Photo of Warren Ellis at Comic Con 2007Living up to his reputation during a candid two-hour conversation with his fans late Saturday night at Comic-Con, Warren Ellis worked his way through two Red Bull tallboys, a can of Sparks (an alcohol-infused energy drink presented to him by a fan) and, in flagrant disregard of Convention Center policy --to say nothing of the state of California-- a late-in-the panel cigarette ... all to the delight of his gathered fans.

Ellis greeted the crowd as, "my children," prompting one wag to shout in response, "daddy!" To which Ellis shot back, "oh, shit!" The Red Bulls were delivered to the stage about five minutes into the talk and, upon being placed in front of him, Ellis remarked, "Christ, I might actually make it through the two hours now."

FreakAngels promotional artDetails on two new Ellis projects for Avatar Press were released during the talk. Announcing the first, Ellis said, "I'm doing a long-form comic for the Web starting this Autumn." It's called FreakAngels and Avatar will be releasing it totally free online. Ellis said, "I've written two hundred pages and I still have no idea what it's about ... it's retro-punk, it's near-future steampunk" and involves characters who are "living in a post-flood London that they might possibly have had something to do with." Paul Duffield is the artist for the title, and there will be five new pages posted each week, totally free to readers. Why not hit now and sign up for a subscription?

The second exclusive Comic-Con announcement from Avatar was that his Ignition City will be the publisher's second ongoing monthly series penned by the author. No further details were available, save for the fact that it will "probably" launch early next year. If you're wondering what the first ongoing series Ellis is writing for Avatar, get thee to a comics shop, for Doktor Sleepless #1 was released this very week.

In response to a question regarding Marvel's Comic-Con announcement that Ellis will be taking over the reins on Astonishing X-Men after Joss Whedon wraps up his run, Ellis said, "they've announced this very early. My first issue isn't out until this time next year. I'm still waiting on notes from the office before I can start writing."

It wasn't all comics talk though, as Ellis also provided some exclusive information on Dead Channel, the tv series he's been developing of an unnamed American network. The basis premise of the show involves a tv network executive who's got SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) software installed on his home computer. One night, it turns out he's the guy who receives communication from aliens. He receives a transmission of an .avi file that amounts to alien tv programming. Instead of calling a government agency or the folks at SETI, he calls the network lawyers who, by morning, have found a loophole in the SETI user agreement and the executive decides to air it as a reality tv show. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a winner to me ... but then, anything that (presumably) skewers reality tv programming and is written by Warren Ellis is OK in my book. We'll need patience and luck to see the show, however, since Ellis is currently writing the bible (an detailed outline of the plot for the first six episodes) for the show. If the network likes that, he says, "we live in hope" that they'll shoot the (already written) pilot next year.

A couple of quick notes on existing projects: Ellis mentioned that the script for Planetary #27 was finished and sent on to artist John Cassaday two months ago. Ellis says "I think he's broken ground on it." In response to a question about my personal favorite of his current titles, Ellis said that "when Desolation Jones returns, it will be monthly." Regarding Jack Cross, Ellis had this to say, beginning by musing, "how can I say this politely?" and going on to state that "I'm not doing any more issues of Jack Cross with DC." When the curious fan asked why that was, Ellis dispensed with politeness, answering, "cause they fucked it up, that's why."

This was my first time seeing Ellis speak publicly at a show, so I was really looking forward to spending two hours with him (and several hundred others). Having been a fan of his work since first reading the late, great Lazarus Churchyard from Tundra (yes, there was life before Transmetropolitan), I was immensely pleased to find that Ellis comes across as the same lovably caustic fellow on stage as he does in his writing. If you ever get the chance in the future, I highly recommend taking in the Warren Ellis show at your earliest opportunity.