Last year, comics writer Warren Ellis — known for his work at Marvel and DC on series like Nextwave, The Batman’s Grave, Transmetropolitan, and more, as well as his work on Netflix’s Castlevania series — was the subject of accusations from a group of over 60 people who claim years of grooming and sexually predatory behaviour by the writer, often allegedly in exchange for mentorship in the world of comics writing. Now, a year to the day that allegations began emerging, Ellis is once again getting major work — at Image Comics.
The news was brought to light through an update on the Patreon account of artist Ben Templesmith who noted he and Ellis would be reuniting at Image Comics this year to revive and conclude Fell, a crime series the duo began at Image in 2005, and which has been on hiatus since 2008. “For better or worse, this is unfinished business to me. We really left it hanging. Obviously, so much has changed since those days. Yes, I know, *so much*,” Templesmith wrote in the post announcing the news.
While it was unclear if he was specifically referencing the accusations levied against Ellis last year, eventually collected by a group of 60 people (who said they heard from over 100) accusing Ellis of inappropriate sexual conduct and coercion through the testimonial archive SoManyOfUs.com, it became more obvious as he continued. “Not for me to speak for Warren, but I agreed to do the book and 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,” Templesmith continued. “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.”
Gizmodo has reached out to Image Comics, Ellis, and Templesmith for further comment about the decision to publish the remaining issues of Fell, but has not yet received a response from the writer nor the artist (we’ll update this post if we do). When asked about its previous knowledge about the accusations against Ellis, the decision to return to Fell 13 years later in the wake of them, and a response to industry critics of the publisher’s decision to platform the writer, Image declined to comment, only confirming: “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.”
Indeed, the news has drawn harsh criticism from many comics critics and professionals, and Image Comics has yet to publicly acknowledge Templesmith’s reveal or announce Fell’s return itself. However, Templesmith once again took to his Patreon to address some fans’ concerns at Ellis’ slow return to the comics sphere in the wake of the accusations levied against him.
“I just can’t subscribe to a permanent social and economic living death for anyone, outside of criminal matters. What’s between you all & him is your personal business & I wish you all well in those dealings. Everyone will be free to not buy the book, ignore his further works, (& mine) deride them & pass judgment economically,” Templesmith wrote in response to a commenter last night. “I know some people will never be happy, or healed. I’ve dealt with abuse & manipulation myself, so I empathise with those affected. I also believe in redemption & that he’s capable of making amends, growing from his actions & hopefully becoming an example of change in a community that desperately warrants it.”
You may recall that last year the team behind SoManyOfUs stressed that they were not looking to destroy anyone’s career and, in fact, offered the “possibility of a mediated transformative justice action.” A few days later they made an update saying that after the “statement’s publication, he continued to send sexual messages and overtures to people as recently as July 2020.”
Today, the group released another statement to its homepage addressing the news. “When we published SoManyOfUs.com on July 13, 2020, we expressly did not want to ‘cancel’ author Warren Ellis. Rather, we shared constructive ways to address the all-too-common issue of powerful men’s abusive behaviour,” the new statement reads in part. “We challenged people to rethink past actions and to consider how — and why — they may have facilitated harmful behaviours and environments. We called for openness, accountability, and growth, extending an offer of working with Ellis on some form of transformative justice.”
“Today, as Ellis returns to comics without making amends to anyone involved in SoManyOfUs.com or accepting the ramifications of his actions, the renewal of ardent public support alongside calls for accountability is reassuring,” the statement concludes. “We reaffirm our call for Warren Ellis to earn the opportunity to become the man so many people believed him to be.”
Although at the time allegations first emerged DC Comics pulled Ellis’ story from the then-upcoming Dark Nights: Death Metal Legends of the Dark Knights anthology, but continued to publish his miniseries The Batman’s Grave, with artist Bryan Hitch. A few months ago, Netflix released the fourth and now final season of Castlevania, which Ellis wrote, and while the streamer did announce a new spinoff series set in the same universe, Ellis’ involvement was nowhere to be found. As the writer began re-encroaching the public sphere late last year, SoManyOfUs.com’s homepage statement was previously updated in December 2020 to say, “We have fielded questions about whether [Ellis] has approached the people who contributed to this website. To the best of our knowledge, he has not contacted any of us since the site’s publication in July 2020.”
What makes the Image news so particularly damning goes beyond the timing of its revelation. In the wake of the allegations against several other prominent figures in the comics industry — including former Comic Book Legal Defence Fund executive director Charles Brownstein, creator Cameron Stewart, and former Dark Horse Comics editor Scott Allie — there was a movement to ensure abusers would be held accountable to ensure a protracted history of predation like the allegations levied against Ellis couldn’t happen again. This was to be done either through accountability and reconciliation or through fellow industry creatives committing to confronting and stamping out predatory behaviour. Notable industry creatives including DC scribe Tom King, Scott Snyder, Jeff Lemire, and more all publicly shared a “Men in Comics Pledge,” stating an intent to “never abuse, harass, groom, or manipulate women and all people of marginalised genders and sexes,” as well as “actively intervene when we see or know of abuse, harassment, grooming, or manipulation.”
Instead, as Ellis returns to the spotlight at a prominent publisher, there’s largely been silence.