Comics have been a part of my life for the better part of thirty years. At first they were passing things that appeared sporadically when my parents needed something to shut me up or entertain me. In the early to mid 80’s they became a way to continue the stories and adventures I had seen in movies or tv. There were Star Wars comics, G.I. Joe comics, and the continuing adventures of Indiana Jones.
Eventually I discovered the joys of collecting comics; hunting down back issues to complete a run of a favorite character. Creators were not that important to me. At eleven years old, it was more important to me which armor Iron Man was wearing than it was who was drawing said armor.
As I got older, I began to notice the creators more and more. I realized that issues of a series I did not like often could be attributed to a change in writer or artist. I began to avoid certain creators and track down unfamiliar works of others. My collection, and opinion of comics broadened.
Through patience, luck, and countless hours spent scouring quarter bins, I have managed to put together a collection of comics which spans both a wide range of time and a broad scope of creators and content. As such, it is always surprising when I come across an early wok by a creator I admire and respect today.
I never got too caught up in the “Bad Girl” movement of the 90’s. I say “too caught up” because I did have one weakness: Shi. Billy Tucci’s Shi, the Way of the Warrior, was a fun series that blended art, color, storytelling, and a maddening publication schedule into a package which kept me on the hunt for years. As the original mini series wrapped up, Tucci began to produce works which starred Shi, but were neither drawn nor written by him. They varied in quality, but were usually good for a bit of diversion.
Recently I was going through a longbox of my comics and came across my run of Shi comics. I smiled as I thumbed through the variant covers, the mini-series, and the spinoffs. But then I stopped. Were my eyes deceiving me? Was that a Shi/Vampirella crossover written by Warren Ellis????
Anyone who has read this blog or listened to the podcast for a while knows that Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers. I loan out the Authority and Global Frequency to anyone who will take them. I slip Ministry of Space into conversations from time to time. I have tracked down a lot of his early work, but I had no clue that I was sitting on THIS. I mean…Warren Ellis write a Shi comic????
I opened it up and read through the book (the story had completely escaped my mindo ver the years). Here was a Warren Ellis story before he became WARREN (all caps!) ELLIS!
The story was published in the fall of 1997, mere months before he would release the first issue of Transmetropolitan. This was Ellis before he was on his way to establishing the kind of writing (and God of the Internet status) which would to define him as a comic creator and novelist. It was clunky, rushed, and not exactly the type of story I will be showing off to my friends. But there were kernels of ELLIS in there that cannot be overlooked.
There is obscure mythology, fairytales, strange languages, and an attack on widespread belief/cliché. Ellis attempts to take a vampire story and a character from the 1970’s and broaden and deepen the mythology surrounding them in a mere 22 pages. It is ambitious. It is preposterous. And it almost works!
There are definitely pieces of the story which were given to him which he had to shoehorn in (Anna/Shi’s boyfriend for one) which disrupt the flow and take up valuable page space. And there was a lot of story to try to cover in a mere 22 pages (not to mention while leaving the characters more or less the way they were when he got them). But it is a start. It is a beginning. It is that moment before the curtain drops and Spider Jerusalem/WARREN ELLIS takes the stage.
One of the joys of a collection of comics (or anything else for that matter) is the ability to go back and peruse the collection; to see individual pieces as part of a greater whole. In this case, it was a joy to take a new look at a creator I respect and admire today, and see where he was yesterday. Maybe it is time you went through your collection and saw your favorite comics and your favorite creators in a new light.
Let me know what you find!