Crazy Bastard Ellis... or... Doktor Sleepless #1

By | Thursday, July 26, 2007 Leave a Comment
I picked up Warren Ellis' Doktor Sleepless #1 today and read through it at lunch. The book starts with former-boy-genius/philosopher/traveller/orphan/rich-man John Reinhardt renouncing his identity for that of Doktor Sleepless. Why? Because "People like listening to characters. Characters are safe, because they're not real." (This is still page one and he's already getting meta-textual on us.)

Much of the issue then gives readers a tour of the world Ellis has built, complete with computer/net-access via contact lenses, universal identity tags, shared bio-frequency nerve implants, and embryos-as-jewelry. It's a society where graffiti artists demand to know where their jet packs and flying cars are, and actual book stores are rare. The inhabitants, at least the majority of them, are oblivious. "Blatant apathy. I mean, almost aggressive apathy. 'F*** you, I don't want to care,' you know?"

Enter Doktor Sleepless.

It's a set-up issue, by and large. As I said, much of it is an introduction to the world Ellis is creating. But while it is just set-up, one clearly gets a feeling of where this is headed, even if we can't see around the next bend.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that Ellis said this was going to be an updated spin on the ideas/concepts he used in Transmetropolitan. There's certainly some element of that in Doktor Sleepless, but it does not feel like Ellis is mining old territory or just trying to contemporize Spider Jerusalem. It's similar only insomuch as that it's Ellis commenting on society as he sees it. What do we, as a society, think of the future? What do we expect from science?
You want your jetpack, but don't even think about your IM lenses and your phones. Were you born with them? No. You're science fictional creatures. Each and every one of you... While you wait for the real future you think you're owed, you f*** around with your bodies like they were virtual avatars. You add things to them. You make them better. You treat them like characters to be improved and you grind them. There's no future coming. No-one thinks they out you s***. You're waiting for a day that'll never f***ing dawn.
He does and has done this type of thing in his other works, to be sure, but Sleepless is there as his commentary and not just a vehicle for it that also happens to be a vehicle for guys in spandex beating each other up.

Now, here's where the "crazy bastard" part comes in...

My head is NOT in a good place right now. I'd been getting disgusted with the comics I've loved for years and my marriage is falling apart. The current U.S. government administration continues to prove itself the most unworthy of their offices in history on a daily basis. The cynic in me has kicked into overdrive. I've been devouring Transmetropolitan already, and was really jazzed reading the Black Summer preview. The type of messages that look like they'll be coming out of Doktor Sleepless are ones that, in a normal frame of mind, I would consider and reflect on rationally. In my current state, I'm more likely to take them to heart as is. The inevitable metaphors will become closer to reality in my head, and I can see myself growing much darker than I already am.

Did Ellis know that he could do that? To hold that kind of sway over someone like me? I don't know. I'm sure he's not shouting from the rooftops strictly for my benefit. But I'll be damned if I know how that crazy bastard could've been more serendipitous.
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