We reaffirm our call for Warren Ellis to earn the opportunity
June 25, 2021 2:38 PM   Subscribe

SoManyOfUs, a website created as a response to creator Warren Ellis' targeting and manipulation of women, has released a statement about Ellis' potential return to comics.

Two recent statements from the SOMU website:
Update June 24, 2021: Author Warren Ellis reached out to this collective for the first time today. We will update this site when appropriate as we attempt to begin a transformative justice journey. For full transparency, (with permission) we've included his message below.

Email from Warren Ellis with text that reads: "I was made aware today of the offer of a mediated dialogue . I am available at the above noted email address, _____ , to begin a conversation. At your convenience, please let me know how this will work. -- W"

Update June 23, 2021: When we published SoManyOfUs.com on July 13, 2020, we expressly did not want to “cancel” author Warren Ellis. Rather, we shared constructive ways to address the all-too-common issue of powerful men's abusive behavior. We challenged people to rethink past actions and to consider how—and why—they may have facilitated harmful behaviors and environments. We called for openness, accountability, and growth, extending an offer of working with Ellis on some form of transformative justice.

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.

During the past year, we were comforted by an outpouring of encouragement while also heartbroken to be contacted by more targets of Ellis and of other men using similar patterns to abuse power. Today, as Ellis returns to comics without making amends to anyone involved in SoManyOfUs.com or accepting the ramifications of his actions, the renewal of ardent public support alongside calls for accountability is reassuring.

We reaffirm our call for Warren Ellis to earn the opportunity to become the man so many people believed him to be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Folks looking for background on this should check out this link from BleedingCool.com, which is the third link in the post.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:43 PM on June 25

Ha, I was just this minute structuring a post about this! Pipped at the post, as it were.

One significant link to add: earlier today, Ellis himself has finally made a public statement on the matter (the statement in full can be found here).

An excerpt:
I acknowledge that I have done wrong. Neither my intent at the time, nor my perception of it then, erases that fact. Nor does it at all obscure that the result of that behavior has clearly affected individuals for years, and may even have inspired others to perform negative behaviour.

If you are a reader who supported me, then thank you, but please don't defend me anymore. Change doesn't happen overnight -- I'm at the start of a long road, and it's not a road with a defined end - and it doesn't happen in a vacuum. If you want to support me, then support efforts towards transformation of communities, industries and workplaces.
posted by fight or flight at 2:57 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

It's also worth noting that this (Ellis breaking his silence) may have been prompted by Image Comics finally making a statement saying they won't work with him "until he has made amends to the satisfaction of all involved".
posted by fight or flight at 2:58 PM on June 25 [10 favorites]

He's got a lot of words in the shape of sounding-nice there, but I'm not sure how to take 'Hey, sorry about being silent for a year, I just found out that someone wanted me to say something, guess I should've checked my voicemail' (so to speak).

Guess we'll see, the So Many Of Us collective seem to be handling things really well.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:02 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

The timeline, as far as I could piece together:

6/21-Ben Templesmith teases that more Fell (book by him and Ellis) is in the works on his
6/23-So Many of Us posts the comment above. Basically, "yeah, we saw that Templesmith comment. We haven't heard from Ellis, in case you were wondering."
6/24-Ellis posts to his email list a status update with more apologies, says he wasn't ready to return to the public and was surprised by Templesmith's tease
6/25-Image makes it clear that they aren't ready to release any Fell.

It's unclear what sort of dialogue happened between Image, Ellis, and Templesmith between 6/21 and 6/25.

I'm kind of enraged by Ellis' "it's come to my attention" as if he's been under a rock for six months and just got the invite. I really want to give people the opportunity for redemption, but it needs to be earned. I really thought he, if anyone, could navigate that process correctly. Templesmith, to me, accidentally put a spotlight on the fact that Ellis seems to have spent the last year 'working on himself' rather than making amends. How long do you need to work on yourself before you can reach out to those you harmed?
posted by lownote at 3:12 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]

Honestly, I'm not surprised by the year of silence or even active dismissal from the fandom, but I'm still disappointed at the ongoing wall of silence from other big name comics/sff creatives who have been long time friends of Ellis and passively allowed this sort of thing to continue, and have yet to speak out about it. All of these fantastic writers who suddenly can't find the words to apologise or even explain why they looked aside from what "Uncle Warren" was doing. It's particularly disappointing from women like Kelly Sue DeConnick and Gail Simone (whose comments on Ellis haven't aged well to say the least).

The only statement of note I can think of is Harris O'Malley's deconstruction of Ellis' empire and the Warren Ellis Forum.
posted by fight or flight at 3:14 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]

If you are a reader who supported me, then thank you, but please don't defend me anymore.

I'll say this much: this is refreshing.

You so very often see half-assed apologies followed by myriad fans praising the celebrity for their words. Or you see a culture war where people feel the need to take a side.

Ellis isn't admitting full culpability, but he's acknowledging that defending his behavior is just going to further hurt people.

None of this amounts to him doing nearly enough, but this is itself a low bar that too many fail to clear.
posted by explosion at 3:17 PM on June 25 [12 favorites]

fwiw, I thought this response from Kelly Sue Deconnick a year ago was very powerful.

from Bleeding Cool
posted by lownote at 3:20 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

Full disclaimer: I have no idea who Warren Ellis is, the background on this or anything... but Bleeding Edge was really, really hard to follow. Wikipedia providers a pretty good summary. If anyone is trying to follow like I am, if I'm understanding this right he's a manipulative but didn't do anything non-consensual or pedophilic. The heavy use of phrases like "cancel culture" and stepping around the issue in the Bleeding Edge article that it made it really hard to pin down what he did wrong.
posted by geoff. at 3:35 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

Is there a good model for men who've been called out for a pattern of bad behavior and redeemed themselves somehow in a way that satisfies most people, particularly their victims? I'd like to believe there is a path for reconciliation, at least for men whose bad behavior is relatively limited in scope and impact. But I'm scratching my head thinking of any public figure who's done that meaningfully and successfully. We've seen lots of guys try to come back while not making a full good faith effort to learn and make amends and it sounds like Ellis is in that category.
posted by Nelson at 3:39 PM on June 25 [4 favorites]

geoff and any other users who are new to this and confused, I highly recommend you read the very first link in the post, which clearly lays out what he did and why it was so harmful to so many people.
posted by fight or flight at 3:40 PM on June 25 [8 favorites]

Is there a good model for men who've been called out for a pattern of bad behavior and redeemed themselves somehow in a way that satisfies most people, particularly their victims?

It wasn't in a predatory sense, but Terry Crews has said some pretty fucked up things and come out redeemed because he actually took the time to learn and made a genuine apology.

In particular, I recall that he said something along the lines of children needing a mother and father as good role models, thus implying that same-sex couples were unfit parents. He was taken to task for that, his Brooklyn 99 costar Stephanie Beatriz (openly bi) criticized that, but also had a dialogue with him, and he came around.

At this point, most folks understand that Terry Crews was raised with some regressive values, and it's not expected that he won't put his foot in his mouth again, but he's genuinely seeking to do better and will own up to his missteps.
posted by explosion at 3:49 PM on June 25 [13 favorites]

>Is there a good model for men who've been called out for a pattern of bad behavior and redeemed themselves somehow in a way that satisfies most people, particularly their victims?

Dan Harmon is probably the closest (only?) example I can think of.
posted by parm at 3:56 PM on June 25 [6 favorites]

if I'm understanding this right he's a manipulative but didn't do anything non-consensual or pedophilic.

You are not understanding right.

In many cases informed consent wasn't possible due to Ellis' status and the extensive emotional tactics he used to manipulate and abuse the people he harmed. His victims weren't fully aware of what they were consenting to, they were often in a position where his power over them meant they felt they couldn't turn him down. In some cases he used (or attempted to use) hypnotism to control them. This isn't just some creepy flirty older man, he is a sexual predator who actively targets fragile people (in one case turning up in one victims' life after her partner died of cancer in order to manipulate her back into a relationship with him).
posted by fight or flight at 3:56 PM on June 25 [16 favorites]

Re: KSD, as lownote noted above, you might have not watched her IG Live, but it was out there and fairly clear about her feelings.

Re: Warren. lol. As if anyone could credit that someone who prided themselves on being all up on the latest internet news wouldn't know of the SoManyOfUs site. "Made aware" my ass.
posted by rewil at 4:05 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]

As if anyone could credit that someone who prided themselves on being all up on the latest internet news wouldn't know of the SoManyOfUs site. "Made aware" my ass.

Just this. I was tired of Ellis' shenanigans nearly two decades ago, and there is too much good work out there in comics land, by people who (AFAWK) have no one to apologize to, to care about the ostensible redemption of someone who sat on that statement for a full year. Good on SOMU for keeping him accountable.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:25 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

How long do you need to work on yourself before you can reach out to those you harmed?

I think it's important to step cautiously into interpreting what silence means., or judging how long it takes for someone to understand how their default way of interacting with and seeing other people is harmful.

For me, there have a few times when it took me years before I could get past my personal world view, all of the "..yeah, but..."'s and actually, bodily grok why what I said/did had such a profound effect on someone else's life. I knew myself well enough to realize that I was still 30% in the "I just want them to understand where my bad actions were coming from." In one case, it took me three years of serious reflection and re-building before I could write an apology that had zero attempts to explain myself and no attempt to even hint at an ask for forgiveness.
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:37 PM on June 25 [5 favorites]

Ellis has done a lot of damage, and has a Mount Everest-sized hill to climb before the question of whether he has atoned and made restitution can even be considered. It’s not clear that a mortal lifetime will suffice for this.

So, in short, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
posted by acb at 5:28 PM on June 25

Silvery Fish - This is fair, but in my experience using restorative justice in education settings, the process needs to be led by those harmed. I don't meant those people need to put in all of the effort to make the situation right, but that the person who did the harm needs to be taking cues from those people to properly address the harm. Running away for a year and going to therapy without that being contextualized around the needs of those he hurt is not moving along a path to redemption.
posted by lownote at 5:31 PM on June 25 [2 favorites]

Ellis' apology letter said lots of the right things but the man is a professional writer so I can't trust anything he writes. He needs to make amends through his actions and I don't know what that would look like or how long it would take, but until then, and maybe not even then, I'm not giving him a second chance.

I read about Ben Templesmith's Fell tease and I was wondering how that was going to work as Ellis has pretty much disappeared for the last year. I don't follow Ellis online or anything but I go to the comic shop often enough that if he was putting stuff out then I'd probably see it. I remember reading Fell many, many years ago and wondering when the next issue would come out until I figured it would just be one of those projects that never got finished and on some level I'm excited that they might be able to finish their story but even if they are able to complete it'll remain unfinished to me.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:43 PM on June 25 [3 favorites]

Is there a good model for men who've been called out for a pattern of bad behavior and redeemed themselves somehow in a way that satisfies most people
I like to give the example of the Beastie Boys, whose early songs and behaviour were cartoonishly, luridly chauvinist (and were seen as such at the time) and who realised, gradually but definitely, that that wasn’t who they wanted to be anymore.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 1:33 AM on June 26 [12 favorites]

If Ellis gave every cent he had made from his works to victims' support charities, and then devoted the rest of his life to making right the damage he had done, then he could be considered to be that rarest of things, a formerly garbage person. However, I'm guessing that that's not on the cards, so no. Get back in the bin, Warren.
posted by acb at 4:24 AM on June 26 [2 favorites]

Running away for a year and going to therapy without that being contextualized around the needs of those he hurt is not moving along a path to redemption.

I agree - especially if the person in question is moving back into the community that they injured and preyed upon. My experience watching extremely privileged/ predatory / sociopathic people”get better “ is that it takes way longer than a year, and we don’t know what conversations may have been happening in the background.

I tend to always have hope for redemption, and my caution was to say that that doesn’t always happen on an externally mandated schedule.
posted by Silvery Fish at 6:54 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]

I'm watching these kinds of developments- how people in communities even like this one discuss and handle these kinds of situations. These issues are so heard and complex, yet I think it is absolutely crucial that we develop the vision of what this process looks like at the community level since so much behavior like this is really not handle well by the legal system. How do we become communities that hold accountability and protect people from abuse rather than ignore, enable, and excuse it?

And since a lot of this is shifting to the public vs the legal in changing how we handle this kind of behavior as communities- figuring out what it means for a person to heal their reputation, to repair the damage, and actually earn some trust and acceptance back into their professional and social spheres is really hard. It's hard because often the way abuse works is cycles of apologies- sometimes false and sometimes genuinely sincere- with the behavior stopping for a little while and then returning.

We tend to judge people who "stay" or continue to engage with abusers as doing something wrong yet on some level we all want to know there is a process of reconciliation and redemption in place. And sometimes- one of those moments of giving people a chance to change sticks and they really do make a change that they fully commit to. While I don't have answer to what the perfect process is- I can say it truly warms my heart to hear communities having completely different conversations about these ongoing issues than ever would have happened 10 years ago.

I was watching some entertainment chat show discussing Marylin Manson accusations and hearing people in casual chat offering deep affirmations of support for the difficulties of coming forward and the reasons people stay or experience grooming or abuse was extremely meaningful to me. Even if we can't ever fix the world such that abuse never happens, I do think we can take measure to reduce is, to stop tolerating the belief systems and behaviors that feed it, stand up to these behaviors in our day to day lives, and to make sure that those who experience abuse are the ones who get the support from the community rather than that all the protective and defensive efforts go toward those accused.
posted by xarnop at 7:45 AM on June 26 [3 favorites]

Thanks for posting about us, it's been validating to see how much the conversation about our work at www.somanyofus.com has changed. There's a lot more acceptance that harm has been done and far fewer trolls. I lay a lot of that at the feet of conversations like the one here. It's appreciated.

Also, for those who are still considering the stance of "what he did doesn't seem that bad", consider that the stories on the site represent only a small fraction of the stories we have unearthed and do not include the full spectrum of his abuse, by any measure.
posted by foxtongue at 8:08 AM on June 26 [17 favorites]

@foxtongue (and everyone who has contributed) — this is not my community, but I have been watching with an amazing sense of hopefulness to the response of and conversation within somanyofus.com . As has been brought up again in this thread, we (culturally) still don’t have a clear armature supporting a path to redemption for abusers and the subsequent return to a community. As every community and every situation is different, I suspect and hope that a general framework WILL come out of the work you are doing here. This is difficult and messy work happening within a larger culture (the US) where we have two defaults: either a person is punished forever, or they go through performative contrition and then everyone is supposed to just forgive and let it go.

What you are doing is new and important work.
posted by Silvery Fish at 12:09 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

I think in many cases the right answer to "what is the proper action for famous abusers" is apologize and retire.

Because so much of the abuse is against fellow artists, women or marginalized ones, whose careers the abuser has harmed or even derailed.
If the abuser can do anything to fix those harms, he should, but so long as he still seeks to promote his own career, anything does will seem like self promotion and will overshadow other artists who deserve the spotlight.

In a just world, no company would want to work with abusers.
posted by emjaybee at 12:43 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]

From a POV of self-interest, Ellis' most rational course of action would be to swallow his distaste and embrace the Intellectual Dank Web Nazis, because they're sure as hell going to be the only audience he has now. He can do a comic about brave Proud Boys defending their womenfolk against the onslaught of posthuman Antifa super-soldiers and promote it on a joint “Cancelled!” tour with Milo Yiannopoulos, Morrissey and the banjo player from Mumford and Sons or something.

And three days later, Chuck Tingle releases a book titled “Pounded In The Butt By An Onslaught Of Posthuman Antifa Super-Soldiers”, of course.
posted by acb at 1:02 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]

The usual script for these things seems to run:

1. Famous dude is revealed to be a serial abuser
2. An apology of some variety is made, which is generally regarded as insufficient and/or insincere
3. Followed by a lengthy silence
4. Eventually he pops back up
5. Which kicks off a new round of controversy
6. This time around he just ignores it, and refuses to talk about it any more
7. And some portion of his former audience is fine with that

So we're at step 5 right now, and Ellis is going off script by re-engaging with the issue rather than just trying to brazen it out. That's more than I expected.

My feelings on him at this point will depend on what happens with his engagement with the SoManyOfUs people.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:25 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]

Ellis is only vaguely going off script, because Image posed a block to his Creep Back Into His Career Plan.
posted by foxtongue at 7:51 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]

So glad we’re talking about that other Warren Ellis.
posted by 3.2.3 at 8:39 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]

Goddamit, I really enjoyed Season 4 of Castlevania on Netflix recently, which he wrote. It's perhaps interesting that [ spoiler! ] there's a few redemptive arcs in there for previously quite evil characters. Hearing about all of this, I can't help but think these transgressions have been weighing on his mind a little longer than he lets on.
[that's not to justify in any way what he's done of course, I just wonder at the connection]
posted by horopter at 12:00 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]

Ellis is only vaguely going off script, because Image posed a block to his Creep Back Into His Career Plan.

The defensive wall is holding up so far, despite his attempts at breaching it or getting around it. What needs to be done is to keep the pressure up: nip any attempts at premature self-rehabilitation in the bud in an exemplary manner, as to drive him back into his hole. This will involve awareness-building, as it is an activity that by its nature must be done in public. It could be said that our defensive weapons are concentrated sunlight.
posted by acb at 2:45 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]

So glad we’re talking about that other Warren Ellis.

I had no idea about the musician Warren Ellis until a couple of months ago when i came upon an article on a Nick Cave and Warren Ellis album and I had to do a bit of searching to learn that there's an Australian musician of the same name.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:42 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I love his writing but the minute I started reading the link the accusers' words felt immediately correct. I've only see him speak once, but had hoped to see him at cons again in the future. No telling if that will happen now, as just having him present will violate the (justly implemented) no tolerance for abuser/s/ rules widely accepted in the last decade in most fan spaces.
posted by EinAtlanta at 1:33 PM on June 28

This also gets complicated by the way Image is structured. It was all set up so IP is creator owned and controlled. Ellis owns Fall, and Image has very limited ability to do anything about him bringing it back if he really wants to push the issue.
posted by Karmakaze at 3:01 PM on June 28

Surely Image could decline to publish it, on the grounds of it being toxic by association with him.
posted by acb at 2:11 AM on June 29

Ellis hasn't been charged in court, which makes the legal standing of doing that very tricky. There's what's right and there's what's protected by law, and the two do not necessarily overlap.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:29 AM on June 29

Many authors' contracts have morality clauses which allow the publisher to drop the author if they shit the bed too badly. Surely sexual harrassment/predation at scale would be more than enough to trigger such a clause, and Image's legal department should be more than up to the task.
posted by acb at 2:57 AM on June 30

The weird way Image is structured could (and possibly should) be a FPP all for itself. If you're a podcast person I think this two parter from Explain This Comics Guys does a good job of explaining why that particular comic publisher gives creators more leeway than most.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:41 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]

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