Storm Warning

Orbital Operations for 14 April 2024

Hello from out here on the Thames Delta. This was intended as a short piece, but it ended up very long. Sorry.






Letters about the creative life by Warren Ellis, a writer from England. Was this forwarded to you? Subscribe.


🎞️ Every now and then, I go back to Maya Deren and Sasha Hackenschmied’s MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON. I have it on a DVD from Mystic Fire Video, but originally it was silent, and it’s on YouTube.

📖 “Digital communication, too, turns out to be a form of communication without community. Social media accelerates the disintegration of community.” This probably isn’t a representative quote from VITA CONTEMPLATIVA: IN PRAISE OF INACTIVITY by Byung-Chul Han (UK) (US), but it’s not wrong. A series of essays on inactivity as pure human life. The art of being still.

🎙️ I tend to start every day in the office the same way. I listen to the previous night’s NIGHT TRACKS from BBC Radio 3. You can get them via BBC Sounds. I (still!) wake up so terminally frazzled that I need to ease into my day, and this helps immensely.



DC Comics have announced STORMWATCH: THE ROAD TO AUTHORITY COMPENDIUM, for release in the first week of January 2025. This collects all the work I wrote for STORMWATCH across two volumes. Which apparently totals six hundred and fifty six pages. A number that I find kind of scary. It will cost sixty US dollar, which is also kind of scary, but at 656 pages you can also use it as a weapon, a small performance stage or the foundation for a large outbuilding.

This is all work done in the 1990s. Mike Heisler brought me into Wildstorm, and later on Scott Dunbier took over wrangling me. Scott and I have had our share of arguments over the years, but I’m glad to say we remain friends - Scott just left IDW, where he’s been for many years, to start his own venture, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what he does next.

The main artist on STORMWATCH was Tom Raney, and I have incredible respect both for his work and his stoic endurance of every stupid idea I stuffed into those scripts. God, I once made him do Joe Shuster, Will Eisner and Jack Kirby in a single episode. (Now that I check, I did that more than once! And had Gina Going approximate a Frank Hampson colouring effect one time! God, I’m sorry, everybody.) He’s one of those artists I wish I were still working with today.

Even when you’re not talking directly with the artist - and this was the Nineties, remember, so it wasn’t easy when your collaborators were on the other side of the world - the act of the work itself becomes a conversation. Tom’s Henry Bendix was so fucking creepy that I had to lean into what Tom was giving me there.

This is just one reason why comics writers get so pissed off - but not as pissed off as the artists! - when they’re named as sole author of a work of comics. Every comic is the representation of the point where writer and artists meet and fuse. A fusion does not have a single author.

I wrote a little bit about one of the experiments I pulled in the writing of STORMWATCH at this link here. I used that little stage for all kinds of stunts. One time I used the cover and inside front cover as story pages, so the whole book ran together from cover to end. I was allowed to get away with a lot, and Tom Raney made it all work.

Towards the back of the book, you’ll find my first collaboration with Bryan Hitch, also still a friend today, and I believe it was Scott who convinced him to come on board. And those pages were the seed of THE AUTHORITY. I wrote a bit about that at this link here:

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, including Jim Lee and Scott Dunbier. 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 felt so fucking guilty I just sat there in my chair for hours.

A big part of doing THE AUTHORITY was trying to pay back my friends. And this STORMWATCH book is coming out because there’s apparently going to be a THE AUTHORITY film sometimes in the next few years, and I’ve read that The Engineer character is going to be in James Gunn’s SUPERMAN.

Chances are, that film may be more Mark Millar and Frank Quitely’s AUTHORITY than ours. But that’s okay. I chose Mark Millar to replace me on THE AUTHORITY, and I told the office to hire Frank Quitely to draw it without putting him through any kind of audition, and I was proven right. So I will be able to take some pride and pleasure in whichever version is presented onscreen.

The solicitation comes with a kind little piece of text:

In 1996, Warren Ellis took over as writer of Stormwatch, a major part of Jim Lee’s WildStorm Productions, alongside artist Tom Raney. Ellis reinvented the concept from more conventional superheroics to a take-no-prisoners strike team that quickly attracted attention throughout the industry, as readers questioned the way that superheroes are perceived.

Ellis redefined the team and introduced new members, including the electric Jenny Sparks, the city-symbiote Jack Hawksmoor, powerhouse Apollo, and brutal Midnighter—leading directly to the game-changing debut of The Authority!



I can’t find a web end for artist/writer Ganzeer’s newsletter, so you’ll just have to subscribe and see if it reveals issue 202 for you, but here’s the gist:

He uses the unbranded TWONE Pocket Notebook (UK) (now out of stock in the US) and just dates the front with a white pen. He calls these his vomitbooks:

The vast majority of any given vomitbook is often filled with notes and scribbles. The small size together with the very unassuming nature of the things though seemed to invite a fair degree of very quick experiments every now and again. Being busy with "real projects" meant that the prospect of pulling a proper sketchbook off my shelf just to experiment with tools and techniques would feel like a cumbersome ordeal. On top of the fact that something about those large beautiful hardback sketchbooks can intimidate one from true experimentation, because with true experimentation comes the prospect of messing shit up. And the big beautiful hardbacks kind of want you to fill its insides with big beautiful art. They sort of want you to treat them as precious things, but a meager pocketbook? Now that's something you can mess up without fear, and in the process something beautiful might emerge and surprise you. 

The vomit-approach may be deemed questionable by other uber-organized folk who like to have dedicated notebooks for different things. It really isn't all that unorganized actually. Starting in January this year, each of these pocketbooks has come to last me a month. Even if I don't completely fill a notebook by month's end, I set it aside and date/start a new one (not what I used to do in years prior), which should result in 12 neatly organized booklets a year. Anytime I need to return to a particular date, project or idea, it's fairly easy to locate.

Ganzeer’s newsletter is brilliant, by the way, and is a daily read for me. There are any number of ways to run a notebook practice, and maybe this one will suit you better.


Sarah Morgan. Big online shop doubling as a gallery. Wonderful stuff.



For those who love the ritual noise, there’s a new PHURPA piece out, and you can stream the whole thing.

Via Austin Kleon, the ashramas, the four stages of life in Hindu thought: I appear to be well into the vanaprastha stage: “the forest dweller… consisting of withdrawal from concern with material things, pursuit of solitude, and ascetic and yogic practices.” And happy to stay that way, because the next stage sounds less fun.

I read NUCLEAR WAR, A SCENARIO by Annie Jacobsen (UK) (US) because I read it’s been optioned by Denis Villeneuve and because I haven’t read a proper docufiction doomsday book since probably THE THIRD WORLD WAR by General Sir John Hackett and others in the 1980s. It is a profoundly depressing book. If Hackett’s book is an optimistic “The Day After,” then Jacobsen’s book is very much THREADS. It’s a good read, but it confirms that no nation anywhere is prepared for general nuclear war or even a one-shot pre-emptive strike in any meaningful way. Don’t read it before sleep, the way I did for a week.

WARRENELLIS.LTD is my personal notebook, updated daily. If you use a RSS reader, it generates a feed at .

This letter has been zapped to you via Beehiiv.

It’s been a crappy week and a crappy month, but what gets me out of bed in the morning is that tomorrow is not yet written. It might be worse, it might be better, but it’ll be different and it’ll have its own potential for change. Drop your shoulders, breathe and relax. Better weather is on the way. See you next week.


I’m represented by Angela Cheng Caplan at the Cheng Caplan Company, Joel VanderKloot at VanderKloot Law and David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management. Please add [email protected] to your email system’s address book or contacts and move this to your primary folder when you get a minute, thanks.