Must Read Comics: Transmetropolitan

Tom is with us today to extol the virtues of the amazingly crafted, and near prophetic, comic series Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

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What if I said there is a vi­sion of a sci-fi dystopia where any­thing you want­ed could be got­ten at the touch of a but­ton? That a few com­mands sep­a­rate you from the great­est trove of in­for­ma­tion mankind has ever had ac­cess to, but you’re just go­ing to seek mind­less en­ter­tain­ment and porn? That hu­man be­ings would try to sep­a­rate from their species, to be­come some­thing new and alien, only to be op­pressed by the stodgy old guard who want to keep them in line? That there was a world where politi­cians nev­er changed, but only be­came more and more brazen with their lies — which would be eat­en up by the fools that in­hab­it this hy­po­thet­i­cal land? What if I told you this wasn’t the view I have of modern-day America, but the vi­sion of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, back in 1997?

TRANSMET01-WACHTERTruth is, it’s re­al­ly both. Ellis nailed it with Transmetropolitan. His view of a city that was a mi­cro­cosm of America — some decade plus af­ter the se­ries fin­ished it’s mon­u­men­tal run –has be­come the re­al­i­ty. Spider Jerusalem has be­come an icon, a new-age Hunter S. Thompson, telling us the un­com­fort­able truth about the world we live in. The se­ries has be­come an in­spi­ra­tion to many, my­self in­clud­ed. When I start­ed writ­ing, my goal was to be Spider. In re­al­i­ty, I wound up be­ing his ed­i­tor and pub­lish­er, for a time. However, now I’m here to try my hand at putting to page the un­com­fort­able truths in which we ig­no­rant­ly live.

In Transmetropolitan, there’s a neat lit­tle in­ven­tion called a mak­er. By tak­ing a block of base ma­te­ri­als, a mak­er can make pret­ty much any­thing you want. Food, clothes, weapons, drugs and any­thing in be­tween are only a vo­cal com­mand away. We have 3D print­ers al­ready hard at work on mak­ing clothes, weapons, and oth­er sun­dries. They’re even talk­ing 3D print­ed food. Hell, we got 3D print­ers ca­pa­ble of print­ing parts to make more 3D print­ers. A few bare steps shy of the Star Trek repli­ca­tors, able to make Earl Grey, hot, at any point in which we have an urge for it. I per­son­al­ly can­not wait for 3D print­ed drugs, nor for the day where my 3D print­er can be on 3D print­ed drugs with me.

Oh, and the drugs of the “fu­ture.” Lovely bas­tards, ca­pa­ble of en­hanc­ing our at­ten­tion spans, mak­ing us into vir­ile jug­ger­nauts of sex­u­al con­quest, or just mak­ing us able to chill out. Adderall, Cialis, Valium. Sure, a cou­ple of those were around back when Ellis was writ­ing this se­ries, but they’ve be­come so­ci­etal crutch­es in the mean­time. Get your kids hooked young, so that they’ll nev­er be able to kick the habit. Big phar­ma needs the next gen­er­a­tion of drug-addled sponges, suck­ling at their chem­i­cal­ly en­hanced teats. Now only if we had Transmetropolitan’s abil­i­ty to rewrite our ge­net­ic code, giv­ing our­selves im­mu­ni­ty to can­cer and the like. Well, rewrit­ing ge­net­ic code is some­thing we can do, just got­ta re­fine it down to pill form and we’re well on the way. Nanomachines, son.

376572The ex­plo­sion of the in­ter­net is an­oth­er re­al­ly big ex­trap­o­la­tion Ellis made. Back in 1997, the net ex­ist­ed, for sure, but it wasn’t as much of a mono­lith as it is to­day. A touch­stone of hu­man cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, big­otry, art, ha­tred, willpow­er and ug­li­ness; the in­ter­net is every­thing it means to be hu­man, and all the things that make us in­hu­man beasts. With a few key­strokes you can ac­cess any piece of in­for­ma­tion, with ci­ta­tions, that you could ever want. View any piece of art from any artist through­out hu­man his­to­ry. See sights you might nev­er see with your own two eyes. Or you can watch chil­dren be de­grad­ed for per­vert­ed lust. Watch men and women die for no rea­son. Anything you want, it’s there. You could learn a new trade, but odds are high­er you’re just go­ing to binge-watch some­thing in­sipid on Netflix. Self-improvement rarely wins over mind­less en­ter­tain­ment. In Transmetropolitan there’s the idea of the “feeds,” raw news and en­ter­tain­ment, broad­cast to the in­di­vid­ual, live and in real-time. We have blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and all oth­er forms of so­cial me­dia. Roughly, these things are the same. Hell, you re­al­ly want to go far enough, you can watch your fa­vorite adult celebri­ty stick their fa­vorite things in their fa­vorite ori­fices, in real-time, all for the low, low price of $9.99. Instant in­for­ma­tion sad­ly be­comes in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion and in­stant ad­dic­tion to the screens.

The thing about Transmetropolitan that re­al­ly dri­ves its worth home to me is the sim­ple fact it is a sci-fi overblow of things that are time­less about hu­man­i­ty. Hatred, degra­da­tion, con­sumerism, sex, drugs, and the Truth.  That T was not cap­i­tal­ized on ac­ci­dent. I’m talk­ing the kind of Truth you feel in your bones, the kind that makes you trem­ble to your core or be­come erect and ready to drill any­thing with a hole. The kind of Truth that jus­ti­fies our ex­is­tence. The kind that jus­ti­fies thou­sands of years of hu­man er­ror, just to say “this is what it’s about.” We don’t get that kind of Truth any­more. People are too hap­py with bitch­ing about made up of­fens­es and over-complications.


You want the Truth, you got­ta bleed for it. The only sac­ri­fices Truth takes are blood, sweat, tears, and undy­ing ded­i­ca­tion. The old gonzo guard knew it. The Truth isn’t the de­tails, it’s the sto­ry formed from the de­tails. The sto­ry is be­tween the facts and the lies, be­yond the things we can iden­ti­fy with. The Truth sits right in front of us all, but slap­ping us in the face, beg­ging to be seen.

Go read Transmetropolitan. It isn’t of­ten that we find our­selves — our rage and our pas­sions — in a com­ic book. It isn’t of­ten our eyes are opened up to that capital‑T Truth in a com­plete­ly fic­tion­al form. You’ll see a world that is fa­mil­iar, yet so dif­fer­ent. An ex­trap­o­la­tion of the mess we’ve made, and how it’ll play out for our kids. Read the com­ic, and tell me you don’t want to fix things be­fore we reach that point.

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I’m that crazy guy that writes things and hosts the Graded PointFive comics podcast.

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