Once upon a time, there were five crazy people, and they poisoned the 21st Century. Now they have to deal with the corrosion to try and save us all from a world becoming too weird to support human life. INJECTION is the new ongoing series created by the acclaimed creative team of Moon Knight. It is science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and ghost story all at the same time. A serialized sequence of graphic novels about how loud and strange the world is getting, about the wild future and the haunted past all crashing into the present day at once, and about five eccentric geniuses dealing with the paranormal and numinous as well as the growing weight of what they did to the planet with the Injection.
Injection is a tale without a villain in the pure sense of the word. The injection itself seeming less like a cruel mastermind, and more like a toddler pushing at its boundaries in an attempt to invoke a reaction. Our heroes are also naive in their desire to push into the unknown and see what becomes of it. Is this meant to be a story that questions ethics and morality, or is this a side effect of the characters you have gathered and the obscure villain lingering in the background?
Telling you what the story is about is telling you how to read it, which is very bad and we're not supposed to do that. Once a story's out in the world, writers need to accept that readers will enter and interpret it in a dozen different ways, and we're not supposed to stand up in our prams and tell you that you're reading it wrong. (We just write your names down in a notebook, and will deal with you later.)
I don't know that the five protagonists of INJECTION are naive. Yes, on one level, sure, because on one level they're doing the classical Fucking With Things They Do Not Understand. But, also, they're all very intelligent people and they all think they know exactly what they're doing. If one of them had been a bit more upfront about what he was doing to help, they may have been better prepared for the outcome. So, yes, ethics come into play, on the interpersonal and more broadly societal senses -- they've done something to the world without asking permission. But they come from an era where the motto was "move fast and break things," disrupt the world and ask questions later.
And they've got just enough sense, and guilt, to look at what they've done and try to understand it and clean up.
In Injection's first arc, you and the team introduce multiple threads as if the reader is already familiar with them (the injection itself, the other-world, the cunning man) and then piecemeal clues and explanations as the series goes on. Can you explain the idea behind telling the story in that fashion?
I'm not sure if I have a good answer to this one that doesn't introduce authorial intrusion. All I can really say to that is that I didn't want to blow the whole first book on an "origin story," but that I took pains to introduce the cast, the background and the set-up in the first volume while doing a degree of in media res so that I could tell a complete story that dropped us right into the main plot. As I note below, it's a serialised novel, and a mystery novel at that. So I get to set and reveal mysteries. The process of most novels is to take separate pieces and assemble them into a rough whole, and that's where we are at the end of volume 1.
Heroes looking beyond the veil, unprepared, but attempting to conquer the madness they stumble upon... it has an essence of Lovecraftian mythos. The archetypes are there, most notably in Maria and Robin, both of which have questionable levels of sanity. Is this similarity by design or are the shadows simply playing tricks on us?
It's there if you want to see it, certainly -- but there's a strong line in British weird fiction of people going mad after touching breakthrough science or high strangeness, too -- it happens in HG Wells, for instance, predating Lovecraft. And before Lovecraft and Wells, you found it in folklore, and, to some extent, in the "divine madness" of cults and sects. Touching the numinous and losing your shit has been around for a while.
While most books attempt to establish a clear physical antagonist within the first issue, both Trees and Injection have taken their time to define the threat that our protagonists face. What has led you to this method of story building, rather than exciting the readers immediately?
Wow. Hahah. Sorry I didn't excite you there, reader. Serialising a novel, even a short one, always runs the risk of not setting all your hooks in the first chapter. As a reader, if a first chapter holds my attention, I'll wait for it to unfold its story, and I don't need the entire thing to be front-loaded into that first chapter. But, you know, not every book will work for everybody. INJECTION is a book that, for me, is about the characters and ideas and atmospheres as much as it is about the conventional mechanics of the over-arching plot, and I didn't feel it needed to be built like an action book to get that done. Obviously, everyone responds to pacing differently.
All that said: volume 1 was a mystery book. Volume 2, which shifts its focus to consulting investigator Vivek Headland in New York, is a detective novel. Part of the build of INJECTION was that, with each of the five volumes focusing on a different member of the group, each book would have a markedly different tone. Issue 6, as a more classically-structured detective novel, has a more direct and linear feel to it, just because that's how I prefer to serve a detective story.
It's actually been a weird one to write, because, once you let Conan Doyle into your life, you have to accept the digressive nature of the Holmesian story, these big loops he would do into long and terrible Narratives that would connect back and advance the plot. Once this is done, I hope to write something that doesn't make me feel mentally ill all the time. Between this and BOND and KARNAK I'm two steps from the nuthouse.
A lot of your earlier work seemed to have a more linear-esque narrative following one or a few central protagonist(s), such as Spider Jerusalem, Jenny Sparks, and Elijah Snow. Currently however, your work is more sprawling in both themes and characters. Can you describe the impetus behind that shift?
Dunno that I'd call five characters that "sprawling," in terms of INJECTION. FREAKANGELS had seven, and ended up four hundred pages longer than INJECTION will be. Partly, I suppose, it's a hangover from writing GUN MACHINE, and wanting to bring some of that novelistic structure and thinking back to my comics work. Time will tell if that was actually an intelligent thing to do, but it was where I was going, and I just went with it. Coming back to comics after writing the book was a big adjustment, and I'm probably still dealing with that.
Thematically, a lot of your works seem to head for the rabbit hole. The route may be different, but you seem to aim for plumbing the depths of our depravity and exposing weakness within the human psyche. So you must have a My Little Pony pitch in your back pocket. What does a Warren Ellis My Little Pony pitch look like?
I'm not just leaving that lying around for the inevitable My Little Pony Cinematic Universe writers room to pick up for free. Begone.
Injection #6 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire hits stores today!