Warren Ellis Accused of Grooming Young Women for Decades
June 19, 2020 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday comic book and pop culture website Bleeding Cool released an article outlining some details of decades of interactions between the famed comic book writer with much younger women, where he deceived, used, and then dumped them.

The article was written by the founder of the website, Rich Johnston, who explains that he has known Warren Ellis for decades, and that the author and screenwriter was one of the earliest contributors for the online magazine.

Ellis himself released a statement which is reprinted at the bottom of the article, where he uses the word "sorry" once.
posted by sharp pointy objects (96 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
That is incredibly disappointing. Not surprising, since it's never surprising any more when some high-status white guy turns out to be a giant fucking creep, but it's very disappointing.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:36 AM on June 19 [9 favorites]


Well shit. I liked a lot of his work, I hope his victims can get justice.
posted by sotonohito at 9:49 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


where he uses the word "sorry" once

That feels like a slightly disingenuous reading of Ellis's words. Yes, the actual word "sorry" appears once ("I am ashamed for these mistakes and I am profoundly sorry."). But, the word "apologise" or "apologised" appears seven additional times.

I hope his actions back up the words he's written, but that reads to me like an actual admission of his behavior, acknowledgement of the pain he's caused, and a pledge to make or continue making amends.
posted by hanov3r at 9:50 AM on June 19 [25 favorites]


At some point the focus needs to come back to all the people who enable this shit, and to how, even when terrible/possibly criminal behavior is exposed, there are no real consequences, because our culture essentially just...doesn't think it's a big deal to prey on women and girls.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:51 AM on June 19 [32 favorites]


It disappoints me, but doesn't surprise me to learn that he's shitty. I do worry about the overuse of the word "grooming," because it seems like an overreach. We can call out power imbalances and shitty behavior without using a word that is understood to mean predatory behavior directed toward minors.

Unless he was in fact grooming minors, in which case, that needs to be made a lot more explicit.

Unfortunately, the way colloquial English freely uses "girl" to mean "younger adult woman" and then also "young woman" as a euphemism for "teenage girl" leads to a lot of ambiguity.
posted by explosion at 9:56 AM on June 19 [33 favorites]


Don't. Read. The. Comments.
posted by Leeway at 9:59 AM on June 19 [8 favorites]


Wasn't he the guy who once made a big show out of seeking out and hijacking "age-play" islands in Second Life? Claiming he was going to shut them down after squatting there awhile to shame anyone who showed up?
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 10:04 AM on June 19


His statement seems incredibly genuine and sounds like he has definitely been seeking advice from and listening to good people. It was not what I was expecting to read given the statements and non-apologies from others who've done far far worse than what he is accused of.

I hope his victims and those he has hurt can find peace. And I hope that he is as sincere as his statement purports to be and he does what he says he will.
posted by affectionateborg at 10:13 AM on June 19 [7 favorites]


When someone's defense of you is "At least you didn't solicit those photos that turned out to be underage", it's not a good time.
Like, I've loved a good amount of his stuff, but hitting the same beats as Louis CK's statement isn't a good way to go. "Woe is me, I didn't think I was famous or in any position of power"
C'mon. Do better.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:19 AM on June 19 [12 favorites]


I have been a nerd since forever. My late teens and twenties were profoundly changed by some of Warren Ellis' works. I want to believe he's sincere. I want to hope he'll change. I don't know if I have the energy to do so anymore.

The details so far aren't even close to the worst we've seen since #Metoo broke, but it doesn't matter. I wasn't shocked when I read the headline in my news feed this morning, just deeply sad. Sad that so much media that means so much to me is now tainted. By the fact that having been in similar communities for decades means I've known dozens and dozens of young women just like the ones he preyed on. Sure, some of them were probably jaded enough already (a problem on its own) that they knew what they were signing up for going in, and got as much out of it as he did before parting on good terms. But young twenty-somthings aren't usually known for their great judgement. Some of the girls I know, if this had happened to them would be completely devastated. This would have driven them out of the artist community, depending on how hard they were dropped and if anyone even cared to show them any belief and sympathy in the aftermath.

Wasn't there even one friend who could look him in the eye twenty years ago and say "Hey man, stringing along 3-5 women at a time when you aren't really interested in anything serious is really awful. You should stop and examine why you're being such a dick."
posted by sharp pointy objects at 10:26 AM on June 19 [7 favorites]


Anyone else thinking about the character played by Marc Maron in Netflix’s Easy?
posted by CMcG at 10:34 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Wrestling twitter is having a massive and similar reckoning right now. Whisper lists are going public under the hashtag #SpeakingOut. Many Ellis-level names named. Would be a great FPP.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:41 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


CrystalDave, can you clarify what you are referring to by "photos that turned out to be underage"? I don't see any reference to it in the links or elsewhere.
posted by Pfardentrott at 10:50 AM on June 19


So, yeah. I spent a crapload of time on the WEF back in the day. I still have friends I made from back then, and I’ve been wrestling with my thoughts and reading what others have been saying.

The best public writing I’ve seen on it has been Harris’ take. It’s pretty comprehensive, even mentions that chat transcript that was passed around briefly.

He mentions that fucking image from The Getaway. That still pisses me off — I remember Heidi MacDonald in particular trying to get people to see that using it habitually was not great, and she was shouted down. Note that Harris uses a caption that mentions “funwreckers.” That became a thing, even a side forum, for a certain group of mostly men. Brian Wood was one, unsurprisingly.

Ugh.
posted by rewil at 11:03 AM on June 19 [11 favorites]


Ellis' statement doesn't strike me as genuine whatsoever. It hinges on insisting he had no idea his behavior was wrong, insisting he never thought he had a power difference to leverage, he just never realized it, he didn't know, he didn't know, he didn't know.

I think he's not an idiot. He knew full well. I think people in positions of power and privilege, guys especially, use claimed obliviousness as one of the powerful tools in the toolbox of misusing the wielding of that privilege. It's a powerful tool because it's very effective.

As with so many of these cases, the deeper enraging aspect is: how many bright and talented young people who would have otherwise gone on to create amazing works of the art were blocked and prevented from that ever happening? How many creative futures were just blunted, turned aside, amputated because this one guy was high on his own supply and reveling in getting away with being a rock star, soaking in the sycophants and enablers and the powers of there always being another set of young women to string along and titillate himself with, and the power to be able to just throw aside the moment they started getting harder to play with? It's disgusting.
posted by Drastic at 11:15 AM on June 19 [45 favorites]


The best public writing I’ve seen on it has been Harris’ take.

Oh, wow. I was never a member of the forum but I recognize the culture he describes all too well.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:15 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


You can not give consent if you don't have the entire picture."

I have said for a while that this is going to be the last big thing that dudes are going to howl against. Consent-by-deception. Married dudes who told women they were single and looking for serious relationships. Men who told or implied to women that they would get them published/photographed/a job if the women slept with them. Men who engaged in sexting or phonesex based on the pretense they were someone other than who they were.

Remember Barney from How I Met Your Mother and how he was viewed as just kind of sleazy rather than a raging storm of sexual assault? That time is ending and dudes are not going to be okay with it.

Warren’s apology is a non apology. It’s “People were hurt but I still don’t understand what I did wrong.”
posted by corb at 11:16 AM on June 19 [44 favorites]


I was a big Warren Ellis fanperson in my late 20s and early 30s, but coming to terms with toxic masculinity and structural misogyny, instantly cast a pall on works like Transmetropolitan, especially because when I learned about the concept of a broken stair, Spider Jerusalem was one of the first fictional characters that leapt to mind.
posted by bl1nk at 11:31 AM on June 19 [10 favorites]


I'd love to say this was even slightly surprising.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:33 AM on June 19 [5 favorites]


The last time I re-read Transmetropolitan I was horrified in retrospect about what happens to the character Indira Ataturk--she's a former assistant of Spider Jerusalem who tries to get revenge on him because he basically got her gang raped on video in pursuit of a story (about a strip club that was technologically drugging people into having orgies). And she's the bad guy in the story, she's the antagonist.

So. The narrative disposability of young female assistants makes more sense in this context. I'm still really sad about it.
posted by Tesseractive at 11:33 AM on June 19 [25 favorites]


I really don't care about his apology, how many times he said sorry, how genuine you think his words are. He didn't do shit until he got caught.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:34 AM on June 19 [33 favorites]


I came in here thinking somehow my favorite violinist had a side gig creating comic books and I am happy to hear it wasn't and I can go on listening to him and this other Warren Ellis can suffer the consequences of his choices.
posted by haplesschild at 12:38 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]


And I really enjoyed Planetary.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:44 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]


One of the saddest things about working is realizing almost no straight man wants to be your friend or mentor. This means you’re cut off from most leadership opportunities, especially in creative fields.

Oh well, I’m sure he can get a job working with John Lasseter.
posted by Freecola at 12:56 PM on June 19 [34 favorites]


I have never considered myself famous or powerful

Oh, bullshit. And anyone who read WEF back in the day shouldn't be surprised in the least.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 1:27 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]


Weird, I was a member of WEF when it began, but clearly didn't fit in, so never got/went anywhere with it and in time didn't pay much attention to it.

One thing that always stuck out to me though is how eager and proud some of the female moderators were in calling themselves his "filthy assistants". It was clearly an in-joke that walked right up to that line of being creepy, without going over too much (for that time period).

While it was clearly a nod to the named characters in Ellis' comic 'TransMetropolitan', it seemed a bit like Ellis was trying to live that fantasy character of Spider Jerusleum, super-star journalist who was loved and adored by not one, but two, smart and beautiful women, whom he could still boss around and that was just odd to my 20 something self.

So I'm stunned as hell about all this, but in retrospect, yeah I shouldn't be. I honestly don't know what to do about Ellis the writer (don't know him personally at all), I just keep asking myself "wtf man".

Keep those hits comin', 2020.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:50 PM on June 19 [19 favorites]


I came in here thinking somehow my favorite violinist had a side gig creating comic books

Same here. But this isn't Nick Cave's long term collaborator, also famous from The Dirty Three.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:08 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


I got into comic books because my friends were into it. And there were really cool stories by really cool writers and artists. And I love that the characters I enjoyed when I was a kid are still out there fighting, decades later.

At some point you end up admiring the people who deliver these stories with regularity to you without really knowing much about them. And maybe you cling to that a little more tightly because fandom hasn't always been the all-encompassing semi-normal pursuit its blossomed into.

And then one of your heroes (who became a hero because of his product, not for who he is as a person) is outted as someone who leveraged his popularity and business contacts to exploit women. He did this for as long as you've been a fan.

I'm glad this came out and these women don't have to sit in silence. I'm glad that this will shed some light on his behavior, and possibly reduce the number of victims he produces in the future. And I hope he reflects on the damage he has caused and doesn't abuse the privilege granted by his talent and position.

To all the other writers I admire: don't force me to choose between the heroes you invent and the heroes who speak out about your horrible behavior. I'll choose the real heroes every time.
posted by eisenkrote at 2:11 PM on June 19 [9 favorites]


This week, there was was another comic creator accused of grooming young, female comic fans.
posted by sardonyx at 2:15 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Ellis' statement doesn't strike me as genuine whatsoever. It hinges on insisting he had no idea his behavior was wrong, insisting he never thought he had a power difference to leverage, he just never realized it, he didn't know, he didn't know, he didn't know.

I can't think of one Ellis story that doesn't touch on the imbalances of societal power dynamics in one way or another. It's a real struggle to believe he moved through the world entirely unaware of his own leverage.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:25 PM on June 19 [17 favorites]


Ah hell. This smacked me hard when I first heard of it earlier in the week.

For years I've been a fan of Ellis' comics. I also enjoyed him as a fellow futurist. And I've benefitted from his recommendations of music, comics, books, web resources.

Shit.
posted by doctornemo at 2:34 PM on June 19


This should be totally unsurprising to anyone who's read his work, which I enjoy. But it's all about assholes doing asshole things.
posted by bq at 3:15 PM on June 19 [8 favorites]


:deep sigh:
posted by Foosnark at 3:46 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


From now on I will assume all my favorite art is created by terrible people and can only mean I am a terrible person for having been inspired by said art.
posted by otherchaz at 3:59 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


His 'apology letter' is pretty unsatisfying, unless you're wondering if he is good at writing a letter that allows him to deflect, disengage, and climb into a hole.

The image that is forming through the haze is that of an emotionally manipulative creep and according to women that broke this, there are now 60 women that have come out of the woodwork. 60!

Was a fan... but fuck this Bluebeard. As I longtime reader of his blog, mailing list, etc... I unsubscribed two nights ago. When the writing on the walls looks like a CBGB bathroom stall, I don't need to know the details.
posted by schmattakid at 4:01 PM on June 19 [13 favorites]


From now on I will assume all my favorite art is created by terrible people and can only mean I am a terrible person for having been inspired by said art.
posted by otherchaz at 6:59 PM on June 19


There have been and continue to be valid and complex discussions and considerations and examinations of how to approach and consume and engage with art created by problematic people.

This silly, reductive take is not one of them.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:29 PM on June 19 [40 favorites]


Geeze, as a late teen/early 20-something growing up in the Bush era I discovered Transmet and it was...powerful to me at that time. Enough so I collected the whole thing. Wonder if I can get some of the money back selling them off (or if I did that already in a move)... Cus I can't see wanting to read them again after this.
posted by Canageek at 4:45 PM on June 19


This silly, reductive take is not one of them.

The money and energy I spent at that time provided to him at that time a portion of the funds and social capital that he used to perpetrate his acts. In the light of this revelation, in my own eyes, I am retroactively an accomplice.
posted by otherchaz at 4:48 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]


From now on I will assume all my favorite art is created by terrible people and can only mean I am a terrible person for having been inspired by said art.

Or you can take the mature approach and realize that an artist and their art are not always of the same quality. They can exist separately. And no rules should apply to what you're inspired by.
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:23 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


FUCK!

I still hear the words A finer world and believe in them. I believe in Elijah Snow and Jenny Sparks. I believe in what they stood for and the things they wanted. I believe in Apollo and Midnighter’s love.

Damn you, Warren Ellis. I fucking went into the streets during Occupy Oakland with a goddamn cameraphone and livestreamed cops knocking marchers off their bikes because I believed I was some fucking graduate of the Spider Jerusalem School of Journalism or something.

This... isnt “finer”; this is the shabby, nasty, old world we were handed.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:04 PM on June 19 [14 favorites]


I've been making comics online for a long time, used to work in a comic shop, and had occasional contact with Warren Ellis. He was always very kind to me, complimented my work, and was generally friendly.

That said, I absolutely believe everyone who has said he was not appropriate with them, and may very well have evaded this because I was very obviously a lesbian and/or I was too shy to exchange more than a few messages with someone who wrote some of my favorite comics.

I also find his apology unconvincing. When he writes the apology that he'd want someone to make to his daughter, maybe I'll reconsider, but this isn't it.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:30 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


Or you can take the mature approach

There's no fame without fans.
There are enough posts like this on the blue to suggest a connection between fame and corruption. If my fandom provided the conditions for injustice to occur, and Ellis won't apologize, then it's on me to be responsible for my contribution to the harm.
posted by otherchaz at 6:38 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]


The phase I am looking forward to is the next one, the one where we don't just out sexual assaulters and harassers, we out the shitbags who knew about them, who rationalized for them, covered for them. Fuck those dudes, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:47 PM on June 19 [15 favorites]


The money and energy I spent at that time provided to him at that time a portion of the funds and social capital that he used to perpetrate his acts. In the light of this revelation, in my own eyes, I am retroactively an accomplice.

I don't think anyone would call you wrong for now regretting your financial and/or social support for Ellis. And grappling with your own personal culpability in supporting and sustaining problematic creators and systems can be a valuable part of the process of considering how to engage with both past and future works of art by creators and systems that may be - or may turn out to be - racist or misogynist or colonialist or homo/transphobic or whatever.

My objection is that by phrasing things as "I am retroactively an accomplice" and "can only mean I am a terrible person" you are now (to at least some extent) centering the consideration of what has happened on yourself and your view of yourself as a moral and ethical person.

(Plus, bluntly, the fact that "If I like art by a terrible person that means I am a terrible person" often comes across in text as sarcastic exaggeration meant to derail a discussion: cf. all the conversations on MetFilter and elsewhere about how and why men approach women in public & social situations and when women point out that these approaches can often range between "uncomfortable" and "deeply scary" almost inevitably a man will pop up with some variation of "WELL THEN I GUESS I WILL NEVER TALK TO ANY WOMEN EVER AGAIN AND DIE ALONE AND UNLOVED!" I now see that you did not intend your initial comment that way, and I apologize.)

In any case, back to the main point at hand - I think the concern is that while there is certainly value in considering personal culpability, if your initial reaction is "I liked a thing made by a Bad Person and therefore I am a Bad Person", this comes across as focusing your consideration of the events on your own second-or-third-hand responsibility - to a possibly unhealthy degree - AND can all-too-easily lead to ignoring or downplaying the systems that encourage, support, and cover for this behavior.

IOW, when people's reaction is all "what does this mean about ME?" then all too often what happens is that when they've resolved that question as best they can for themselves, that's the end of it - they can not or do not expand that consideration to the the larger forces and culture in play. Which reduces the chances that those forces and culture can be changed.

And as many people involved with this on Twitter (links in the main article) have pointed out, and also the Dr. Nerdlove column posted by rewil above, in a lot of ways this may be less about what Ellis has done as an individual and more about how the economic and social structure of comic book publishing, creation, and fandom creates an environment that encourages, rewards, and hides this behavior.

Bad People don't exist in a vacuum, and calling out bad individuals is just part of the process of reforming bad systems. If you lose sight of this by concentrating too intently on your own individual moral failings, things don't change.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:57 PM on June 19 [28 favorites]


Hi, I'm fine with being public that I'm the Jhayne that's been plastered all over these articles.

In only 48 hours, the support group I created gathered 50 of his targeted. We're now 60 and we've spoken with at least 25 more targets who aren't ready to join our group yet, but absolutely are wronged members of our awful club.

We have evidence he's been exploiting and damaging the vulnerable since at least 1997. The damages are wide ranging and often shocking. I've been preparing for years, but there was no way to know the scope or scale. It's staggering.

I can assure you, the statement he released was a legal document and nothing else. He is panicked. He is scared. Thank you for those who have been standing with us.

The best way to help is to spread the word that our support group exists. We're expecting our numbers to climb into the triple digits, but almost everyone thought they were alone.

Here's the Twitter link that's best to share.
posted by foxtongue at 12:53 AM on June 20 [88 favorites]


Sometimes I fantasise that before a man is allowed to interact with anyone, he needs to be certified as fit for human company by four women.

But again, that puts the responsibility on the women.

Could these grown ass men actually try behaving like responsible respectful human beings? What pack of wolves taught them how to behave?

On further consideration, the wolves behave better.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 1:53 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


I will believe Warren Ellis' apology when the women he has harmed say they believe it.

Amen.

posted by schmattakid at 5:27 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Thank you for this work, foxtongue. The scale of this is just sickening.

Harris's explanation of what the WEF was like is pretty spot on. Even for those of us on the periphery, there was a definite feeling of being in a place where things were happening. I did meet life-long friends there, and I legitimately grieved when it was shut down. At the same time, a lot of the stuff that went on there was shameful. I think if I knew then what I know now, I would have been able to see Ellis's hypocrisy in how he empowered women, but also sleazed over them (in public).

Like, it was a legitimately great idea to have an all-woman mod team. It really kept a lot of the boy zone stuff down, relative to other comics communities. But then to demean them by calling them his "filthy assistants", is just... i don't know. And, of course, Ellis himself was not subject to those forces.

But, at the time, a lot of us we in our 20's, "hanging out" in the club house of a guy ten years our senior. And that guy was superstar in our world. It was not a scenario conducive to good judgment.

In retrospect, he curated all of that in large part for his own benefit, both professionally and, as we are seeing now, as a predator of women. He made comics feel cool, and framed himself as the coolest rock star of the bunch.

That's why his protestations that he was unaware of the power he held as a celebrity are so egregious. He was clearly, and fairly openly, working very hard to amass and increase that power.

I don't believe his apology even a little bit.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 6:08 AM on June 20 [18 favorites]


I am so sick of this shit.
posted by schroedinger at 6:23 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


Perhaps it's time for a moratorium on the works of cisgender heterosexual men and other people with structural power, unless there's some kind of strong evidence that they couldn't have been predators (and not philanthropic harm-offsetting like posing at woke causes, as that's the oldest predator trick in the book). Cancel all that shit, and read some work by the hitherto voiceless instead.
posted by acb at 6:30 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I’m a little concerned here about the use of the word “grooming,” which I have typically understood to be the process by which a sexual predator enmeshed a minor target.

That doesn’t seem to be part of the story here. We can agree that he inappropriately used his fame and influence to establish relationships under false pretenses without using words that code the whole thing as an actual sexual CRIME, can’t we?
posted by uberchet at 7:02 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


In complete and utter seriousness, what are the negative consequences - and who will suffer these consequences - if people continue to use the word "grooming" to describe what happened?
posted by soundguy99 at 7:34 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


In complete and utter seriousness, what are the negative consequences - and who will suffer these consequences - if people continue to use the word "grooming" to describe what happened?

More to the point - is calling this grooming inaccurate? This behavior doesn't become okay just because the target is of the age of majority.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:41 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


This behavior doesn't become okay just because the target is of the age of majority.

It doesn't become okay, but "grooming" is more than just abusing a power differential. It involves bypassing (or exploiting non-existent) parental protections. It very well may be borderline pedophilia with a bit of "somehow this is okay because we're waiting til she's legal".

Ellis's behavior may well be accurately called "grooming" just because of the intentionality to it and how often he repeated the pattern. But the objection would be that if we start describing any relationship with an uncomfortable age/power difference to be "grooming," the word loses its additional implied offense of intentionally targeting someone with less power, and bypassing protections.
posted by explosion at 7:55 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


if we start describing any relationship with an uncomfortable age/power difference

But nobody is talking about describing any such relationship as "grooming" - the "grooming" part refers to a pattern over time, that usually starts with genuinely or plausibly innocuous interactions and then escalates.

the word loses its additional implied offense of intentionally targeting someone with less power, and bypassing protections.

And . . . what? People are going to take "grooming" of minors less seriously?

If so, then boy oh boy oh boy I got bad news for you - lots of people don't take it very seriously AT ALL right now; it can be hard to see how it would get worse if the popular useage of "grooming" was expanded.

(And furthermore, the question at hand seems to be whether "grooming" should be used to describe behavior that 1) isn't directed at minors and/or 2) isn't actually a prosecutable crime. So your combing age & power is muddying the waters - there can definitely be power differentials without there being much of an age differential,)
posted by soundguy99 at 8:14 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


But the objection would be that if we start describing any relationship with an uncomfortable age/power difference to be "grooming," the word loses its additional implied offense of intentionally targeting someone with less power, and bypassing protections.

To which my response is that you're arguing that the issue is the age difference, not the behavior - at which point you've lost the point. Grooming is targeting someone with less power - that doesn't change just because the target is a legal adult.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:19 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Dr. Nerdlove has written a post on this, titled On Finding Out Your Heroes are Monsters (Or: Detoxifying A Culture).
posted by bile and syntax at 8:54 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Using the word "grooming" to describe the sexualized and immoral behavior of a predator to adult victims dilutes its power to describe the sexualized, immoral, and illegal actions of a predator to juvenile victims.

It's potentially (not necessarily) harmful to victims and prosecutors of illegal acts committed upon minors.

Sexually exploitative and immoral behavior of adults to adults is often better and more accurately described by words such as "deceiving", "cheating", "lying", and etc. *

* I say "more accurately" because grooming characterizes the victim as someone with restricted autonomy and/or as yet undeveloped cognitive abilities.
posted by mistersquid at 9:00 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


There's a lot of well-actuallying in this thread.
posted by acb at 9:08 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]


[Gentle nudge to not get completely wrapped up in the debate about the term "grooming," and keep the focus on the events in the world]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:10 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


There is no, and never has been, a sweary-tattooed-punk-gonzo-journalist comicbook, just like there is no, and never had been, a sweary-Irish-priest sitcom. These things do not exist and have never existed. Perhaps someone will, some day, write such a thing, but that day hasn't yet come.
posted by acb at 9:20 AM on June 20


I'm uninterested in what Warren Ellis has to say for himself.

Sure, I enjoyed some of his books in the past. But Warren Ellis, like so many white men who treat their status as some kind of club membership where you get to do whatever you like to whomever you fancy, well, he's just taking shelf space away from all the wonderful female writers, especially women of colour, who are at least as talented and mindblowing as he is but who will never get noticed because men like him are sucking up all the attention in the room.

Warren Ellis, in the usual banal and evil turn of events, used his fame to use people as long as he could. Who cares whether the current backlash changed him? I had to pay attention to him when the news broke. But I'm not going to waste time on his fucking redemption arc.

For everyone who knows Ellis only by consuming hia fiction: Go and buy books by young women, buy books by people from other countries, with other skin colours than you have. Fill those shelves with works by anything other than famous white men.

To everyone who's been in the position of these young women: I'm sorry. I was groomed once, too. I hope you get what you need and deserve.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:18 PM on June 20 [18 favorites]


It should be noted that this came out amid a series of similar allegations about Cameron Stewart.

Basically, the comics industry is rife with Missing Stair culture.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:12 PM on June 20 [4 favorites]


In complete and utter seriousness, what are the negative consequences - and who will suffer these consequences - if people continue to use the word "grooming" to describe what happened?
posted by soundguy99


It s part of the de-centering of what the victims need. Who really cares about the asshole who did the thing, and how bad a thing is, except that, maybe it tells us what we want in the way of reparations for victims of misogyny.

Some of the offenses may have been grooming, some have may been just the lack of professional mentoring that men avoid giving women when they are misogynist. Each deserves a proportional response, so collapsing them is more of missing the point, and is to focus on the man, which is already hard enough to avoid.
posted by eustatic at 1:15 PM on June 20


...a lot of ways this may be less about what Ellis has done as an individual and more about how the economic and social structure of comic book publishing, creation, and fandom creates an environment that encourages, rewards, and hides this behavior.

This is so fucking spot on and not just comics, sadly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:05 PM on June 20 [9 favorites]


anyone who read WEF back in the day shouldn't be surprised in the least.

I learned yesterday of yet another person, a former friend, who has been credibly accused of being a sex pest, and whose art and behavior were such that I - we - probably should have known at the time. It's part of what makes all of this such a sea change: we shouldn't be surprised. The element of surprise is gone. We should have known at the time, and many did firsthand. But there is an actual cultural shift happening with regards to tolerating these men.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:27 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Merus: I'm less keen on throwing all men into the sea, to be honest.

Did I miss where someone proposed that?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:33 AM on June 21 [2 favorites]


Kelly Sue DeConnick talks [Instagram, ~20 min] about her long (non-problematic) friendship with Ellis, her support for the women who have come forward, and some early ideas on how to address systemic problems in the industry. It is an unscripted, unedited statement, so it is a bit disjointed -- and definitely shot through with frustration at having to make a public statement at all -- but clearly heartfelt.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:19 AM on June 21 [4 favorites]


Thank you foxtongue for doing the heavy lifting. You should not have to do it, so double thanks for doing it.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:41 PM on June 21 [2 favorites]


A couple of things:

Warren Ellis grooming young women is one of those things that I never suspected could've been happening but still didn't come as a surprise, if you see what I mean? In comics he's been pretty much treated as a rock star and with that comes the sort of entitlement that enables this behaviour.

Comics as a whole has a sexual predator problem: DC editor Eddie Berganza, Cameron Steward, Brian Wood, Brandon Graham, Dark Horse editors Brendan Wright and Scott Allie, etc. Every so often a new incident occurs and maybe the predator in question is fired, like Berganza, but maybe not. Brandon Graham alone has had multiple cycles of abuse followed by rehabilitation. At the end of the day the comics industry is very forgiven of sexpests but not so much of their victims, it seems.

This mirrors the culture at large of course. Succesful men deserve access to (young) women (sometimes men) as a reward for their labour. You're a rock star, you're going to get laid and nevermind about consent. That's something that got to change.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:11 AM on June 22 [1 favorite]


And in news to hand - an Australian High Court judge has been found to have sexually harassed six of his staff.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-22/former-high-court-judge-sexually-harrassed-several-associates/12381236

When I did my law studies, I studied a couple of the textbooks he co/wrote and read some of his non-legal writings and we have had some especial assholes in the upper echelons of the Australian legal system - and they have pretty much come from the self-satisfied ranks of Sydney lawyers - and he was totally one of those entitled prigs.

So, yeah, I never met him, but I still disliked him. Tell me that I am the only person who noticed he was an entitled jerk.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 1:52 AM on June 22 [2 favorites]


Forgot to mention that the comics industry's most famous free speech organisation is run by a notorious harasser as well.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:52 AM on June 22 [3 favorites]


It is super frustrating as a woman and a sexual assault victim that almost all of the comments from men in any thread outing an abuser is just tiny little funerals for the media they worship. Is that really your first reaction? What a bummer you really like $XYZ Book?
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:07 AM on June 22 [14 favorites]


It is really horrid how much that happens, although I'm not seeing a ton of it in this specific thread.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:30 PM on June 22




Forgot to mention that the comics industry's most famous free speech organisation is run by a notorious harasser as well.

I used to support the CBLDF, both because I was a comics fan and because I used to have a legal defense fund and it made a world of difference for me. Then over time I realized how many creeps were involved in it and how few women and it just became too much of a question of whose speech they were interested in "defending."
posted by bile and syntax at 9:11 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


As a huge fan, I’m bummed by this. Count me in the camp that says this is not legally grooming but is clearly disgusting.

It does put me in mind of people like JFK and the Beatles and Wilt Chamberlin and Joss Wheadon. Or a character like Don Draper. Even some of the skeezier aspects of MLK or Ghandi. Being a hero is a fantasy, and access to sexual and romantic gratification is part of that myth for men. It’s a big effing problem.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:14 AM on June 25


The best public writing I’ve seen on it has been Harris’ take.

Dr. Nerdlove has written a post on this

These allegations haven't been widely distributed or corroborated, but they cast a dubious light on Harris O'Malley's good faith, even if he does talk the talk.
posted by jackbishop at 10:09 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


> It is super frustrating as a woman and a sexual assault victim that almost all of the comments from men in any thread outing an abuser is just tiny little funerals for the media they worship. Is that really your first reaction? What a bummer you really like $XYZ Book?

yeah, like, what about all the excellent media that didn't get made because rapists, abusers, and harassers chased women and girls out of the industry? If you gotta mourn media, how about you mourn that instead?
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:15 AM on June 26 [5 favorites]


I mean, you could, and should, be angry that this behavior prevented lots of cool stuff from being created, but there's a difference between mourning the absence of something never made and mourning the fact that some formative literary or comic creator hero of yours turned out to be a giant asshole.

There's probably room for both.
posted by uberchet at 10:29 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


I mean "I can't read this comic because of some ineffable harm" is one level of sensitivity to women's concerns about misogynistic harms, but then someone is like "don't say that it's harmful" and you're just like NO THANKS I LIKE SAYING IT which indicates a different level of sensitivity fo misogynistic harms

In other words, the latter response makes me think the former response is a bit performative and maybe a tad bullshit
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:48 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


So I mean go ahead and say it, there's always going to be room for dudes centering themselves, you're right about that
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:48 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


gotta say though i am legit in mourning about the media we didn't get — for me, my sadness over this absence is much more intense than my sadness over the "loss" of media produced by abusers.

like, i don't know the comics world as well as i should, but at least once a week or so i think about how we could have had so many more animators on par with rebecca sugar, and so much sooner, if john kricfalusi hadn't so diligently groomed and then disposed of girls interested in animation. like holy shit that makes me want to cry. i am a little bit sad over our "loss" of ren & stimpy and just beside myself with grief over everything we could have had but didn't, and (more importantly) over everything his victims could have had and could have done.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 10:54 AM on June 26 [7 favorites]


"I have never considered myself famous or powerful"

Oh, bullshit. And anyone who read WEF back in the day shouldn't be surprised in the least.


This is basically what I came to say; I certainly wasn't. Especially in its final days, the WEF was really all about Warren bragging, ladling out contempt to those fans who weren't hip or cool enough to suit him, and banning people who talked back to him or his so-called Filthy Assistants. (It got bad enough that some of the forum members were asking him to ban them in solidarity with people who had been peremptorily banished.) I wasn't one of them, and I'm ashamed to say that, even as I got tired of Ellis, his online bullshit, and some of his favorite tropes (in particular the older male protagonist and the young hot female sidekick), I didn't publicly push back against that sort of personality cultism. At most, I may have said the occasional unkind thing about Harlan Ellison, who by that time had lost a whole lot of mojo because of the Connie Willis incident and was defended mostly by the occasional fanboy or someone who thought that they might still owe him for a solid or two that he did them back in the day. But that's not much of a much, especially as there's so many dudes (not inevitably dudes, but mostly) like that.

soundguy99 is right. We have to look at the culture that promotes and enshrines people like Ellis, and ask ourselves what we do to perpetuate that culture, and what we can do to dismantle it.

Also, thanks to foxtongue for stepping forward.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:58 AM on June 26


also I basically do not give a single fuck about this fandom (? genre? etc.) but I have 100% heard of Warren Ellis multiple times. Not famous my ass.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:00 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Jackbishop: yeahhh, I saw that, and news of it’s spreading among women who used to be on the WEF.

At some point you want to become numb.
posted by rewil at 11:06 AM on June 26


“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” - Alexander Pope
posted by stoneweaver at 11:14 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]


yeah but also a man should be ashamed that he's used a position of power to abuse women and girls. like super super ashamed.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:05 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


and you know what i was going at the "what about the works we didn't get because of this abusive man?" angle because i thought it was a good bridge away from "oh no i can't read x anymore," but even that is super inadequate to the point of being offensive. by treating media products as more important than humans we are basically treating things — comic books — like people and people — particularly women — like things. it's the cardinal sin of patriarchy and i don't want to participate in it. even if warren ellis were james fuckin' joyce, hell, if warren ellis were homer, and even if no one he abused would have made comix if he wasn't an abuser, even then he'd be the worst.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 2:17 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


That quote was definitely not directed at Ellis.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:18 PM on June 26


Big thanks for all your support, fellow mefites! Our numbers are still growing and it's because of people like you, helping spread the word that our group exists. It's dearly appreciated.

As for the people who are uneducated on the topic of Adult Grooming, I'm going to leave this here.
posted by foxtongue at 1:34 AM on June 29 [6 favorites]


There's a website, somanyofus.com, which goes into detail on the techniques of manipulation Warren Ellis used, and testimonials from dozens of his targets. It's grisly.

I was on the WEF, and I'm still processing this.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:10 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]






Whoa. There's a website that were people recount their abuse from this one person. That's terribly astounding and infuriating and so many other negative things I can barely comprehend.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:25 PM on July 13


Hi, our site has gone live: www.somanyofus.com
posted by foxtongue at 4:35 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


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