Friday, March 13, 2009

Learn to Love Comics: Transmetropolitan

Okay, okay - I suck a little bit. I've already broken my promise to update the blog at least weekly. I was out of town for a girls weekend at the beach last weekend, and spent most evenings this week trying to desperately to catch up on my editing jobs that I would normally have worked on over the weekend. Tonight, I am tired, but I am caught up! So I'm back. I won't promise that I won't lapse again, but I'll do my best to prevent it.

On to the business of blogging. I know a lot of avid readers, absolute lovers of books, who look down their noses at comic books and graphic novels. I read some comics when I was younger, but I didn't really get hooked until I met the man who is now my husband. He is what you would call a comics FAN. Not like the comics guy on The Simpsons, he's not pretentious and dorky like that, but he does love the art form. He's turned me on to quite a lot of comics, and I would like to try and spread the love. Because comics aren't all superheroes and manga; there are a lot of great stories and characters out there, just the same as prose novels, even better than some prose. So here begins your education on some of my favorite comics - one title at a time.

I'm going to start with a great comic I love that has lots of snarky irreverence and social commentary - a series called Transmetropolitan, written by Warren Ellis. The series hero is Spider Jerusalem, a kick-ass gonzo-style journalist in a sort of cyberpunk future. The series starts off with Spider living as a hermit with no technology, no hygiene and no clothes on a mountain outside the big city. The problem is that he has a two-book deal for books he has not written that were due probably years ago, a publisher breathing down his neck for them, and he's spent pretty much his entire advance and has no more cigarette money. So he girds his loins with hatred, shaves his head and beard, puts on clothes and heads back to the city to write some articles again.

With the help of his filthy assistants, Spider fights the good fight, trying to expose the corruption and stupidity that is threatening to ruin the entire world (sound at all familiar?), hating his fellow humans and hating that he has to save them from themselves, but unable to stop himself doing something about it because it drives him so insane. He exposes complete idiots who are mutilating themselves in ridiculous ways in the name of fashion; he successfully exposes severe cases of police brutality and stops a riot; and he takes on his biggest challenge of exposing the evil represented by the jackasses running for public office in the big election.

I like Transmetropolitan because I identify so much with Spider Jerusalem. He gets so frustrated by the way people around him refuse to think for themselves, instead letting the ever-present media tell them what to think and what to do. He hates them for their laziness and stupidity, and yet he really wants to believe they don't have to be that way. I feel that way on pretty much a daily basis. The social and cultural issues that Ellis tackles are extremely relevant to our current sociopolitical situation, as all good sci-fi should be. And on top of all of that, it's irreverent and hilarious and beautifully drawn. I highly recommend the series to anyone who revels in sharp, snarky societal commentary and/or is a Hunter S. Thomspon fan. I love this series, and I think it should be required reading in high schools to hopefully shock some of those kids out of the lazy complacency our society seems to prize these days.


  1. Worth mentioning, it's beautifully drawn by the artist and co-creator of the series Darick Robertson.

    Also, a new edition of the first trade paperback has been released as part of DC's "What's Next After Watchmen" program:

    There's a free preview of the first issue there in PDF format.

    -- Z

  2. Yep, I noted that it's beautifully drawn - thanks for adding Darick's name to the post, though. And thanks for the link to the preview of the first issue - anyone who is remotely intrigued by this post should follow the link in the comment about and check out the first issue in the free preview!