Warren Ellis and the Lack of Accountability, aka Comics Culture Needs to Be Safer

Our public discourse has been overrun with the phantoms of “Critical Race Theory” and “Cancel Culture.” These ideas are like energon cubes for a section of white people. It has become their raison d’etre. They have become empowered by their imagining of a thing, instead of the thing itself because, in the case of the former, they have absolutely no idea what it is.

Search ‘Marc Lamont Hill and CRT’ and you’ll see an example of the flimsy intellectual tissue that CRT critics have built their hate campaign on. And in the case of Cancel Culture, it flat out doesn’t exist — unless you stand for something that is counter to white supremacy and white cultural hegemony. 

So, where’s Colin Kaepernick? 

To sum up the latter: Cancel Culture does not exist for white people. If it did, the comic and gamer-gaters wouldn’t have platforms. Facebook and Twitter wouldn’t have allowed 45* to spew lies that directly led to the COVID-deaths of hundreds of thousands of US citizens. But people who called out misogyny, racism, homo/transphobia routinely had their accounts suspended. 

As usual, white supremacy, and its agents, have masterfully taken what came from progressive Black folks and POC (Black netizens coined the term, and its usage) and remixed it to amplify their fear and give them something to unify around. There is truth to the adage: The Left falls apart while the Right falls in line.

Amplified by social media, CRT and Cancel Culture have become haints, haunting our culture. White people claim to be afraid of speaking their truth for fear of “being canceled.” We do not live in a culture of cancellation. We are collectively in a nascent culture of accountability and, for white people who’ve never been held to account, it’s needlessly frightening. Why needlessly?

Case in point:

[tw: sexual assault/harassment]

Warren Ellis is my all-time favorite comics author. He hits the sweet spot between Grant Morrison’s neo-weird and Alan Moore’s literary pretension. I personally feel Planetary is the best of what the comic form can do. I also believe that Global Frequency is a masterclass of an awe-filled interrogation of what if all of our conspiracy theories were right? How would this be addressed? Ellis is a master of comics writing. But he’s also a 60+ times accused predator

The allegations against Ellis arose about a year ago. He offered some kind of half-assed acknowledgment about not “consciously” engaging in abusive behaviors and then kind of apologized for his “mistakes” and ignorance of how his behaviors affected people. Now, a year to the day later, Image Comics has announced he and Ben Templesmith will be working together to revive and conclude their book, Fell. 

Templesmith had this to say, “I just can’t subscribe to a permanent social and economic living death for anyone, outside of criminal matters.” He then threw in the following, “What’s between you all & him is your personal business & I wish you all well in those dealings.”

No redress. No making true amends. Not engaging in any kind of discussion around how to make comics, and the culture around them, safer and more inclusive for women, non-binary, and queer folks. With his stature in the community, Ellis could have made a formal apology, engaged in a listening session — he could have used his power and influence to help set conditions for safety and inclusiveness.

If someone of his standing decided to make amends for their trash behavior, this would have gone a long way toward helping to change the culture. What’s ultimately disheartening about this is that there is absolutely no accountability amongst his peers. No one pulled his coattails. Instead, he pulled a Louis C.K. and just waited until it was white man safe again. 

Remember Louis C.K.? Engaged in all kinds sexual misconduct, but just took a social pause. You even had peers like Sara Silverman explaining away his behavior as ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘that’s just who he is.’ Louis made a comeback. Granted he lost money and some projects weren’t released, but the high priest of comedy, Dave Chappelle, invited him to perform in Yellow Springs, CO. Talk about a career revival. C.K. has announced tour dates in Atlanta and Nashville for 2021.

What makes the Cancel Culture allegations against Ellis even more ridiculous is that SoManyOfUS (the group that formed to address and confront Ellis’ abusive behaviors) stressed that they weren’t after Ellis’ career. They were wanting the “possibility of a mediated transformative justice action.” A bit word salad-y, but their intentions were plain. Not cancellation, but reconciliation.

But instead of coming to the table, Ellis Ray Charles’d social media, he let it do what it do, and became insulated from the effects of his behavior. He was shrouded in a comicsgater cocoon, only to emerge as this sexually coercive butterfly, ready to work, not once having to take responsibility for his actions.

What do you do, as a fan of a writer (or any artist) who engages in harmful and exploitative behaviors? How do you reconcile what you love from the not-so-good person who created it? 

You have to take a stand. You do your part in engineering safety and inclusion. 

Is comics and comics culture a gatekept sandbox with limited entry and membership? Or is it an expansive wonderland, open to all? I’m for the latter. I’m committed to making the culture I love as inclusive as it can be. No, that doesn’t include racists, misogynists, homophobes and other people who would somehow limit the participation of others. And again, no, this isn’t hypocritical. You don’t invite poison into your body. 

Ellis’ behavior is unconscionable. I’m sick of predators being protected because they’re talented. Talented people can get ass whoopins too. That people would rather choose their fandom over the safety of women, non-binary, and queer folks infuriates me.

It is so easy for people to re-mix the conversation away from Ellis’ accountability to white men being oppressed again. If you aren’t actively fighting to make sure that comics culture and the comics industry is a safe place for all, you’re an enemy. Simple as that. 

3 thoughts on “Warren Ellis and the Lack of Accountability, aka Comics Culture Needs to Be Safer

  1. Was and am a Ellis fan but his behaviour is franky unexcusable. He is a predator that actively hunted through his fanbase. That fact that he is still doing this means he has learned nothing other than his behaviour is OK . . . It is NOT!

  2. One blogger describes this as the right of “dude process” — the right of a predator not to suffer any inconvenience beyond a few months outside of the limelight.
    Although I’ve never cared for Ellis’ work, everything else you said was spot on.

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