Saturday, August 23, 2008

You're On The Global Frequency...

Warren Ellis is one of comics most popular writers, one of the VERY few known more for his creator-owned work than for his mainstream projects. His creator-owned projects range from the famous political satire Transmetropolitan to low-selling, darkly comedic fantasy Gravel. And while projects like Transmet have gotten a lot of publicity and mainstream recognition, Ellis has had two brief comics that I think deserve special mention: the currently-ongoing Fell, and the 2002-2003 series Global Frequency. If you can't tell from the title of the post, this'll mostly be about GF, but I'll get to Fell sooner or later.

Global Frequency ticks many of Ellis's strongest boxes. While he does just fine on mainstream, continuity-heavy, company-owned titles, his heart never seems to be in it. Instead, he seems to be at his strongest bucking the comics trend with small-press books that he owns, that don't have coherent 'arcs', but instead focus on telling the entire story in a single issue.

Global Frequency features with a global civilian organization of 1,001 agents working under Miranda Zero and a young woman known as Aleph to deal with the bizarre threats that have begun to crop up in the world, or simply with things governments can't, or won't, deal with. Ellis mines a number of sci-fi tropes to find a his plots, but he does a lot with them, given that he only has 22 pages to tell each story.

Each of the twelve issues of Global Frequency has a wildly different tone. Heaven's One Hundred is an old-school shoot-'em-up action comic. Superviolence is a brutal 20-page fight between two cannibal martial artists. Invasive deals with a memetic alien virus taking people over, while Big Sky is about a mass hallucination in Norway where every person in a village is driven insane after claiming to see an angel. The comics range from exciting to horrifying, but they're never bad.

If a series of interconnected sci-fi done-in-one stories sounds like something you might find in television, you'd be interested to learn that Global Frequency was, at one point, scheduled for adaptation to TV. A pilot was shot, though when the show was not ultimately picked up, it was leaked on to the internet. If you look search around, you should still be able to find it. It's a loose adaptation of the first GF issue, titled 'Bombhead', and while there were a number of changes made in the general tone of the series, including the introduction of two 'regulars' that weren't Aleph and Miranda, the pilot was still remarkably true to the comic. And while Global Frequency was declared by one UK newspaper as 'the most popular TV show never screened' for its cult following and frequent downloads, network execs were so frustrated by the leak (ah, 2005 - more innocent times) that they declared that the show would never be released in any official way. Ever. Forever.

Check out the comic if you want to enjoy one of the best sci-fi comics around. And if you want a little taste of what might have been, head out online to try and find the Global Frequency pilot episode. As we get further and further from 2005, it seems more and more likely that we really never will get a Global Frequency release, so I think that, even for the most squeamish of conscience, you can download this without worry that you're taking money from the good people who nixed the show.

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