From: WARREN ELLIS
Sent: 13 April 1999 18:19
To: From The Desk Of
Subject: [fromthedeskof] From The Desk Of: 13 April 1999
From: WARREN ELLIS
From The Desk Of
* * * * *
Being a journal by writer Warren Ellis reproduced in electric ink on the
boards of Compuserve's Comics/Animation Forum (proprietor: D. Pratt)
* * * * * * * * * *
First things first; thanks to all the people who recommended Kim Stanley
Robinson's MARS trilogy to me in re: the subject of terraforming. I've
already read it. It doesn't have what I need.
* * * * *
Perks of the job; I have in my possession photocopies of the first two
issues of the new Vertigo series 100 BULLETS, written by Brian
Azzarello and illustrated by Eduardo Risso. The central concept is
great fun-I'm not spoiling it for you-the writing is authentic and
marvellously paced, and the art is nothing short of exquisite. I
recommend it to you unreservedly.
* * * * *
Here's something that popped out of my computer unbidden the other
day; notes towards a series that never was. Matt Morra was assistant
editor on the Marvel 2099 in the early days of my working there, but quit
to take an editorial post at Harris Comics. Harris Comics hired him in to
exploit the old Warren Publishing stories they owned, the CREEPY and
EERIE stuff. Matt sent me one or two of the old strips with a request to
turn one of them into an ongoing series. Matt's heart was in the right place,
but he was pathologically incapable of making up his fucking mind, and after
developing up a couple of series ideas, I ended up walking. Nice guy, but
really not suited for his job. He was let go by Harris not long after, and no
longer works in comics. This was one of those ideas, presented for your
* * * * *
NOTES TOWARDS AN ONGOING SERIES
Okay, this, as I understand it, was the original story (in CREEPY, I think).
Christabel ("Krystabel" in the original) was raised by spiders, after her
mad Sybil-clone mother locked her in the attic for life. Eventually, she
meets someone from the outside world-a workman of some stripe-
fucks him and eats him. Because thats what spiders do.
Thats an Urban Myth. What they call a foaftale -- a Friend Of A
Friend story. And that may well be the hook upon which we could hang
a book. A series that deals with Urban Myths, centered around a
character who is an urban myth.
Urban Myths tend to be foul, foul stories. The Fortean Times, which you
can buy in the States, is all about them-Fortean phenomena are Urban
Myths for the most part. This sort of thing is starting to grab the popular
imagination. Check out the success of THE X-FILES, steeped in that
kind of thing (X-FILES airs here on BBC2, and is the stations most
popular programme). Theres a vast kind of cottage industry based
around foaftales, dozens of tiny magazines crammed full of this shit,
many of which are based at universities, run by otherwise respectable
professor types. Further, the genre has a large spillover into ufology,
the supernatural and all...
Girl Raised By Spiders is practically a National Enquirer headline!
God. Ive just realised how much research Ill have to do if we go
ahead with this silly stunt...
The other half of the deal is that, of course, we are talking about a slinky
woman with green eyes as our lead character. Long, supermodel legs, to
accentuate that slim spiky arachnid background. Dressed in black a lot.
Maybe with white hair-why the hell not?
So, what is Christabel? What does she do? How in hell do you get an
ongoing series out of her? How do you construct the book?
Okay. Lets assume Christabel isnt real.
Lets assume were going to lean on the artist a lot and get creative with
Lets assume that she has a motivation.
Lets assume that youre going to let me write whatever the hell I want,
month in, month out. (Ha.)
If Christabel isnt real...then she is fiction. Girl Raised By Spiders. That
original short story is the Urban Myth from which she sprang. (Yknow, I
do like the name Christabel. Its Christ and Abel, and its also Christa, the
real first name of Nico. Who was very blonde, and tended only to be
photographed in black-and-white-therefore her hair looked white. Hm.)
She is something alien, something basically Wrong, somehow given flesh
and shunted into reality.
The designs important. Furthermore, Im keeping an eye on the page
count because I didnt really intend to take on a new ongoing title quite so
soon. Remember MISTER X? That had terrific interior design, what with
opening the book on a two-page spread frontispiece (the two pages were
the inside front cover and page 1) and all. Id also use the last page as
text with one piece of artwork, sort of a running compendium of Urban
What would Christabels motivation in life be? Is she just some kind of symbol
of the collapse of reality were experiencing at the end of the millenium? How
does she fall into stories? Heres an idea I found in a review of a book called
PARAPSYCHOLOGY; A CONCISE HISTORY. Perhaps nature can be
likened to a vast immune system, and weird phenomena to culturally and
temporally bound viruses. The phenomena make the world sick for a while
before being cured and going their way-and go away they do, for you
dont hear of people being carried off by pixies any more, and Rhine & Zener,
in their psi research, got better results in the early days than later.
Weirdness is a virus. Perhaps, here at the end of the century, the infection
is getting stronger.
Where Christabel walks, strangeness comes. She is either the focus for it,
or its agent-or simply attracted to it. Maybe all three. Her reaction to it
could well be entirely random. Maybe she appears to help the Weirdness
achieve something. Maybe she appears to stop it. Maybe shes just there
to watch it. Well never know, until she does something. She remains
unpredictable and enigmatic, practically a force of nature herself. Each
issue, we should learn a little snippet of information about her, and maybe
in a couple of years well be able to build up a personality portrait and say
Thats Christabel-but not before then.
Until then, we can concentrate on simply telling terrific horror stories.
Self-contained stories, too. No multi-parters, no heavy continuity stuff. Itll
be like turning on your favorite TV series every week-what story are they
going to tell tonight? So long as people remain interested in the lead character,
theyll keep coming back for the stories. The nice thing about self-contained
issues is that 1) I stay focussed on just 24 pages, not four bloody issues with
cross-continuity and all that, so the workll be tighter 2) I get to sit down once
a month and say to myself, Hell, what am I interested in writing about today?
Theres very little limit to the story material I can use. Christ, I could go
backwards and forwards in time if I really felt like it (I dont-yet). I could
do the story about the pub in Wales with a perpetually lit fire, for, it is said, if
the fire goes out the Devil will rise from it. I could tell the story of the family
in France who, it is said, are the direct descendants of Jesus Christ and Mary
Magdelene. And theres probably stories to be spun out of more obvious
Urban Myths like the Guy With The Hook and similar...
So, this is Christabel; physical manifestation of a virus attacking reality. A
shadowy figure, walking through this fin-de-siecle world with an unknown
agenda, appearing at the sites where Strangeness forces its way into everyday
life, and horror follows... Is she causing them? If not, is she somehow in
league with the forces that do? Or does she walk the edge between reality
and insanity in order to keep them apart?
Ive just thought of this horrible ad line; WEIRDNESS IS A VIRUS. MEET
THE SYMPTOM. Yuk.
No-ones going to buy this book. Youre going to lose your job. Unless Ive
just inadvertently created the female Sandman, in which case were going to
be drenched in mailbags crack-full of poetry. My God. Theres horror for
Possible scene of first issue; a bunch of guys sitting around at a bar, telling
Urban Myths to each other for laughs. One of them tells the Girl Raised By
Spiders story-the original Christabel strip. Big laugh all round at the end.
And then Christabel enters the bar, sits with the men uninvited, lights a
cigarette, and says, One of you is going to die in the next five minutes.
Ive come to watch.
I think I can find twelve issues minimum in this raw concept, Matt. Response?
* * * * *
13 April 1999
* * * * *
© Warren Ellis 1999 All rights reserved
FROM THE DESK OF is available for republication in print
* * * * *
Warren Ellis is the creator and writer of the multiple award-winning
TRANSMETROPOLITAN and also writes the cult British horror series
HELLBLAZER for DC Vertigo, as well as PLANETARY and THE
AUTHORITY for DC Wildstorm. Forthcoming is STATION.
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