It is not uncommon for someone to accuse someone else on social media of misconduct in recent years. I have covered several such revelations within the comic book industry, and they all take time. Bleeding Cool EIC Kaitlyn Booth has held the firm line that we don’t repeat accusations on Bleeding Cool without the agreement of the subject of said misconduct, so as not to put a spotlight on the individual in question. Which sometimes means we don’t report the incident. As a result of this, there are stories we have run that no one else has, there are stories that we didn’t run that others did, and sometimes stories run later.
In the case of comic book writer, novelist and TV writer Warren Ellis, there have been several such allegations of late, that as an older comic book creator, he ‘groomed’ much younger women, only to deceive and use them. This includes people who he has visible promoted and based characters on in the past. However, it is notable that some of those voices have stated that they don’t want Ellis to be ‘cancelled’ and still feel warmly towards him; they just don’t want others to be similarly targeted. Ellis has also been defended by female voices who state that these complaints are without merit.
Three Victims of Warren Ellis Speak Out
One person who goes by the name of Denver Primrose allowed us to quote her tweets. She wrote of eleven years ago, saying, “I have years of emails from Warren Ellis leading me to think we were friends, then leading into sex chat. It was like a clang in my head when I joyously mentioned talking to other creators, and he dropped me. Like hot garbage. You know, on dating apps, I made friends with guys who actually teased me with “you’re not the only girl on here who is friends with Warren Ellis.” We all were bragging. We all were alt models who liked comics. I do regret being that naive and needy.” She posted a couple of them, including the last one.
She told me, “This is like a nearly open secret for at least 13 years. Nobody cares because Warren > Any loser who reads comics and isn’t famous. I couldn’t believe when my friend told me he was running the same game on a friend of his this year. I felt ill reading her replies because those were MY replies too. He wanted to warn her, but I said, “don’t bother. She won’t care until he dumps her.” And we know there were girls before, us, too.”
Writer and photographer Jhayne Holmes, in conversation with others, stated “My #MeToo story of @warrenellis is backed up with an archive of hundreds of emails and photos that spans years. We were prey yet didn’t know it, because we were so, so young… Except here we all, it’s nearly TWENTY YEARS later, and more women he’s been interfering with are still finding me through back channels. And we know there were girls before, us, too. We’re not talking a small handful, but a consistent multi-decade predator. When it was us, there were 4? 5? girls at once? How many in total? How many RIGHT NOW? It’s obvious in retrospect that he found me, in part, because he was looking for more Vancouver-based girls. The Global Frequency pilot was shooting there, and he wanted to have a soft landing.”
Last year on Facebook, Jhayne spoke about her hesitation to contribute to an anthology, stating “A publication is open for submissions that I deeply want to write for, but a guy at the black heart of one of my more serious #metoo ordeals is writing the forward and is prominently featured. I am, obviously, conflicted, torn by aversion, desire, and flat-out-flee adrenaline. A large chunk of my early twenties were a traumatic ruin that leads in a straight line to this guy’s doorstep. He’s one of the main reasons I stopped writing in the first place and started being uncomfortable with pictures of myself. For bonus points, I’m still enmeshed in a secret international support group of women who’ve also had issues with him, even though my wreck was in 2004. The newest member was only a few months ago. (Yes, he’s still grooming young women.) To amplify matters, my piece would be from that timeframe.”
Bleeding Cool understands she was referring to Warren Ellis, and that his forward was pulled from the book. Jhayne also posted about creating a private online community for those directly affected, and to anonymously collect people’s accounts. She writes, “The pattern is dreadfully clear. 1. He found me when I was young/vulnerable/uncertain. 2. He acted like a mentor, gave me so much appreciated attention.. 3. but pushed boundaries. 4. He said I was his world/we were best friends/he was my thrilling secret/he supported my career so I didn’t feel like I could say no. 5. He dropped me. I blamed myself. Stories are steadily coming in. The private chat has 20+ members. Our stories all match, even though we’re mostly strangers. Evidence stretches back to the 1990s. Thanks for boosting my post. It’s helping! So many thought they were alone, but we are many. For an idea of how many women and girls have been hurt by Warren, we’re averaging two new people stepping forward every hour since I made my post.”
That number has since risen to around forty people. Multimedia artist Zoetica also posted at length, and we quote specific tweets. “Some of you are here because of Warren. Because of this, and the fact that I appear in the documentary about him, I’m implored to confirm that, yes, it’s all true. And yes, it happened to me, too. And yes, he has done a lot of good, but the systems? They have to burn. Another thing about Warren Ellis: this is not about him. The #MeToo movement is, among other feats, shining the light of accountability at the murky spaces between the cut-and-dry criminal cases, where predators once felt safe. This is a conversation about the scope of consent. An argument I keep seeing: this is about “consenting adults”. No. None of us consented to being manipulated, or to becoming a disposable part of a remote stable. You can not give consent if you don’t have the entire picture.”
There are all sorts of declarations of interest to make. I have known Warren since the very early nineties. He was one of the first writers for Bleeding Cool, with a column called Do Anything which now sounds far more sinister, he was a guest writer for my Lying In The Gutters column for CBR, and I also appeared in the Captured Ghosts documentary about him. He has written some of the most influential and critique acclaimed comic books in the industry, with a reputation for innovation. He has had a number of his comic books turned into movies, and TV shows, including Red, Global Frequency, Freakangels, Iron Man Extremis, and the look of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe is based on his The Authority comic book. Currently, he writes Trees and Injection, published by Image Comics, The Batman’s Grave for DC Comics, and the Castlevania series for Netflix. Many of his comics were also published by Avatar Press, publisher of Bleeding Cool, including Anna Mercury, Gravel, Freakangels, and Doktor Sleepless. I was also an occasional member of the Warren Ellis Forum, which been implicated in this behaviour. Harris O’Malley was a member back then, he writes as dating advisor Dr Nerdlove and has shared with Bleeding Cool – and his Patreon – an advance look at a long piece about his time then, his regrets and lessons he learned – and that others can as well. He writes,
I hesitated to write this column in no small part because part of me feels like it is taking the attention away from the victims, performing regret with breast-beating and public proclamations of sorrow. But if we want to shift the culture, we need to do more than out the predators and listen to the victims. We need to examine why it’s possible for the malefactors to operate so openly and why so many of us were blind and willing to be blind. And we need to do so in a way that we can understand why we did so in the past so that we can be sure not to make the same mistake in the future.
Ellis Releases a Statement
Warren Ellis has just released a statement concerning the allegations against him where he says the word “sorry” once and says that he does apologize.
Hello. Please forgive the lateness of my appearance. I have been speaking to people, and listening carefully, for a few days.
Recent statements have been made about me that need to be addressed.
I have never considered myself famous or powerful, to the point where I’ve made a lot of bad jokes about it for twenty-odd years. It had never really occurred to me that other people didn’t see it the same way—that I was not engaging as an equal when gifted with attention, but acting from a position of power and privilege. I did not take that into account in a number of my personal interactions and this was a mistake and I own it.
While I’ve made many bad choices in my past, and I’ve said a lot of wrong things, let me be clear, I have never consciously coerced, manipulated, or abused anyone, nor have I ever assaulted anybody. But I was ignorant of where I was operating from at a time I should have been clear and for that I accept 100% responsibility.
I hurt people deeply. I am ashamed for these mistakes and I am profoundly sorry. I will not speak against other people’s personal truths, and I will not expose them to the toxicity of the current discourse. I should have been more aware, more present, and more respectful of people’s feelings and for that I apologise.
I have had friendships and relationships end, sometimes in bitterness, often due to my own failings, and I continue to regret and apologise for the pain I have caused.
I have always tried to aid and support women in their lives and careers, but I have hurt many people that I had no intention of hurting. I am culpable. I take responsibility for my mistakes. I will do better and for that, I apologise.
I apologise to my friends and collaborators for having created this situation, and I hope they will be treated kindly. Mistakes and poor choices in my personal life are not on them, but only on me.
We have a responsibility to one another, every day. And I have, in my past, let too many people down. I hope to one day become worthy of the trust and kindness that was placed in me by colleagues and friends.
I will continue to listen, learn, and strive to be a better human being. I have sought to make amends with people, as I have been made aware of my transgressions, and will continue to do so. I have apologised, I apologise, and will continue to apologise and take total responsibility for my actions without equivocation.
I am going to be quiet now, to listen more than I speak, for other voices matter far more than my own right now.
I will be closing this newsletter. Thank you for your past support. Look after yourselves.
About Rich Johnston
Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.