So Many Of Us

CATEGORY / words AUTHOR / Fox DATE / June 12, 2022

[This essay originally appeared July 13th, 2020 on the website, where over thirty women and non-binary individuals wrote testimonials exposing a long history of psycho/sexual manipulation at the hands of famous comic book writer, essayist, and novelist Warren Ellis. This is my testimonial.]

I had little contact with Warren Ellis directly. My story presents the beginning of a clear pattern, the power and influence he could wield, the toxicity of his cult of personality, and the destruction left in his wake. This is not about quid pro quo. It is about manipulation, institutional rot, and my own naive complicity.

I was perfect for Warren’s scene. I was raised by a Narcissist, I am on the shallow end of the autism spectrum, and I was objectified, sexualized, and sexually abused in childhood. All of these factors erode a sense of self and warp normal understandings of proper boundaries, sexual or otherwise. These factors also make me, and those like me, the specific kind of vulnerable person Warren would seek out and target.

I was first introduced to the Warren Ellis Forum (WEF) at age 24. Warren found and replied to every single comment I made on the message board. The more vulnerable my post, the more attention/praise I received. It felt protective. I was a fan, and giddy with glee to have his attention. To find a whole community of comic geeks with whom I could relate was incredible to my nerdy self, and as someone who wanted to be part of the comics world, I was thrilled at the amazing opportunity to socialize with people working in the industry. 

The WEF bar drinkups were legendary. Our hedonism was designed to be documented, fueled by a rivalry between NYC and LA. Developing and then digitizing photographs to be viewed on the forum as soon as possible was vital to the unwritten social contract, and we presented it all to him in tribute. Makeouts, licking, cleavage, and being drunkenly lecherous party people; it was all on display, and I fit right in. I instigated a performative three-way girl kiss one night, which was rewarded by being drawn into the background of Transmetropolitan. When one of our crew showed up to the bar early, chatted up a girl, left with her, bedded her, and then got BACK to the bar just in time for his girlfriend to arrive, he was considered an accomplished hero and we smirkingly admired the boldness of his infidelity. When I drunkenly told one of the comic book writers that I’d never had a real lap dance, he whisked us away from our WEF drink-up to a seedy strip club and bought me some time in the champagne lounge. When that same fellow heard about my worsening and mysterious health, he offered to treat me to a full workup and physical by his personal doctor, giving me his credit card to do so. The bill was over $1000.

I was learning how the comics world worked, and those were my lessons.

Early on in my WEF experience, I started dating a fellow female forum member. She had red hair, a penchant for corsets, and a 24 hour live webcam feed, which she said was a kind of art project. She was also one of Warren’s favorites. She had met him before, and even got her own cameo in Transmet. As soon as she and I were involved, the special attention I had been receiving from Warren on the messageboards ground to a halt.

Our new romance progressed quickly, and soon she and I moved in together with a fellow WEFer, let’s call him “Sam”. Disaster shortly followed. When we refused to pay Sam’s months-overdue utility bills, he called on a violent family member to handle things. We were naked and in bed when, without warning, our locked bedroom door was busted down by a furious man who screamed “GET OUT!” while he threw our belongings at us. When he dragged our mattress across the room in a rage, I was clinging to it, frozen in shock and trembling in terror, while my girlfriend called the police. All in all, pretty traumatic. 

The next day, the top post of the Warren Ellis Forum was Warren himself calling out Sam’s actions and barring him from the forum. The message board went wild, thirsty to avenge the WEF’s token lipstick lesbians.The owner of the comic book store at which Sam worked was reportedly so afraid of an angry mob arriving at his door, that he gave Sam a paid vacation day to stay home, and begged Warren to end the madness. Elsewhere on the forum someone started an apartment fund for us (long before the age of GoFundMe), and within days, we had around $1500 to help us relocate. When we arrived at the home of our generous temporary host (of WEF status) in Brooklyn, Warren even called (on the actual phone) to make sure we were ok.

Warren Ellis was powerful and made everything better. To be in Warren’s good graces meant something profound. It felt like safety. To have that kind of community and connection was a support I’d never known.

When we moved into our new studio apartment (found thanks to our WEF connections) my girlfriend finally set up her 24 hour webcam again. Since we lived together now, I was part of the “art project” too. I was raised around art and nudity, so it didn’t seem too strange to me.

I knew Warren had watched the webcam before, but now I saw that every act of intimacy between us was immediately followed by my girlfriend checking the computer to see if he had been watching. He was ever present in our lives; to what extent was vague and unspoken. Direct questioning was met with her furious denials.

For the entirety of our relationship, my girlfriend wrote lovelorn/lustful missives to or about Warren on her website. Not only was she sexually describing me to him in a number of her public blog posts, but she did so using the exact same words and phrases that I now know he used on his women (addicted, hypnotizing, my muse, archaic magic, etc).

She would get jealous if I sat at the computer topless. She would turn on me suddenly and lash out publicly about private matters, distorting the truth and misrepresenting my health issues as drug addiction. At the time, I couldn’t understand why, or where her rage came from.

Prominent WEFers visited us from other cities like delegates of nerd-dom. When a visiting young woman asked to use one of our computers to check in with Warren, the picture started to become more clear. There was something familiar in her frenzied energy from catching Warren’s eye; the immediacy of her need to contact him. My girlfriend recognized it, having been in that position herself, and said something to that effect. That is the moment when I first realized how things worked with Warren Ellis. He emotionally and sexually possessed women over the internet. My girlfriend had been his, but he had moved on to this woman as his next conquest (since confirmed by that young woman).

Now I look back and wonder: Did my girlfriend date me to keep him from pursuing me? Did she see me as her competition? As a prop? Was I supposed to keep him interested in the webcam, or drive him from her heart? Regardless, I was never told the truth, rendering my ability to make informed consent impossible. That violation literally makes me feel ill when I think on it. I was so young and sweet.

My father’s childhood friend took me out for drinks on my Christmas Eve birthday. He got me wasted, tried to make out with me, and put his hand down my shirt. When I returned home a crying wreck, my girlfriend nearly broke up with me for ruining Christmas with my drama. She blamed me for the situation, and told me I should know better, because that’s how men are. When you turn to them in comfort, they take what they want.

I bought her a new corset for Christmas that year, because I knew that’s what she wanted.

The day after our one year anniversary, my girlfriend attacked me with physical violence, leaving me with scratches across my face and a fat bottom lip. I fled to the tiny bathroom, and she followed. She cornered me, my back against the wall, and began taunting me, her face inches from my own, trying to goad me into hitting her back. I’d never been hit. I’d never been in a fight in my life. I was terrified.

I publicly shared what happened, but due to what I assume is a combination of sexism and adherence to social hierarchy, no one seemed to care. She was far more popular than I, to put it plainly, and the WEF community that had been so meaningful to me wasn’t interested in my claims. By not choosing sides, they chose her.

The WEF closed down a few months later. There were still social outings of the NYC WEF crowd, but seeing them (and her) made me feel shaken and worthless, so I stopped attending. I didn’t feel I could trust anyone. I was suddenly without any of the friends or connections that I had developed over the previous year and a half. She never admitted to nor apologized for what she did to me. Instead, she cyberbullied me; thought it funny to publicly post a nude image of me from the cam days, and spread rumors about me. She remained in the bosom of the comics scene while I floundered to stay afloat, now completely without a support system, watching my health crumble.

I left behind the world of comics for the most part after all that. I still have severe anxiety attacks when I come across her online. I still have difficulty reading/watching the works of people that were part of our WEF scene. I did not hold Warren himself to the same standard. I did not expect him to worry himself with our lowly mortal issues.

Three years later, when I lived with an ex-bouncer who picked me up by the neck and assaulted me, it didn’t occur to me that anyone would care that I was again attacked. I thought that there must be something about my voice that drove people to violence.

I lurked around the online world of Warren Ellis through the various online tribes over the years. I still felt fearful and small, but the original WEF people had mostly moved on. As scarred as it had left me, my experience with the forum was the most I’d ever had a sense of community, and my poor health was increasingly isolating. Warren had an uncanny ability to gather interesting people, and it hardly had anything to do with comics anymore. He made you want to be anointed with his approval, to be part of his inner circle.

Because of what I’d experienced in the WEF days, the pattern became very apparent to me in every subsequent community he created. The Self Portrait Image Thread? A way to spot the cool and attractive people. The Saturday Night Open Mic, when he’d invite anyone to write about whatever they liked? A way to find the connection, the way in. That woman he’s currently promoting all over the place? Probably his latest chosen one. Reading his works, it was plain to see that new women were being inserted in his comics, again and again, as tribute.

Over the past two decades, Warren Ellis has repeatedly promoted my art projects. He’s referred to me as his “old friend”. When I sent him a selfie for his FotoFridays, he called me a “brazen hussy” and it made me smile. I used his description of me as my website tagline for years. Knowing what I knew and suspecting what I suspected, I was still quite thankful for his help and support in the past – so much so, that I went to a book signing seven years ago, and got a photo taken with the man himself.

More recent times have brought a change of perspective and a reassessing of the past. Just a few months ago, I warned a mutual friend what I knew and what I suspected of Warren’s poor serial treatment of women. She questioned him about my claims, so he told her beautiful lies, because that’s what he does. And because he is the charming, cunning, and influential Warren Ellis, she wants to believe him. So did I. 

The current avalanche of public accusation against Warren is as disturbing as it is revelatory. Until now, I had no idea how truly dark and manipulative he was, nor how voracious. That being said, to be told that Warren has been grooming women for sexual relationships under dubious pretense in nefarious ways is the opposite of shocking news. The Warren Ellis Forum was the 00’s nerdy internet version of the erudite 1970’s party at the Playboy Mansion. To be stunned that Warren Ellis has been taking part in predatory behavior is to be surprised that people were having cocaine fueled orgies in the infamous grotto. Anyone astonished to hear these allegations is bathing deeply in denial, and/or is inexorably attached to the coattails Warren so liberally drags behind him. 

And that’s how he hides his tracks.

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