|Summary: Transmetropolitan is a cyberpunk 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, but upon the end of the book’s first year the series was moved to the Vertigo imprint as DC Comics cancelled the Helix 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 July 1997 and came to its conclusion in September 2002. The series was later reprinted in an array of ten trade paperback volumes, and 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 in trade paperbacks.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Darick Robertson
STORY SYNOPSIS – SPOILER ALERT:
Some time in the future (how long precisely is never specified, but said to be in the 23rd century) 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. However, this futuristic culture is highly 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 focuses 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 initially 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. In a one-on-one meeting, Spider quickly realizes that Callahan is not merely corrupt but is a complete lunatic who wants to be President for no reason but to hurt people with his new power. To his horror, the people end up voting the Smiler into office by a wide margin.
Once elected, Callahan begins to use his presidential power to torment Spider. Spider escapes from a massacre conducted by the city’s corrupt police against protesters during a scandal where several police officers watch as a young man is murdered by racists over his genetic background. Callahan spikes the story via “D-Notices,” 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-Notice,” Spider leaks the story onto the internet via a news feedsite known as “The Hole” and follows it up with a story exposing Callahan’s corrupt circle of advisers, one of whom 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 has 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 (which Spider had been exposed to multiple times earlier in the storyline—and which carries dangerous side effects). Diagnosed with about a year until dementia renders him dysfunctional and with only a 1% chance of escaping this fate, Spider increases his vendetta against Callahan, ultimately exposing his evil deeds and bringing the President down.
Spider returns to his mountain home in the final issue epilogue. Royce comes to visit. The assistants show him around the house while explaining that Spider’s disease is progressing. He can barely do anything for himself. It is revealed Channon has a successful book deal, and Yelena is slowly becoming Spider’s replacement. Out in the garden, Spider tells Royce further details. He cannot light his own cigarette and is forgetting one day out of seven. However, when Spider is left alone in his chair, he pulls out a package of cigarettes, along with what appears to be a handgun. He appears to be placing the barrel under his chin, until it’s revealed in the next frame that it’s actually a lighter. He lights the cigarette and then spins the lighter on his finger, suggesting to the readers that he was in fact one of the 1% of patients who recover from the disease, and is now merely faking his illness so that he may enjoy his retirement in peace. The series ends on an overhead shot of Spider laughing boisterously.