Skip to main content

Warren Ellis: comics can help you perform sabotage, cure Alzheimer’s

Warren Ellis (who created the webcomic FreakAngels, among other things), gave a speech at Dundee University. He claims its was written in chickenscratch … but, as Abraham Lincoln could attest, sometimes the most timeless and memorable speeches come from concise yet powerful ideas that just mentally congeal into perfect nuggets of wisdom. For Ellis, comics are a superior medium. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve worked in television, and there are a hundred people between you and the audience. I’ve worked in film, and there are a thousand people between you and the audience. In comics, there’s me and an artist, presenting our stories to you without filters or significant hurdles, in a cheap, simple, portable form. Comics are a mature technology. Their control of time — provided you’re not intent on reversing universes (or even if you are) — makes them the best educational tool in the world. Hell, intelligence agencies have used comics to teach people how to dissent and perform sabotage.

When done right, comics are a cognitive whetstone, providing two or three or more different but entangled streams of information in a single panel. Processing what you’re being shown, along with what’s being said, along with what you’re being told, in conjunction with the shifting multiple velocities of imaginary time, and the action of the space between panels that Scott McCloud defines as closure… Comics require a little more of your brain than other visual media. They should just hand them out to being to stave off Alzheimer’s.

Although I think a headline of “Grant Morrison staves off dementia” might be a little premature.

The line I always quote in talks like these, the one I want you to take away with you, is something the comics writer Harvey Pekar said: “Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.”

He also talks about doing brown acid with Grant Morrison, which would be a major no-no if he was giving an address at an American university… unless it was Evergreen State College.

(h/t Robot 6.)

Also, did you know that, in the movie Jeans, there’s a song called “Poovukkul” that claims its actress is the Eighth Wonder of the World? That actress? Aishwarya Rai. Look out, Chyna!

Posted in comics, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics