Recently, I had the opportunity to Interview Warren Ellis, award winning writer of Transmetropolitan, Planetary, and Most Recenetly, Injection at Image comics, with artist/colorist team Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.
GWW: Injection reads as a very holistic comic, with the story and art blending seamlessly together to create something truly special. When collaborating with the outstanding art team of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, how much back and forth is there when it comes to upcoming story details?
Warren Ellis: I am a terrible person. Dec and Jordie are my first readers, so, beyond the general concepts we developed and agreed upon… I hide a lot of stuff from them. A lot of stuff in the scripts is stuff they’re learning for the first time. If their reaction’s good, then I know I’m still doing okay.
The back and forth was really mostly at the start (and also towards the end of Vol 1, when I was thinking about Vol 2) — talking to them about the things they love, the things they wanted to do and try. Declan is usually pretty nuts and bolts, and Jordie is more impressionistic — there’s a scene in, I think, issue 5 that came almost entirely out of she and I talking about autumn colours and the sorts of places we love in autumn.
I think their biggest surprise was when I started setting scenes in Dublin, where they live. I think that way maybe when they realised that, wait, this isn’t just me writing and them illustrating. It’s all of us, together. I hope.
GWW: Along those same lines, so many of your long-form stories are extremely intricate, while also holding up when examined as a whole. When writing stories like Injection, Trees, or Transmetropolitan, how far out do you plot the story, and how much work goes into ensuring a continuity in these stories?
WE: TREES, particularly Volume One, was meticulous — it was written across four or five separate documents, each one comprising the entirety of one plot thread. One document for Blindhail Station, one for Shu, one for Cefalu, etc.
INJECTION is a little different, a little looser — I have a single overarching plotline to serve, and the roughest of structures for each book. In theory, I don’t actually know what Volume 3 is about. I know which character dominates in each volume, and what that volume needs to achieve, but I don’t develop the actual story until I’m ready to begin writing that volume. It’s more like writing a novel, for me — I know the beats the whole thing has to hit, but I can find my own way to each beat when I’m ready.
GWW: Many readers have come to consider you a true master of the Single-Issue Story after your work at Marvel on books like Moon Knight or Secret Avengers. How does your writing process differ when crafting stories like that when compared to your long form epics?
WE: Single issue stories are one-act plays, for me — they’re hard, and I frequently screw them up, but they are small containers that can express a single idea. Things like INJECTION are novels — which, in some ways, makes them easier, but novels have the space for digressions and variations. I can riff, or wander out into the weeds, and the thing still supports itself. You can’t go sideways in a one-act play and blow nine pages on an ashtray or something. In a novel, you can lose focus on the plotlines or the characters and still enrich the piece. In a single-issue story, the ending is always rushing up at you.
GWW: It is so rare that one encounters something truly new or unique in today’s entertainment industry, whether that is comics, movies, television, etc. How do you combat the idea that everything has already been done, to come up with so many brilliant (and in this case sandwich-related) ideas?
WE: People keep asking me this, so I guess it’s a question that’s out in the zeitgeist these days. In the bluntest sense, yes, everything’s been done, but the way *I* would do it *hasn’t* been done yet. This, as a statement, is an expression of truly demented egotism. But if I didn’t have a degree of that, I wouldn’t be a writer, right? Writing stories and convincing publishers to put them into the world because you are certain that some people will pay money for them is, really, quite mad.
Every writer’s viewpoint is unique, because every writer comes from a unique confluence of influence and upbringing and life experience and everything else. Eight writers could attack the same suite of ideas and come up with eight very different stories. Just keep thinking and keep living and the cultural commonwealth of writing will never run dry.
GWW: Working with Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire seems to be a match made in heaven, and you’ve worked with quite the stable or artists, colorists, and co-writers in the past. Is there anyone in the comics industry you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
WE: Frankly, at this point, I remain amazed that anyone in the comics industry still wants to work with me, so I’m not going to jinx my continuing good luck by trying to produce a list like that. I’ll wait and see if brilliant people keep coming to me to ask me to create something with me, and look forward to hopeful nice surprises.
GWW: The second Arc of Injection starts this month, anything you can tease about what fans can expect this year from the Injection Team?
WE: In issue 6, we shift our focus to Vivek Headland, Anglo-Indian consulting detective, living in New York and taking on a case involving money, ghosts, sex and, yes, a criminal sandwich. I had an awful lot of fun with this one – one of the joys of INJECTION is that it can really change tone for each volume, and so volume 2 is a lot funnier, weirder and more manic than the slow doomy pace of volume 1. So this is a fresh start, and, honestly, I think any reader could come in at issue 6 and come away with an “issue one”-like reading experience.
GWW: Finally, how many issues are currently planned for Injection, and what do you hope the book’s Legacy will be once all is said and done?
WE: The ideal is 25 issues, although sales will determine that. We envisioned it as five five-chapter volumes. Obviously, if nobody’s reading it in six months, we’ll have to reconsider that. Legacy is for other people to determine. We’re just telling the story we want to tell as best we can.
Injection #6 releases this Wednesday, 1/13, in finer comic shops, and online.