The year 2002 was a sad year for me in comics. It marked the end of one of the greatest series and my best loved books ever put to paper: Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson.
For any reader uninitiated; Transmetropolitan told the story of Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo-style journalist living in the dystopian, cyber-punk future in an unspecified number of years from now. Spider, along with his lovely (filthy) assistants Yelena & Channon, find themselves in many a misadventure as they seek out stories during the campaigns for a presidential election.
Doesn’t sound too encouraging, does it? But trust me, all 60 issues are inspirational and, as a collection, truly a masterpiece.I strongly suggest you read it. It is an immensely enjoyable comic. For years I read many main stream titles; I was Batman, Superman and X-men obsessed through my early teenage years. As I grew up though my interest in superhero titles seemed to wane (oddly back with a vengeance in later years – but that’s a separate blog altogether) and I discovered more mature titles like Transmetropolitan while at University and my eyes were opened wide.
Initially Transmetropolitan was a title under a DC brand called Helix and when this imprint came to an end Transmetropolitan was the only titled not to be cancelled and was continued under the Vertigo brand. DC made the right choice; Transmet was an awesome piece of work that needed to be seen by more eyes.
Warren Ellis is a sharp guy. He has a keen mind and an incredible writing talent. I respect him and what his characters represent, and have followed much of his work over the years. Admittedly, after reading & absorbing much of his work I have started to find certain of his preoccupations a little repetitive, but this is easily excused as his writing is often hugely engaging & entertaining. Transmetropolitan is the finest example of Ellis’ writing – sharp, intelligent, and thought-provoking with real strokes of genius in it’s subtext. It’s witty & funny too, hilariously funny, as Spider & his filthy assistants shining a high wattage bulb at the hypocrisies & idiocies in the society they inhabit (which, so far in the future, are not so far from our own reality) providing a wealth of real comedy gold. Be warned; the comedy can be wicked and black at times, while at others slapstick, but remains accessible and never crosses the line (err… Well, never crosses too far anyway…).
The whole premise of Transmetropolitan is fresh & innovative. I’ve enjoyed exploring this new yet not so unfamiliar world with Spider and his filthy assistants. It tells of a world that could be if we allow it. Ellis appears to have put a lot of careful thought into the structure of the world he wants his characters to inhabit. A world, although distorted, he wants us to recognise on many levels as it addresses head on such topics as political corruption, religion, dehumanising technology, and society & community.
Spider Jerusalem is a character of real depth that was not often seen in comics at that time (to my knowledge). The voice we all wish we had sometimes, the voice that tells all that should be told. Not only that, he is a man of confidence and is persistent with his opinions. He is not as much as a bastard as he thinks he is, another time, another place, another purpose and Spider Jerusalem would be a nice guy, but then, when have nice guys ever been interesting.
As any good serialised narrative should, Transmetropolitan left me hungry for more as I read the last page of each monthly issue. The sense of anticipation and suspense, especially as the larger story arch took shape and picked up pace, was addictive.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the artwork, which is nothing short of outstanding. It is very well suited to the style and delivery of the piece. I once sat down and just read through the back drops, there are some real revelations hidden in the graffiti on the walls and on character’s tattoos. The subtlety of the art meshes with the subtlety of the work as a whole. (Although Spider is not so subtle, I have to admit.) Darick Robertson’s art work is fabulous – I love his interpretation of the world Ellis has written and the characters that inhabit it, and it perfectly engaged my imagination as the visuals lept from the page. The action is crisp & clear, facial expressions subtle & observed, and the background scenery is fascinating & suitably fantastical, setting the scene in this complex, dystopian world.
Transmetropolitan is an honest piece of work that stands as a truly unique book in a medium that can be quite archetypal & predictable. That is rare even today. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not and it’s less concerned with your money as telling a captivating story that educates and inspires. I miss this book since it’s conclusion. Anyone who considers themselves a mature comic book fan needs to read this title right away, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.