Warren Ellis: Totally Jealous of the Six Million Dollar Man
Posted October 12, 2009on:
This week marked the end of another legendary comic book opus, Planetary, so it really seems like now would be the time to spotlight one of my all time favorite comic writers, Warren Ellis. While most writers embrace the theme of futurist technology, Ellis seems to take it, add many elements of transhumanism (essentially, using technology to enhance the limits of normal humans’ abilities), and rub it in your face. I’m pretty sure he spends all the time he could be spending at comic conventions staring at his toaster going, “Why the fuck can’t I do that?”
First, let’s start with his work on a hero everybody knows. Before Ellis got his hands on Tony Stark in Iron Man Vol. 4’s “Extremis” storyline, the Iron Man suit was cumbersome and took a good while to put on (or, in the case of Ellis’ own Ultimate Galactus Trilogy, took a team of dozens). And then Mr. Ellis decided, “That’s dumb! Gimme!” He had Tony Stark inject himself with a weird techno-virus that pretty much grafted the suit’s undershealth to his own bones and made it all thought controlled. Ever since then, instead of having to go over to the garage and put it on piece by piece (like a stupid human), Tony just has to think about putting it on and the Extremis Suit parts just fly onto him in, as Matt Fraction put it, “the blink of an eye.”
Another example of Ellis’ love of transhumanism is found in Wildstorm’s Desolation Jones. First off, this book is gorgeously illustrated by J.H. Williams III, on indefinite hiatus since the end of it’s first story arc, and grossly underrated. It tells the tale of Michael “Desolation” Jones, an alcoholic ex-MI6 agent who was proven a bit, well, unstable. The British government did a series of experiments on him (including not allowing him to sleep for a full year) and released him into Los Angeles. Although few details are given in the book about the experiments, he is branded a possible biological hazard and gains the superhuman ability to focus on things we normal folk couldn’t (such as watching a bullet whizzing past or hearing the displacement of air around a swinging crowbar). I seriously hope that once Williams is done with “Detective Comics,” he and Ellis could expand on this idea.
Honestly, there isn’t enough I could ever say about my love for Vertigo’s Transmetropolitan (or its antihero protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, but that is beside the point). The City is a world where technology has progressed so much that it it has more or less perverted everyday life, allowing corruption to run rampant. Residents can take pills that immunize them from any and all cancers, alter their human DNA with alien genes to become “transients,” or just go all out and download their personality into “foglet” nano-machine clouds. Basically, the world of Transmetropolitan is a transhumanist’s paradise and, although critical of it at times, Warren Ellis’ scientific wet dream.
There is a ton of Ellis’ work I’ve yet to read (so, so many limited series) but there are definitely a lot of titles on my to-read list. One of these days I’m going to pick up Ignition City, Red, the Authority, and Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E., all of which are on my well-worn Comics Most Wanted list. While I round those titles up, I eagerly await the next futuristic Warren Ellis project.