it doesn't mean I wrote them all in the same month.   For instance -- by next Monday, I won't have to write an issue of TRANSMET for six months....

Both Garth and Grant have recently signed contracts that will keep their work exclusively within DCs books - can you ever see yourself signing such a contract ?

No.   Never.   I like the freedom of freelancing, and I work with too many good people at too many companies to want to give any of them up.

What title (outside of your current work) would you most like to write ?

My own.   I have a few graphic novels I want to get off the ground during '98.   Not interested in taking on any company-owned titles.

Favourite drink ?

Right now, it's Springbank Campbeltown 20-year-old single malt Scotch whiskey.

I'll leave you with a final question..... HellBlazer/Satana - a crossover worth making ?


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