Must Read Comics: Transmetropolitan
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?
Truth 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.
The 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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