More than 60 women and non-binary people have accused influential comic book author Warren Ellis of manipulative and predatory behavior toward female fans and creatives. There was an open letter and dozens of statements collected on a site made by some of his alleged targets, and have been shared with The Guardian, who today published a story about the allegations.
The site was launched after several weeks of less specific accusations, including some posted on Twitter. The testimonials describe a long pattern of attracting young female fans in online or offline sexual encounters, who have often turned into controlling behavior or insults. According to The Guardian, Ellis secretly maintained up to 19 relationships at a time, as she ran online forums where many women believed their participation depended on appearance and availability. An employee writes of an “unspoken requirement for continued membership: to be sexually desirable (if not downright available to be seen as such) or ridiculed. Or worst of all, ignored.”
While there have been no allegations of sexual assault or other criminal activity, the testimonials describe a clear pattern of troubling relationships some describe as “grooming.” Several accounts describe relationships that seemed to start as true mentorship during a period of vulnerability, but were quickly sent to sex and became slightly more calculating and transactional. They often ended up with Ellis cutting off the contact abruptly.
“I’m not sure if some men fully understand how women are struggling: participation in society, being treated like a real person, so often depends on performative sexuality,” said one participant using the pseudonym Madolan Greene. For women trying to break into a creative industry, it created a hostile environment that undermined their work and confidence, even as Ellis publicly reinforced women’s profiles.
The alleged problem is not just one bad relationship, but a long pattern of mistreatment of vulnerable women, reinforced by Ellis’ power within his industry. Besides working on historical comics like Transmetropolitan and other creative projects (most recently the popular Netflix series Castlevania), he led several forums that became online salons for talented artists and writers in the 2000s. Harris O’Malley, better known as the blogger and relationship coach Dr. Nerdlove, called the eponymous Warren Ellis Forum an “incubator of talents, who created creators who would transform not only comics but television, film and more.” Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson, another forum member, described it as one of the main ways to break into comics – but for women a place with a ‘casting couch vibe’.
In a statement posted in JuneEllis offered a generally apologetic but nonspecific response to the allegations. “I never considered myself famous or mighty,” he wrote, “and it never really occurred to me that other people didn’t see it the same way – that I didn’t care as an equal if I was gifted with attention, but acted from a position of power and privilege. I did not take that into account in some of my personal interactions and this was a mistake. ”
Writer and photographer Katie West, who posted some of the first complaints against Ellis in a now deleted tweet thread, wrote on Twitter that he was only part of a larger cultural problem. Her tweets came alongside accusations that were earlier Batgirl co-writer Cameron Stewart haunted teenage fans in her thirties.
Since the original allegations in June, Ellis has removed a story from the upcoming Batman comic Dark Nights: Death Metal: Legends of the Dark Knights, apparently at his own request. He is currently a writer for the series The Batman’s Grave, and Netflix ordered a fourth season of Castlevania earlier this year.
The testimonials against Ellis highlight the complexity of allegations of sexual misconduct – a general term that can describe everything from criminal actions to legal but exploitative behavior. The contributors to the site ask Ellis not to be banned permanently, or to forget his work. (They also note that many other people have helped create the comics he is known for.)
Instead, they want to dismantle a personality cult centered around a famous man and prevent more women from entering into a manipulative relationship. “To be clear, it is not our goal to see Warren Ellis punished, we are here to look forward to it. We believe it is important to raise awareness of a pattern to change the culture of complicity, ”the letter reads. “We tell these stories so that everyone can recognize the dangerous nature of this type of behavior and protect themselves and others.”