The Engine: Egotistical Center for Discussion, or More?

March 8, 2007 at 4:10 pm (Ellis Watch)

So this blog is starting to look like a Warren Ellis Fan Site, but i assure you it just looks that way. One thing that Ellis loves to do is set up a ton of internet sites pertaining to himself. One such item is The Engine, a discussion board designed to facilitate talk about Ellis’ work, AND the work of his friends and hopeful upstarts. Now i’ve always steered clear of web forums, because it’s hard being a comic book fan in American and not being labeled a huge dork, so i fill my time with other things when i can. But i figured, what the hey, lets see what the fuss is about and give it a go if for no other reason than that it’s a class assignment done.

So I created an account for myself, and started to look at the message board for points of interest. Ellis has turned me on to a lot of good creators and sites in the past, so for the most part, i trust his judgement. There’s a lot of interesting threads up, with a lot of discussion about the 2008 election, which is titled “FUCKUP 2008” appropriately, a large amount of news on why the world is coming to an end (Like the no NASA funding for stopping asteroid collisions) and whatever else someone else wants to talk about.

But not surprisingly, the most interesting thing on the message boards involves the new releases every week. The thread begins with a listing of the comics coming out this week and then is followed by comments from some of the creative work behind said titles. This is cool, because it makes these talents real people who have a passion and want to share it with the public. Peachy keen.

Once it gets to actually posting, the process can be a bit daunting when you haven’t established yourself yet. I found myself looking at a thread, saying “Okay, i’ll post here.” then staring at the screen jaw-open while trying to think of something clever to say. Sorta like the feeling you get when you’re the new kid in school and you don’t know what to say when you meet people.

In general, posts don’t necessarily get comments on The Engine. The site functions largely as a place for people to vent ideas, fears, news, opinions and the like. You could go on there and write a post about a lot of things, and never get a single comment like i did. At the same time, you could create a thread on there that gets so many comments you’re no longer in control of the discussion. It’s kind of hit or miss like that.

Now i’ve wanted to be a comic book reviewer all my life, so when i saw on The Engine that they had a comic review thread, i said “That’s for me!” and got right to it. There’s a lot of good material out there today, and if i can help further the production of thought-provoking and intelligent material, then i’m down. So i wrote a review for last week’s issue of 100 Bullet and waited for the comments to flow. At this time, i still haven’t gotten a single comment about my review. It kinda bites, but like i said, it’s hit or miss.

So i tried another thread, this time about something Ellis wrote, in hope of kicking up some interest across the board. The book is titled Newuniversal, and is a reenvisioning of this tired old non-marvel universe superhero book called New Universe. Ellis makes it much more interesting, and it’s very well penciled by a guy named Salvador Larroca, who’s done a lot of stuff for Marvel over the years. The subject of my thread was that every main character in the book is blatantly photo referenced from a Hollywood actor. James Cromwell, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis and the guy who plays “Sawyer” in lost are notable examples of this. Here’s a preview of issue two, and you can see for yourself.

So I waited to see if anyone responded and sure enough, at about 5 AM a guy named Keiron Gillen responded and told me that Ellis stated the referencing was all Larroca’s input. Gillen also happens to be a comic book writer, who’s latest project Phonogram is an indie success that i’ve had my eye on buying for some time now. That was kinda cool for what it was. Then i got the mother-load: Ellis himself posted a response to my thread. Here’s the gist of the entries:

Me:”I’ve been a fan of Internet Jesus’ work since i first picked up Authority over half a decade ago, and i still give every single project he creates a good hunk of my weekly paycheck. That said, i am rather confused about the photo referencing in his new book Newuniversal. I love the script, but why exactly does every character in the book look exactly like a specific famous movie star?

Before i go any further, i love the book and think it’s an extreamly well presented take on what could be a superhero book, but clearly is not. The writing is sharp as hell and the pencils are the best i’ve seen from Larroca ever. But i know a few people have been turned off of future issues because they don’t want to see James Cromwell, Angelina Jolie, Bruce Willis and Sawyer from “Lost” in a comic every month.

My question is: Whose decision was it to make every character obvously based on a movie star? Was it Mr. Ellis or Sal Larroca? Maybe editor Axel Alonso?

Anybody know why?

Caleb Lyons”

Keiron Gillen: “Mr Ellis has said that it was Mr Larroca’s interpretation. KG”

Me: “Thanks, it was bothering the crap out of me.”

Warren Ellis: “Yeah, it was all Salva’s decision. Changes are coming.

…seldom have opportunites arisen where i can bring forth the full bearing of my man-chi”


End of post. Pretty fuckin’ cool when you can ask an author a question and get a response in under 5 hours. Plus, i got that foreboding hint from Ellis about “Changes are coming,” and how awesome is that? Sorry, had a fan-boy moment, but the bottom line is i finally got a post with a response from exactly who i wanted it from. That makes The Engine cool.

A creepy thing about The Engine is that its viewed as much more professional than your average comic book forum, because it’s fairly well designed and conceived/moderated by one of the industry’s top talents. I’ve been following Ellis since i happened upon The Authority and Transmetropolitian, which all journalists should read, and from reading his newsletters, you can tell that he has personal relationships with lots of the industry’s top talents. With all that said, it’s a safe bet that if you say something about a particular writer or his works on The Engine, they’ll catch wind of it and maybe even get back to you. You’re not just talking to fan-boys, you’re talking to the people who spent their month making the material, which is cool on a lot of levels to me.

Overall, I’d say the site is really worthwhile for those who enjoy non-superhero comics, want to create their own comic, or just want to find someplace to chat about craziness happening in the world. I’ll definitely be frequenting it from now on, so maybe i’ll see somebody i know on there sometime.



  1. Kieron Gillen said,

    You remind me a bit of myself when trying to work out what to post on the WEF seven years or so back.

    I think you approach is the right one. It’s better to sit back and watch a webforum, until you have something really worth saying rather than going the other way – that is, post just a load of nonsense. I lurked on the WEF for a few months before starting something.

    (Was about 9 panel grids, I believe)

    And don’t let lack of response grind you down for the reviews. Just keep at it, really. People eventually will say something, especially if they see you’re doing a lot of it. This is how reputations are made.

    Er… found you as I was for reviews of Phonogram #5 which came out today :).


  2. Caleb Lyons said,

    Haha, well i’m slightly embarrased and pretty flattered all at once. Sorry to be a fan-boy, and all. I really appreciate the feedback and encouragement, man. I’m trying to use this blog to refine my writing style again, since i no longer have time to write for the school newspaper, and i’ll gladly listen to any tips you give me on writing in general. With that said, I’m gonna get my mitts on this week’s Phonogram. Congrats, you’ve made another 2 cents or whatever.

  3. Kieron Gillen said,


    Hope you dig it.


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