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The project, a continuation of his mid-2000s series Fell with artist Ben Templesmith, was revealed earlier this week to be returning. The news sparked a backlash within the industry, and now, after initially saying it would carry on with the comic, Image is pulling back.
“This week’s Fell announcement was neither planned, nor vetted, and was in fact, premature,” the statement from Image reads. “While finishing Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Fell is something we’ve been looking forward to for years, Image Comics will not be working with Warren on anything further until he has made amends to the satisfaction of all involved.”
The publisher directed readers to visit So Many of Us, a website created by women who say they were manipulated by Ellis.
“It is our sincere hope that the conversations that are beginning now will result in positive changes for everyone. Please visit SoManyOfUs.com,” the publisher continued.
On Monday, artist Templesmith announced on his Patreon blog that he would be reteaming with Ellis for new issues of Fell. The series originally ran — irregularly — from 2005 through 2008 and ended unfinished; in the intervening years, both Templesmith and Ellis had teased a potential conclusion in the future.
In his post, Templesmith obliquely acknowledged Ellis’ hiatus.
“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. I don’t think anyone thought he’d bugger off and work in a shoe factory or anything,” the artist wrote.
Although Ellis has been publicly silent since a June 19, 2020, public statement, two high-profile projects he’d written have been released since then: the conclusion of his 12-issue DC series The Batman’s Grave, which ended in December, and the fourth and final season of Netflix’s animated series Castlevania, which was released in May of this year. However, it’s understood that Ellis’ work on both projects was completed ahead of the allegations against him being made public.
Reaction to news of Ellis’ imminent return was overwhelmingly negative. Critic Amy Garvey-Eckett wrote on Twitter Wednesday, “What everyone who inevitably buys a copy of any future Warren Ellis work is saying, is that they care more about a comic than about the people he targeted and harmed or the safety and wellbeing of every feminine presenting person in their lives.”
Comics publicist Tara Ferguson published an op-ed on The Beat outlining what the announcement meant for her personally, and other women in the industry:
“As a woman who works in the comics industry, I am suddenly feeling very unsafe. I can guarantee I am not the only one,” Ferguson wrote. “If Warren Ellis is allowed to walk back into this industry as though nothing has happened, welcomed by one of the biggest and most respected publishers, then the state of this industry is far far worse than we all ever imagined.”
Ferguson expanded on that point in an email to THR.
“Comics has always been very male and white, and it has been made clear time and time again that protection within the industry is only awarded to those who fit that criteria,” Ferguson wrote. “Now that there has been a definitive statement of ‘even the worst actions will be ignored,’ how are any of us who do not fit into that criteria meant to feel safe in this industry? At conventions? To work with collaborators we are not familiar with? The danger was already daunting, how much more can we be expected to accept? This situation asks the industry which is more important, comics or people, and I am very unsettled at how it’s being answered.”
Midweek, So Many of Us was updated with a statement that read in part, “Since his public statement a year ago, to the knowledge of these authors, Ellis has still not taken direct responsibility for his destructive behavior nor attempted to tackle the circumstances that allow such behavior to go on unchecked both on and offline. The statement asked Ellis once again to “earn the opportunity to become the man so many people believed him to be.”
A day later, Ellis reached out to the group, and also updated his Orbital Operations mailing list for the first time in almost a year, writing, “In the past, I have been careless and unthinking in my personal relationships, and I again apologize without reservation. In the last year, I’ve entered therapy and taken other measures to change my behavior, and am continuing to process the help and advice I’ve received. I’ve had a lot of long, hard conversations with people who are or have been close to me, and I need to have a lot more. I’m working on change. I’ve been silent because I had a lot of work to do and still do, and have repairs still to make, and wish to proceed mindfully without causing further harm. I have, of course, been silent and isolated for too long, and should have addressed things sooner and proceeded with more speed. I apologize.”
Elsewhere in the newsletter, Ellis noted, “Naturally, trying to mend my errors now makes it look like the only reason I’m speaking at the moment is to serve [the new Image Comics project]. It’s not, but that’s irrelevant: this is about me trying to make things right — regardless of how it looks for me or how good or bad the timing is.”
Image Comics, the third-largest publisher in the North American market, initially declined to answer The Hollywood Reporter‘s questions related to Ellis, instead offering the following statement on Tuesday in response to queries: “Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s Image Comics series Fell will indeed return for its long awaited final story arc in graphic novel format. We will have more details to share about this very soon.”
As the public outcry against Ellis, and Image Comics for agreeing to publish the project, grew, a number of creators publishing through Image started to voice their displeasure. “I’m disappointed in Image for publishing it,” tweeted The Department of Truth co-creator James Tynion IV, while Nocterra co-creator Scott Snyder noted that he “can’t support Ellis’ projects old or new.”
One anonymous creator, however, told THR they would not stop working with Image simply because of Ellis: “He has done enough harm and I do not wish to be another of his victims by dropping projects because of his actions.”
But on Friday the publisher backtracked, releasing the statement announcing that it would no longer be publishing the project — or, at least, would not be doing so at any point in the near future.
It remains to be seen if Fell will be shopped to other publishers.
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