Cover to Transmetropolitan Vol. 2: Lust for Life. Art by Darick Robertson
Transmetropolitan is a postcyberpunk comic book series written by Warren Ellis with art by Darick Robertson and published by DC Comics. The series was originally part of the short-lived DC Comics imprint Helix Comics, but upon the end of the book's first year the series was moved to the Vertigo imprint as DC Comics cancelled the Helix Comics imprint. It chronicles the battles of Spider Jerusalem, infamous renegade gonzo journalist of the future, a homage to gonzo journalism founder Hunter S. Thompson.
Spider Jerusalem dedicates himself to fighting the corruption and abuse of power of two successive United States presidents; he and his ("filthy") assistants strive to keep their world from turning more dystopian than it already is while dealing with the struggles of fame and power, brought about due to the popularity of Spider via his articles.
The monthly series began in 1997 and came to its conclusion in 2002. The series was later reprinted in a series of ten trade paperback volumes. The series also featured two "specials" (I Hate It Here and Filth of the City) with text pieces written by the Spider Jerusalem character and illustrated by a wide range of comic artists. These were later collected as part of the book's trade paperback program.
Spider Jerusalem, retired writer and bearded hermit, lives an isolated existence in a fortified mountain hideaway, retired from City life for the last five years. Following a call from his irate publisher demanding the last two books per his publishing deal, Jerusalem packs his belongings and descends the mountains before traveling back into The City, a twisted amalgam of pervasive consumerism, sex, violence, and drugs. While never named, the City retains several distinguishing monuments (one resembling the Statue of Liberty) and neighborhoods (the West Egg neighborhood) which lead some[who?] to theorize that it was originally New York) and has grown to become the largest city in the world and the center of the political and social culture. However, this futuristic culture is highly liberal, self-centered, and focused almost exclusively on present-day matters. "Revivals" from cryogenic stasis are largely ignored and left to fend for themselves on the streets. Cultural "Reservations" are established for the sole purpose of preserving past civilizations. Some people convert to "foglets," clouds of nanomachines that make anything from particles in the air and can spread thin enough to be invisible. No one even knows the current calendar year (this fact revealed by Spider in Issue #42), so everyone always refers to events in time relative to the present day.
Jerusalem returns to working for his old partner and editor Mitchell Royce, who now edits The Word, the City's largest newspaper. The first assignment he attaches himself to is an attempted separatist secession by followers of the Transient movement (a group of people who use genetic body modification based on alien DNA to become a completely different species, forced to live in the Angels 8 slum district) led by Fred Christ, a former rock group manager and impresario similar to Malcolm McLaren. Jerusalem manages to stop the (secretly staged) riots and police brutality that follows, only to be beaten brutally by police on the way home for his troubles.
The first year of the series focused upon a series of one-off stories exploring The City, Spider's background, and his often tense relationship with his assistants/sidekicks, Yelena Rossini and Channon Yarrow (known collectively as the 'filthy assistants'), who become his full-time partners in his journalistic battles as the series progresses.
With the second year of the series, the series shifts towards a lengthy storyline for the remainder of the book's run, involving the election and the corrupt presidency of Gary Callahan, nicknamed "The Smiler" by Spider. Though Spider considers Callahan to be the lesser evil when compared to "The Beast", his investigation into Callahan's past and his ties with a right-wing hate group (who provided him with a genetically cloned Vice President), ultimately leads to the murder of Vita Severn, the Smiler's politically naive campaign manager, to whom Spider had taken a rare liking.
Once elected, Callahan begins to use his presidential power to torment Spider, most notably when Spider witnesses the city's corrupt police department massacre protesters who picketed the department in order to protest a scandal where several police officers watched as a young man was murdered by racists who targeted the young man over his genetic background. Callahan spikes the story via "D-Notes", a form of government mandated censorship over any or all stories that could "embarrass" the country and the Callahan administration. After being informed of the "D-Note", Spider leaks the story onto the internet via a news website known as "The Hole" and follows it up with a story exposing Callahan's corrupt circle of advisers, one of which was revealed to be a pedophile. When Royce runs the story, Callahan extorts the paper's board of directors into firing Spider, who by that point had already formed an alliance to have his future stories published by "The Hole". However, after Callahan arranges for the City to be left defenseless from a hurricane-like "ruinstorm" that ravages the city and kills thousands, Spider collapses and is quickly diagnosed with an incurable degenerative neurological illness with similar symptoms to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease due to exposure to Information Pollen. Diagnosed with a year to live and only a 1% chance of not suffering any sort of permanent loss of mental capacities, Spider increases his vendetta against Callahan, ultimately exposing his evil deeds and bringing the President down.
Afterwords, in the final issue epilogue, Spider returns to his mountain home because the effects of his neurological disorder have started to manifest themselves. It is implied that he and Yelena have become lovers. After a visit with Royce and the departure of Yelena (who has become a successful writer herself by this point), Spider pulls out a gun while sitting in his garden as if to commit suicide. However, it turns out to be a novelty lighter, with which he lights a cigarette and blows the smoke out of his nose, a signature image in the series. He yells "One percent!" as he twirls the "gun" and bursts into maniacal laughter, implying that Spider beat the illness with his body and mind intact and is simply letting Royce and everyone else believe otherwise in order to live his life away from the rest of the world.
- Main article: List of Transmetropolitan characters
The series was originally published under DC Comics's then-new science fiction Helix imprint. When the Helix line was discontinued, Transmetropolitan (the only ongoing series of the line which had not been canceled) was switched to the Vertigo imprint, starting with issue #13. The entire set of paperback collections are now published under the Vertigo label.
- Vol. 1: Back on the Street - #1-3:
Spider Jerusalem, the God-King of Journalists, is presented as having resided for five years on The Mountain, a tranquil and relatively unspoiled retreat, unmolested except for the odd murder attempt, where he has had time to grow his hair long and devote his attention unadulteratedly to exploring new drug experiences. He is contacted by the 'Whorehopper', an editor of the Driven Press group, to whom Jerusalem still owes two books out of a five book deal. To avoid lawsuits, Jerusalem returns to The City, where he finds work at his old workplace, The Word, as a newspaper journalist, loses all his hair in an incident with the shower unit, and manages to stop a major riot. And this is just the beginning...
- Vol. 2: Lust for Life - #4-12:
Spider is once again famous after his success in stopping the Angels 8 Transient Riot. He gains (and loses) his first assistant since returning to the City, begins work towards finishing the first of two books he owes the Whorehopper, expounds on television (hates it), religion (hates it), and preservations of other cultures (actually doesn't hate it for once), and has a contract placed on his head by his ex-wife...who is currently a head frozen in a jar...even as he is simultaneously stalked by a sentient (and castrated) police dog who wishes revenge on Spider for the loss of his genitals. Just another day in the City.
- Vol. 3: Year of the Bastard - #13-18 + Story from Vertigo: Winter's Edge II
The story really gets rolling as Spider starts to write in politics again, is forced to take on another assistant, resumes his drug binges of mythic proportions, and arouses the ire of various presidential candidates, one of whom orchestrates the assassination of someone Spider is growing to love...
- Vol. 4: The New Scum - #19-24 + Story from Vertigo: Winter's Edge III, "Next Winters"
Spider's efforts to bring down Gary Callahan, aka 'The Smiler', before he can become president end up being in vain. Meanwhile, Yelena finally admits during a party at the apartment that she had a one-night-stand with Spider and that she is not really Royce's niece.
- Vol. 5: Lonely City - #25-30
Following a Rodney King-esque acquittal of a gang of race-hate thugs, and the police riot that emerges because of it at Dante Street police house, Spider realizes that The Smiler is systematically silencing anything that could discredit him.
- Vol. 6: Gouge Away - #31-36
Having gathered his evidence in secrecy, Spider releases a blistering attack on the President. However, when the President retaliates and gets him fired from The Word, Spider manages to evade forced eviction and promptly disappears in to the milieu of the City.
- Vol. 7: Spider's Thrash - #37-42
Newly independent of The Word, Spider begins publishing articles exclusively through the Hole feedsite, but things are not as they seem.
- Vol. 8: Dirge - #43-48
During a huge 'ruin-storm' that hits the City, Spider is incapacitated, and on revival, is diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. Once the storm dies down, Spider and his assistants discover that someone has destroyed the records and proof they needed to fight The Smiler.
- Vol. 9: The Cure - #49-54
Spider's brain may be shutting down, and professional assassins sent by the President may be on his ass, but Spider is content, because he's back on the case and finally finding the nails he needs for the Smiler's coffin. But even armed with such things as the Chair Leg of Truth, Spider's enemies, outside in the chaotic streets and within his own head, may yet win the day...or perhaps Spider's crusade will finally inspire others to seek the Truth...
- Vol. 10: One More Time - #55-60
The Smiler declares that the City is now under martial law, and Spider's posse narrowly manage to avoid assassination before taking refuge at Yelena's family home. After they expose a massacre by the National Guard detachment, (resembling the one that occurred at Kent State University,) and causing the media to finally stand up against the President, Spider has one final confrontation with Gary Callahan at Dante Street.
- Vol. 0: Tales of Human Waste (containing I Hate It Here and Filth of the City)
A collection of Spider's 'columns' during his time with the Word that were not 'examined' in the series, with a varied series of artists providing pictures for said column's contents in a long line of brief one or two page stories/rantings/musings. Also contains a short story from a Vertigo collection where Spider gives his opinions on the Christmas holidays (he, as with many things, utterly hates them).
Co-creators Ellis and Robertson were approached about making a Transmetropolitan film adaptation, with Patrick Stewart's production company Flying Freehold Productions' offering to option the rights in February 2003. Later, the burgeoning Internet boom lead to an offer to create an online animated film series, with Stewart providing the voice of Spider Jerusalem, but the project never fully developed. Ellis and Robertson have indicated that they would like to see Tim Roth play the character of Spider Jerusalem.
Some items of Transmetropolitan merchandise have been made, with Robertson himself produced one t-shirt; a black shirt with a three-eyed smiley face on the front with the text "I Hate It Here" printed in yellow on the back. DC Direct has produced five products: a black t-shirt with an image of Spider Jerusalem lifted from the comic's interiors with the text "Spider Jerusalem. Cheap. But not as cheap as your girlfriend". They produced an action figure in the early stages which featured Jerusalem wearing nothing but his trademark boxer shorts so as to show off his tattoos, and a variant figure that is giving the finger and holding a bowel disruptor. The third is a statue of Jerusalem, in the same state of near-nudity, sitting on the toilet growling into his cell phone and arguing with his editor Mitchel Royce, who is visible on his small laptop computer on the base. The fourth is a wristwatch with the three-eyed Transient smiley as the watch's face, and the fifth is a replica of Spider's trademark glasses.
- ↑ Yayanos, Meredith (December 18, 2000). "Transmetropolitan's Warren Ellis", Publishers Weekly, Reed Elsevier. Retrieved on 28 October 2008.
- ↑ "COMICS: Mot Just For Speciality Stores Anymore". Publishers Weekly (October 16, 2000). Retrieved on 2008-10-28. "Sometimes the cart is pulling the horse--DC/Vertigo's Transmetropolitan, a dark science-fiction satire about a gonzo journalist in a sprawling future city, is the textbook example of a well-regarded comic for older readers that pulled itself up from poor sales with the help of some heavily promoted collections."
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Cascio, Jamais (May 22, 2004). "The Transmetropolitan Collection". Worldchanging. Retrieved on 2008-10-28.
- ↑ De Blieck Jr., Augie (May 18th, 2001). "Transmetropolitan: Filth of the City". Comic Book Resources.
- ↑ Bukatman, Scott (2003). Matters of Gravity. Durham: Duke University Press. pp. 209. ISBN 0822331195.
- ↑ Goodsmith, Edward (2008-01-29). "Warren Ellis on 'Transmetropolitan'". Comics2Film. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
- ↑ "Transmetropolitan Update". The Z Review. The Z Review (2003). Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
- Transmetropolitan web site.
- Free download of issue #1 from DC Comics (PDF file)
- Complete list of Transmetropolitan issues.
- "Exit Transmet", Wired Magazine (December 2002)
- Original Transmetropolitan Comic Artwork on display and for purchase
- Darick Robertson Studios Home page
- "The Transmetropolitan Condition", interview with Warren Ellis, conducted by Melanie MacBride (28 October 2002)
- "Debut-Induced Flashback", retrospective interview with Darick Robertson about the series