Transmetropolitan: The Comic For People Who Hate Comics
There was a time in my life when comics weren’t appealing. I know, people who know me in real life are shocked to hear it too. Comics just seemed pointless. Sure, the art was nice in the superhero ones, and the lighter ones were funny, but they held no substance. I’d read comic strips in the daily paper and that was that. Then I met this guy:
I mean, I didn’t meet Spider Jerusalem in the street or anything. That would have been full of too much awesome, and improbable as he is a fictional character. He is not a superhero, or a magician or anything special. He is a journalist who seeks to tell the truth in a world of media manipulation. He is the anti-hero in Vertigo Comics Transmetropolitan series.
Spider lives in The City, a futuristic world where technology reigns supreme. When sees advertisements and important news bulletins on the street, the sidewalk will become a teleprompter, as will every billboard and sign, just to make sure the story is heard. Spider often suffers from “ad blasting,” when an ad is force-subliminal rendering the viewer dumb, and Spider will take a nap. He can easily get drugs to cure this problem, as his apartment is equipped with a Maker, which can make anything, were it not addicted to the drugs it creates. (A list of the drugs mentioned can be found here. I guess it is supposed to be offensive or something.)
Spider has a great disdain for the world he lives in. He is the best and worst of everyone at once. He says the things we wish we could say. The story opens with Spider receiving a phone call from his editor, Royce, reminding him there is an approaching deadline. Royce needs an 8,000 word column and, “it needs to be more than just the word ‘fuck’ eight thousand times.” Spider takes a walk to see if he can find anything worth writing about, thereby introducing us to a city buried in political and ethical corruption; it has forgotten it is made of people.
Spider is not just a reluctant hero, he’s an anti-hero. He is Hunter S. Thompson, in the effing future. He has two assistants: Channon, a stripper-turned-nun-turned bodyguard, and Yelena, his editor’s niece. Channon is aware of the dirty evils of the world, Yelena is not, and Spider wants to expose all of the truths. He has a chair leg he will use to beat the truths out of someone if necessary. He is the current embodiment of gonzo journalism, a type of reporting where the reporter puts themselves in the story, creating a unique first-person perspective.
After reading (and re-reading) the series, I always wonder how close we are to living like The City. When I go shopping, there are screens around running commercials for products that are nearby on the shelves. Driving down the freeway, I see multiple animated billboards. How soon before those have audio? We all know about subliminal advertising, but how long before it attacks our conscious, forcing us to collapse? These things are real in Spider’s world, and the politicians know how to use those tools. Will ours begin to as well? Will we find a real life Spider Jerusalem before they do?
Also? Transmetropolitan is complete, which is great. I dislike long series. Stretching a story through multiple arcs and novels often wears the plot thin. It’s annoying. The first story was published in 1997, the last in 2002, so you don’t have to worry about getting tangled in a life commitment with a fictional world (Robert Jordan I’m looking at you).
Do you have any comics recommendations for people who don’t like comics? Leave them in the comments below!