Some Last Minute Notes
Orbital Operations for 12 February 2023
Hello from out here on the Thames Delta.
Here's the short version of how and why I did THE AUTHORITY.
I'd been doing a book called STORMWATCH for Wildstorm. We relaunched it once. Bryan Hitch came in and did a few issues of the second run with me, which is where we created Apollo and The Midnighter.
(Apollo, because the sun-god metaphor made connections with Superman. The Midnighter, because Batman was once called "The Darknight Detective" and because my dad, in his youth, was a drummer in a band called The Midnighters.)
Bryan and I gelled really well on those issues. We were talking regularly, and I started wondering what else we might do together and what I could write specifically for him. Around that time, I happened to find out the actual sales figures for STORMWATCH, and called the office in horror. The sales figures were like negative eight hundred. It was an actual comics black hole that reversed the laws of capitalism, the sales were so bad. "Why are you still paying me for scripts?" I asked. "Why are you still publishing them?"
What happened next tells you a lot about what kind of people worked at and ran that company. This was twenty-five years ago, but their response was something very much like "We really like it and we always want to find out what happens next, so we'll keep publishing it until you don't want to write it any more."
I was gobsmacked and MORTIFIED. I felt so fucking guilty I just sat there in my chair for hours.
And then I started coming up with a plan to repay them by coming up with a version of the property that actually made them some money. In the next moment, I realised Bryan was going to be the perfect partner for that, so I wrote it very much for him. I already had one of the five best colorists in the world at that time, Laura DePuy. All I had to do was convince her to stick with me a little longer and give her space to push the envelope of what was possible at the time.
And that's how THE AUTHORITY happened. We did twelve issues, and then I told my editors to hire Mark Millar and Frank Quitely to replace us, which they did. And, with that hiring, actual comics history was made, and I repaid my debt to my wonderful publisher. (Aside from the debt of gratitude I will always owe to Scott and Jim and everyone else there.)
THE AUTHORITY by Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Paul Neary and Laura DePuy Martin will be back in stores in about five weeks.
My name is Warren Ellis, and I’m a writer from England. These newsletters are about the work I do and the creative life I try to lead. I send them every Sunday to subscribers. Feel free to send your friends to orbitaloperations.com , where they can read the most recent letters and subscribe for their own.
I’m represented by Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company and David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management. Please add [email protected] to your email system’s address book or contacts.
My reading has been all over the place so far this year. I read BACK BLAST by Mark Greaney, one of the books the Russo Brothers/Ryan Gosling film THE GRAY MAN is based on. I went straight into GUNMETAL GRAY, set some 24 hours later, just to complete my sense of what Greaney is like as a writer, and discovered that the basis for the other half of the GRAY MAN film is in there. GUNMETAL GRAY is possibly a little too long? But it contains a lot of colours that BACK BLAST didn't have. If you're going to investigate these books, taking these two together wouldn't be the worst idea.
I broke my moratorium on new books when a new Laszlo Krasznahorkai was reviewed in the LRB. It's called A Mountain to the North, A Lake to The South, Paths to the West, A River to the East. I think I noted elsewhere that it has the perfumes of other writers on it: Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, Italo Calvino and, always with Krasznahorkai, Franz Kafka. Even though it's all set in Japan. A short novel about a gate in an abandoned monastery.
Krasznahorkai's principle tool is the very very very long sentence, sometimes a whole chapter in length, and it is utilised here to suspend time, and to derange time. His novels become something to be experienced, and even this, his shortest, seems to contain more time than could possibly be counted in its pages. Meditations on time, art and escape.
I like writers that make me think about writing.
Did this in ink on concrete and it took him five years. Five years! Ever worry that you're not working fast enough? FIVE YEARS. Of incising ink into concrete. Take your time.
Kind Of Funny
Drop out of it all. Read books, watch films, listen to music and drama on the radio. The days when it was like your phone could receive lovely postcards from all over the world are gone.
GOT MORE TIME?
WARRENELLIS.LTD is my personal notebook, in which I make new entries several times a day. Think of it as all the things I can't fit into this newsletter, from links and bookmarks to reviews, random thoughts and life notes. If you use a RSS reader, it generates a feed at https://warrenellis.ltd/feed/ .
Quiet week on LTD, as I'm been hyperfocused on getting the first tranche of a time-sensitive job done;
Not Just Another Drop In The Ocean - Shipping Forecast photos and a great piece on a great Echo And The Bunnymen record
It's February. The garden's waking up. Spring approaches slowly. I've been working hard on planting things for the year. Do one thing this week for future you. It'll make you feel better, especially since everything else seems to be spinning around madly. Stay centred. Hold on tight. Be good to yourself. See you next week.