PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Fell #1-2

William Gatevackes

They do more with those 16 pages than other people do with a four issue mini-series.

Fell #1-2

Publisher: Image Comics
Contributors: Ben Templesmith. Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos. (Artist)
Price: $1.99
Writer: Warren Ellis
Item Type: Comic
Length: 20
End Date: 2005-10
Start Date: 2011-09

In a brief essay in the back of Fell #1, Warren Ellis relates how Fell came about. He remembers an interview with Alan Moore that he had read twenty years ago in which Moore said that the good thing about comics was that you could walk into a store with pocket change and leave "with a real slab of culture".

Ellis then goes on to inform us how fans nowadays come up to him at signings without any comic he worked on, offering instead t-shirts or scraps of paper to sign. When asked, these fans tell him that they loved his work, but they don't own any of it. They borrow his comics from friends and libraries because they are too expensive to purchase on their own.

After hearing this, Ellis decided to create a comic that was affordable yet told a complete story, one which was self-contained that you could enjoy on its own without having to own every issue that came before it. In the process, he might have come up with the answer to one of the major problems facing the comic industry--attracting new readers who would otherwise be put off by comic books' price and inaccessibility.

Fell is the result of this decision. At $1.99, it is one dollar less than most of the other comics being published today. It also features half the pages of a normal book. You might say that offering half the comic at two-thirds the price isn't much of a bargain. But you would not have seen what Ellis has done with Fell.

Each issue features no ads, 16 pages of story, and 4 pages of Ellis discussing the story (in a section called "Backmatter"). 16 pages of story are only six less than you would find in many mainstream books, but Ellis and Templesmith have taken advantage of those 16 pages to the fullest. They do more with those 16 pages than other people do with a four issue mini-series. Each page follows almost exclusively a nine panel grid. Some pages might not have nine, but no page has less than five panels, allowing for a great deal of storytelling. Full page panels and splash pages are not found in this comic.

Fell tells the story of Richard Fell, a young detective who has recently transferred into the worst precinct in town. He seems to be drawn to the weird cases: a man who cannot drink alcohol at all who dies of alcohol poisoning, a woman who was killed for her unborn fetus. In the midst of all this, Fell must deal with a potential romantic interest who branded him with hot metal and a mysterious nun wearing a Richard Nixon mask.

The story may sound weird, but it's not as weird as you might think. Ellis writes Detective Fell as a real detective. He investigates. He finds things out. He puts clues together and he solves crimes. He is a character that you care for and can root for. Ellis truly succeeds in delivering a satisfying chunk of story in each issue. While each issue is not completely self contained, the subplots that carry over from issue to issue are clearly explained to the new readers so they are brought up to speed.

The art by Templesmith shows an improvement over his other work. There is clarity to his artwork and visual storytelling ability that was missing in his 30 Days of Night work. This suits the panel structure Ellis has laid out for him, because the smaller panels do not lend themselves to Templesmith's trademark moody, atmospheric style.

But the best part about Fell might well be the "Backmatter" section. In it, Warren Ellis talks directly to the readers of the book, giving us a look behind the scenes of the creation of the book. Among some of the other interesting tidbits, Ellis reveals that instead of going with the 9 panel grid, he was originally thinking of using 16!

And since each story is based on real life events, ripped from today's weirdest headlines, as it were, Ellis gives us a breakdown on where he got the idea for each story. Yes, both the man who could not drink alcohol but died of alcohol poisoning and the woman killed for her fetus were inspired by true stories, and Ellis gives us the facts on both. Ellis communicates in a down-to-Earth, self-effacing way that invites the reader into the creative process. He speaks to us as if he was an old friend of ours, not a college professor. The result is that we become more involved in the main story of each issue.

So Ellis' experiment is a success in one aspect. He has produced two full issues, each featuring an entertaining story with behind the scenes information, all for $1.99. It proves that it can be done. Whether the current comic reading public will support the experiment is another thing entirely. And even if Fell becomes a commercial success (and the fact that both issues have had second printings indicate that it is on its way), it is not known if it will encourage other comic companies to try similar experiments. One hopes that it will, but if it doesn't we should enjoy Fell for what it is, a great book at a great price.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.