Passage Through the Spheres

Orbital Operations for 10 March 2024

Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. Let’s see if I can keep this one under a thousand words.









This week, BRESSON ON BRESSON (UK) (US), a collection of interviews with the famously ascetic French filmmaker Robert Bresson, part of whose method was in the understanding that images are transformed by their relationship to their surrounding images. Which is one working definition of comics, something I’m certain would have horrified him. I still have Kali Malone’s incredible record ALL LIFE LONG on rotation - you can give it a full listen at that link.



I’m across a bunch of scripts right now, with artists waiting, as well as a bunch of negotiations and deals, and they will join the growing list of Things Waiting To Happen. I wrote this on the log earlier in the week:

Some days you wake up and realise that you’re waiting on other people to do so many things that you yourself have become somewhat paralysed by the waiting. Updating the office, wiping down some of the boards and redoubling efforts elsewhere.

That’s where I am right now. If nothing’s happening in certain spaces, open up new passages and keep inventing.

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.

Outlines can be good and useful things for some pieces. But they’re not writing. Writing is in how you tell your story. Outlines can lock you in and stop you from telling the story properly. Sometimes I use a technique I call milestoning. I remember once trying to describe this to Idris Elba of all people, and him laughing in a way that suggested he had discovered I was a good deal less clever or sane than he’d previously believed.

You’ve got your list of events that need to happen in a certain order for your story to unfold and make sense. Write them out simply. Those are the milestones. It doesn’t matter how you reach each milestone, nor from which direction, so long as you tap them in the right order. You can invent any route through the woods you like to hit your milestone, and the direct line isn’t always the most interesting one.

Next time you’re stuck, don’t outline it to death and drain all the juice out of your story: write your milestones out as a list, as bare as you like, get your walking stick out and wander in their general direction. Sometimes, structure is just there to stop you drowning in a bog. Everything else is fair game.

Want to see it in practice? I wrote TREES Vol 1 with three milestone lists, one for each main character/setting.



THE RED HOOK x DEAN HASPIEL is the third installment in the Dean Haspiel Deep Cut Universe. A 24 page, black-and-white, limited-edition comic book.

New Brooklyn bartender Sam Brosia, aka The Red Hook, faces an existential crisis when he wonders whether he's wearing the superhero mask or is the superhero mask wearing him? Who is Unmarked Bill, and how does Dean Haspiel fit into his own award-winning comix series? 

Dean has two main modes: the romantic superhero/action story, and the memoir. He’s as much the child of Harvey Pekar as he is of Jack Kirby. This book seems to be where he finally starts experimenting with fusing those two sides of himself. He’s too smart to go the full meta meta clever clever: Dean’s work is always powerfully human, vulnerable and open.

This is a Kickstarter project with a cutoff date of March 28. Here’s the link. Go take a look

I’m also aware of a long-overdue reprint of Sarah Byam and the late Tim Sale’s marvellous BILLI 99, now with jewelled colours by the sainted Jose Villarrubia. It feels like an essential part of the American graphic novel canon being restored to its proper place. Sarah Byam was way ahead of her time, and the inventive, coldly furious visuals are a central piece of Sale's catalogue.

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.



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WARRENELLIS.LTD is my personal notebook, in which I make new entries several times a day. If you use a RSS reader, it generates a feed at .

And I’m out. If the sun shines near you this week, go outside and stand in the light for five minutes. Our days are just successions of five minute intervals, and you’re allowed to spend at least one of them on yourself. Take care of you for me, and I’ll see you next week.