The Works of Warren Ellis: An Introduction

Warren Ellis

                                             “Warren Ellis”by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As you may have guessed from the existence of this article, Warren Ellis is one of my favorite authors.  I have always enjoyed science fiction of all kinds, but science fiction that either correctly predicts the future or seems like it will?  That’s my bread and butter.  Future tech prophecy can be mysterious, exciting, scary, and fun, especially when written by greats like Gibson, Stephenson, and Sterling.  Ellis deserves to have his name etched right alongside these titans of sci-fi.

Ellis’ most popular works are likely the comics he’s written, but he also has multiple accomplishments in the forms of novels and short stories.  Below is a preview of many of these, as well as my own personal thoughts on them.  It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the works of Warren Ellis:

Transmetropolitan Transmetropolitan

                                    “Spidercity”by Hiddenpower is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This is the one that started it all for me and quite possibly Ellis’ most popular work to date.  “Transmet”, as it’s affectionately shortened, follows journalist Spider Jerusalem as he observes and reports on everything happening in The City.  In a far off but still familiar future, genetically-altered humans fight for their right to change their bodies, some guns don’t kill but cause you to shit yourself instead, pills allow smokers to never get cancer, and religion is so diverse that each has its own booth at conventions.  These are bizarre times, or are they just a rough sketch of what we’ll look like in a few decades?

Looking back, Ellis gets a lot right here, at least by way of metaphors.  In 2019, this series is probably more relevant than it’s ever been.  It’s relevance could easily increase on a steady trajectory with the way things are going.  The question is will we have reporters like Spider to tell it like it is?  Do we even have any right now?



                                              “8106_4_008”by Oscar Vieyo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Usually I buy comics in trade paperback form and if I like the first volume or two, I keep going.  With Planetary, I took the plunge on the big honkin’ omnibus version.  It was a risk for cost reasons but also because I just don’t like reading comics in huge hardback editions.  Thankfully, this series is worth the up front expense.

This series has big, broad ideas that traverse space and time but those ideas never feel too vague.  The characters are okay enough, but where this title really shines is with its sense of adventure.  The sheer number of plain, old good ideas is astounding here, and many issues beg to be spun off into a mini-series.  This is probably Ellis’ best brainchild just in terms of undeniable creativity.  It has a knack for blending the sensibilities of old and new comics together, giving it a unique feel that is ever-present throughout the entire run.


Now this is one where I didn’t see enough early on to justify continuing, but maybe you will.  I despise lists that serve only to gush about anything and everything an artist has ever done, so it’s only fair that I include works by Ellis that I have read and maybe didn’t love.

To paraphrase its tropes pageInjection tells the story of a phenomenon dispersed on the internet so as to avoid a future that doesn’t involve great accomplishments and progress, but general mediocrity.  The thing is, the Injection begins behaving in ways and doing things that no one ever intended.  The artwork is good, I like the characters, and there seems like there is real promise here.  My backlog of other books to read won out over this title though, but if you’re intrigued, try volume one.  This is not a bad book by any stretch, just one I didn’t continue with for indirectly-related reasons.

Castlevania (Netflix series)


                          “E3_2009_LOS_IMG_003”by Colony of Gamers is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Video games have been a huge part of my life since I can remember, and Castlevania was one of those games everyone knew about in the ’80s.  The series has gone on strong for over 30 years and an animated series made so much sense.  When I learned that Ellis would be the sole writer, I was a little surprised at the choice but nonetheless thrilled.  Fans of the show currently await season 3 but so far the series has been met with a mostly positive reception.

Interestingly, the first season takes time to alter our perspective a bit.  Dracula is shown as a sympathetic character (though that doesn’t mean that Trevor Belmont and company are seen as villains).  Ellis plays with the gray in between good and evil, which is new for the franchise.  I don’t know how much I like season 2 and I think the series could use more action.  This may dumb down Ellis’ work, but I think it may be more of what I expect from a series like this.  So far it’s an interesting series overall, I just think they may have hired too good of a writer for the subject matter.

Dead Pig Collector

There are two great things about this story:  it’s short and it’s cheap if you own a Kindle.  It’s about 40 pages long and costs a buck.  You can also pay $15 for a signed copy by Subterranean Press, as I did.  Ellis rarely signs anything, so it’s a must for any fan.

Dead Pig Collector tells the tale of a hitman who also cleans up after himself.  He leaves no trace and he’s good at what he does.  This particular job involves an interruption from the victim’s wife.  Strangely enough, she’s intrigued by how the killer goes about his business and not the least bit scared.  What happens afterward is definitely not business as usual for our protagonist.  A fun read that can be conquered in one sitting.

Gun Machine

Gun Art

                                                     “SMG pARTs”by Podknox is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ellis is a pretty versatile writer, and here he dabbles in the noir detective genre.  An apartment piled high with guns is found, each one corresponding to an unsolved murder.  The collector and owner of all these guns is known to the reader for much of the novel, but not to the protagonist, so there’s an interesting double perspective.

The characters in Gun Machine are all either full of tropes or tremendously quirky.  It’s a weird, all-or-nothing mix.  The antagonist is interesting enough though.  This novel is a good “airplane read”.  It won’t blow you away but it’s entertaining enough.  At 320 pages, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either.  If you want a hard-boiled detective story with a pinch of future tech, this is a decent choice.

Crooked Little Vein

US Constitution

           “We the People”by StevenANichols is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In my opinion this is Ellis’ best work outside of comics.  It’s got a lot of intrigue but is also pretty damn funny at times.  A down-and-out private detective takes on the task of finding the real Constitution, not the one we’ve known about for centuries.  The journey takes him through the weirdest parts of the United States, matched only by the people he meets along the way.

This novel has some crazy shit in it.  It reminds me somewhat of Preacher by Garth Ennis but without the ultra violence and gore.  In both works, the reader is able to peek into the lives of so many odd folks.  Not only that, but both give off the feeling that some of this stuff could really be happening somewhere not too far from home.  It’s not impossible, right?  This is a wild ride throughout and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in Ellis’ work, especially those who might not be terribly interested comics.


I hope you enjoyed my tour through the works of Warren Ellis.  Obviously this isn’t everything he’s done.  There’s so much more that I probably wouldn’t be able to cover it in one shot even if I had read it all, even just the comics.  I think there’s something for most people on the above list though.  It’s as varied as Ellis’ own creative mind.

Do you have a favorite of Warren Ellis?  Maybe one you don’t see here?  Let me know!

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