The United States recently concluded its latest Election and delivered a profoundly unsettling result. As I pondered all the bad things which could potentially happen, I realized it was time to go and read my issues of Transmetropolitan again.
Transmetropolitan was a gloriously nasty, gritty, and beloved comic book which ran from 1997 to 2002. It was the creation of the famous Warren Ellis and it futured a cyberpunk, transhumanist, dystopian New York City 200 years from now. The primary character was a cantankerous journalist named Spider Jerusalem, a foul-mouthed drug-using burnout whose nasty disposition hid a goodhearted man who just wanted to tell the truth about what he saw on the street and in the halls of power. Over its five-year run, Spider’s story went through several twists and turns as his pursuit of the truth eventually earned him increasingly powerful enemies who would stop at nothing to silence him. From its anarchist beginnings to its bittersweet end, this ranks as one of the best comic stories ever told.
Especially relevant is Spider’s relationship with the President of the United States. Spider’s quest for truth leads him to interview two different Presidents – the first is ‘The Beast’, a hulking Nixonian paranoiac who is endlessly corrupt and self-serving. The second is worse – ‘The Smiler’, a horrific sociopath who ascends to the Presidency, hates humanity, and whose soul intention is to torment anyone who displeases him. The interviews Spider had with both men rank up with favorite comic book moments ever.
To say any more about the series would ruin the fabulous fun but suffice it to say, this comic book is one of the best heroic stories I have read. Instead of a masked crusader with superpowers, you get an ordinary man who is an unlikable barely functioning human being thrust into interesting times. He doesn’t fly or leap tall buildings in a single bound, he is a journalist who fights back against the powers to be with pen and paper. During one of the darkest moments of the series, he pulls out a cigarette and says, “So we have a deadline. We can do deadlines”.
Spider Jerusalem isn’t anyone’s idea of a superhero but heroes come in all shapes and sizes and this guy is the most heroic comic character I know. Frankly, I admire him. Transmetropolitan was ahead of its time – but as I sit here watching the news unfold on the TV, I realize its time has finally arrived.