Comic author Warren Ellis and artist Ben Templesmith began publishing the darkly surreal crime comic book Fell through Image Comics in 2005. Over the next three years, they would publish only nine issues, while also winning several Eisner Awards. And then the comic just sort of stopped, with no resolution, and no answers to the mysterious Snowtown symbols or the creepy-ass nun in a Richard Nixon mask. Unfinished storylines are not entirely unheard of with Ellis's creator-owned projects, although in this case there were some valid reasons, including a hard drive crash that destroyed several scripts. The last update came in January of 2011, when Ellis announced that he had completed the script for the next issue of Fell and sent it off to Templesmith.
Flash forward to July 2020: more than sixty people came forward to share their stories of emotional abuse and manipulation at the hands of Warren Ellis. The group created a website, titled "So Many Of Us," corroborating their experiences and laying out their desires for transformative justice. IMHO, their demands were powerful, attainable, and inspirational — they wanted accountability, reconciliation, and then to move on, explicitly rejecting calls to "cancel" Ellis or his work (indeed, some of his accusers were also his former artistic collaborators, who certainly wouldn't want their own work "cancelled").
Ellis responded with a statement, saying:
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 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 apologize.
And then disappeared from the public eye for several months.
By late December 2020, however, Ellis announced plans to restart his newsletter. The So Many Of Us collective responded by posting an update to their website, saying that, "To the best of our knowledge, he has not contacted any of us since the site's publication in July 2020." The final season of the Ellis-penned Castlevania TV show (which he had finished writing before the revelations came out) was released in Spring 2021, with Ellis's all but absent from any promotional materials, interviews, or reviews.
As of June 2021, Ellis had not resumed his newsletter. But Fell artist Ben Templesmith announced on his Patreon that he and Ellis would be resuming work on Fell:
Not for me to speak for Warren, but I agreed to do the book and I'm glad he's going to be doing some comics again. He is after all, one of the most important comics writers of the past few decades. It means a lot to me to finish this thing, finally, so I couldn't say no. I guess we'll let the market speak as to how things go.
We're pretty much past the old concept of $1.99 comics, sadly, these days, so from what I know this will be a single volume work. And I hope I'm not speaking out of place by saying yes, it'll still be through Image.
Warren got me some script, so I'm starting on pages now.
Some commenters expressed their concerns about Ellis on Templesmith's post, to which he replied:
I just can't subscribe to a permanent social and economic living death for anyone, outside of criminal matters. What's between you all & him is your personal business & I wish you all well in those dealings. Everyone will be free to not buy the book, ignore his further works, ( & mine ) deride them & pass judgment economically. I know some people will never be happy, or healed. I've dealt with abuse & manipulation myself, so I empathize with those affected. I also believe in redemption & that he's capable of making amends, growing from his actions & hopefully becoming an example of change in a community that desperately warrants it.
Ironically, "I also believe in redemption & that he's capable of making amends, growing from his actions & hopefully becoming an example of change in a community that desperately warrants it" is precisely what the So Many of Us collective demanded, and which none of them have thus far received.
Although So Many Of Us re-affirmed their desire for reconciliation through transformative justice, neither Ellis, nor Image Comics, have made any public statements about the potential future publication of Fell. I suppose it's entirely possible that Templesmith is working from that script he received a decade ago, but his posts certainly make it sound like an active collaboration.
Many of my favorite Warren Ellis works have involved powerful men being horrible manipulative bastards. Some of those characters had hearts of gold beneath their cruel veneers; some of them lacked all remorse. I learned a lot about power dynamics, character, and masculinity through his writing. Even after learned about his abusive behaviors, I had hoped that he would demonstrate a capacity for change. But a year on, it seems like he may have been more intimately familiar with his fictional cruelty than I had believed.