With explosive storytelling and provocative politics, Warren Ellis rocketed to prominence with Transmetropolitan and the superhero-as-superfascist saga The Authority. Slowed recently by illness, the 34-year-old Brit is getting prolific again. He has a hit with WildStorm’s Global Frequency, about a secret network of crisis interceptors. This spring sees the return of his acclaimed series Planetary, plus the DC graphic novel Orbiter, a space-travel mystery steeped in Right Stuff-era nostalgia — and unintended resonance with the Columbia disaster. — Jeff Jensen
You ended Transmetropolitan last fall. Is your spleen sufficiently vented?
I did — but now it’s bubbling up again! Yet I’m so glad it’s over. An entire story over five years — I’m not doing that again for a while.
Is there a unifying theme to all of your work?
Truth. That’s definitely evident in the unfolding ”secret history of the 20th century” mystery in Planetary. In human relationships, nothing is ever what it seems. My work dances around that idea.
How did 9/11 shape your vision of Global Frequency?
It brought it into focus. Someone said in a message board they wished Superman was real, because he would have saved them — which I think is the most unhealthy thing to take out of that kind of atrocity.
Orbiter opens with the dramatic emergency landing of a space shuttle. Has the Columbia disaster affected the project?
It was heartbreaking. My first memory was of the moon landing, and my mom saying ”This is history, this is.” I’m going to write a new foreword for context, but ultimately nothing in the book distracts from its message: Time to go back to space. I don’t think that’s such a bad message to put out.