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DESOLATION JONES #1: Author’s Commentary

This is intended as something like a commentary track on a DVD, not a story guide. You’ll need to own a copy of DESOLATION JONES #1 to make sense of it. If you don’t have a copy, and your local store’s out, I’d suggest using a mailorder service like Khepri in North America, or emailing in the UK and asking for one.

Comments rendered like this are actual excerpts from the script.


PAGE ONE: Everything on this first page is black and white. Everything is also a little spatially distorted. Six-panel grid, three rows of two...

My old grandad, the infamous crazy ice-cream man Fred Austine, had something very similar to this inscribed on a plaque in his bathroom, standing on the toilet.


This is, of course, the Chemosphere, as designed and built by the visionary architect John Lautner in 1960. I believe the publisher Benedict Taschen lives in it these days. I chose the Chemosphere as Jones’ home because it looks like a spaceship lodged in the Hollywood hills, with Jones as its illegal alien passenger.

Supermodernism: a term I first encountered in architecture, coined by Hans Ibelings, used to describe buildings constructed without context or integral information. Airports are supermodern spaces. Just pipes and sockets, there to pass through or plug into. Places to facilitate swarms and flow. An outsider’s view of LA. Which, I’d remind people, is exactly what Jones’ view is. He’s not looking at LA like a native, a committed long-term resident, or even someone who likes the place much.


Click to expand this thumbnail into a full-size shot of the page.

Pic 1:Surreal moment: Jones looks out the passenger-side window and there’s a thick RED LINE taking the place of the road, running alongside them – a massively magnified version of the kind of line that describes roads on maps.

Pic 3;AERIAL SHOT: The car is small in this shot, and it’s driving down a red line that describes a road, and now the rest of the map, of greater LA, is visible all around it…

See how JH uses that first graphic element, the red line, to connect up the whole page? That was him. That’s why you always try to work with the best people. They add something new into the mix while keeping your intention.

The biggest change JH made — and you’ll need to get hold of the book to really see what I mean — as that, while I wrote it using each page as a unit, JH fused some of the dialogue scenes into double-page spreads. It keeps the pacing I wrote, but suddenly things are moving right across the breadth of the open comic. I wrote the first three isses of JONES “blind”, not knowing who was going to draw it. Usually, I’d be able to adjust to an invention like this much more quickly. It’s going to be #4 before I really take advantage of this new way of looking at the discursive, plot-driving sequences, and using negative space to cap off a scene. It’s a beat and a fade. Anyway. Buy the bloody comic if you don’t have one in front of you. Onward.


Most correspondents have rightly identified this scene as inspired by Raymond Chandler’s BIG SLEEP. Once I realised I was writing something in the detective form set in LA, I knew Chandler was going to be in the way. So I said the hell with it, and decided to use Chandler as the starting block instead, pushing off him into (hopefully) new territory. The other visual cue for this scene was Guillermo del Toro’s first, superb film, CRONOS. Watch it, you’ll see what I mean.


Adolf Hitler is said to have at one time possessed the largest collection of nude paintings in Europe. Intelligence documents have also revealed him to be quite addicted to the dirty stories that were run in Nazi rags as a sop to the horny underclasses. And Eva Braun famously took home movies of Hitler at play on holiday. And, you know, they were down in that bunker quite a while. So this doesn’t exactly come right out of left field.


Some people have asked me if the name Jeronimus Corneliszoon is a Jerry Cornelius reference. It’s not. Jeronimus Corneliszoon is a historical figure, a mad Dutch heretic who, in the 1600s, created a “Lord Of The Flies” style society of terror and mass murder on a wrecked merchant vessel off the coast of Australia. I remember Matt Fraction told me the name, which he’d gotten from his friend Christopher Sebela, whom I guess had been reading the book BATAVIA’S GRAVEYARD. I keep a file for interesting names. In it went, after Fraction and I had quit riffing off the name and he’d stopped calling himself Beat Jeronimus Corneliszoon.


A Filthy Sanchez is, as one slang dictionary has it, “a sexual act where one fingers one’s partner’s anus and then gives oneself or one’s partner a mustache with the filthy finger.” I took the look of the character from a photoshoot my friend the journalist and novelist Susannah Breslin did a while back. The sign with the girl on horseback comes from the name and logo of the very popular blog Susannah wrote for a few years called REVERSE COWGIRL.

And here she is in all her splendour; except Susannah’s taller and didn’t have her cleavage out. Artistic license, I suspect. The line “everything goes better with bukkake” is something she once said to me. She was quite obsessed with bukkake — for those who don’t know, bukkake is a pornographic form originating in Japan involving group masturbation on to one girl’s face — for some while, and attended a few. “How was it?” I asked after one. “As ever,” she said, “there wasn’t a hint of anything like love in the room.”


Having stepped pic 1, partially visible in the clip, down to monochrome, I wanted to try this:

I want you to try something here. Do it in chiaroscuro. No outlines. Hard lighting, everything told in the blacks. The easiest touchstone I can think of is David Lloyd's V FOR VENDETTA, though I think Steranko's RED TIDE gave him the idea. And there's NO COLOUR and NO GREYS. Pure black and white.

Although I mention V and RED TIDE, I got the idea from John Bolton; who, in illustrating an old Hammer DRACULA film adaptation, went from monochrome wash to pure black-and-white in moments of violence. Suddenly, the world goes very stark, and harsh.

Oh, and the caption on Pic 3 should read:


We’ll fix that in the collection, I guess…

DESOLATION JONES #1 was written by me, illustrated by JH Williams, with colour art by Jose Villarubia and calligraphy by Todd Klein, as published by Wildstorm Signature, and remains (c) and TM Warren Ellis and JH Williams 2005 all rights reserved.

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  1. Afghan goat-mod
    Snip: First, take a headless calf or goat. Gut the creature, remove its legs at the knee and, for additional girth, stuff it with sand. Then toughen the carcass by soaking it in cold water for twenty-four hours. Collect two teams of horses and riders. …

  2. […] Heureusement, je peux me rabattre sur les bandes dessinées. Warren Ellis, auteur britannique au cynisme mordant, tourne à plein régime ces temps-ci. Sa série Desolation Jones est peuplée de personnages dépravés et se distingue par une belle facture visuelle. Ellis reste fort dans l’interaction avec ses lecteurs: sur son site web, il offre un commentaire sur le #1 de Desolation Jones et présente à l’avance les couvertures des prochains numéros. Il lançait dernièrement une autre nouvelle série, Fell, au sujet d’un détective pris dans une ville lugubre, enquêtant sur des crimes dégoûtants inspirés de faits réels. Dans un texte à la fin du numéro un, l’auteur explique en détails la philosophie de la série (offrir à chaque mois une histoire complète en seize pages à prix modique) et offre une adresse courriel où lui envoyer commentaires et photos. […]

  3. […] Ellis ilustr? estos datos hace unos días en una especie de comentario de DVD que escribió en su página web. Creo que es algo que también tendr? Fell, el comic autoconclusivo y econ?mico que dibujar? Ben Templesmith. T?pico del autor pensar que elementos populares de otros medios son aplicables al comic. […]

  4. […] Segun otras fuentes, a esta práctica (si es que se puede llamar así a un rumor no comprobado de escuela secundaria) se la llama Filthy Sanchez. Y es así como Warren Ellis bautizó (no pun intended) a la empresaria del porno que aparece en su historieta Desolation Jones. Según cuenta el mismo Ellis, en parte el personaje se inspira en la escritora Sussanah Breslin, cuyas particulares experiencias sexuales se han mencionado en alguna otra parte de este blog, quizás de forma tan oscura como ahora. […]

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