Tag: transmetropolitan

Me And My Spider

Courtesy Vertigo

As of yesterday, I finally have a complete set of Transmetropolitan. When the final volumes arrived, and I got home to pick them up, I immediately stretched out on the couch to finish reading the series. Then, last night, I started reading it again. I’m planning on reading through every trade paperback in sequence once a year going forward.

Why, you might ask?

Well, for one thing, it’s absolutely brilliant.

For those of you who don’t know, Transmetropolitan is a story set somewhere in our future. It’s an interesting future. It isn’t a good one, like Star Trek, nor is it a terribly bad one, like so many dystopias. Sure, there’s an underclass and poverty and police brutality and incredibly corrupt politicians, but we have that now. There movements for human rights and outraged citizenry and sex on street corners and incredibly inane television, but we have that now. What we don’t have is the technology to rearrange matter on an atomic level or the ability to download ourselves into nanotech cloud-bodies.

We also don’t have Spider Jerusalem.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Spider’s kind of like if Hunter S. Thompson came back from the dead and came back incredibly fucking pissed. Short, angry, blunt, manic, and unpredictable, Spider is described as an “outlaw journalist”. He barely tolerates rules regarding decorum or rights to privacy, as such things can get in the way of the pursuit of Truth. His column is absolutely scathing, completely undiluted, and takes no prisoners. His writing and his character make for an extremely compelling read.

On a deeper level, though, I have to say that I understand Spider Jerusalem pretty well.

Part of that is because Spider needs to write. It isn’t a profession or a hobby, it is a compulsion. Seriously, his necessity for expressing himself and pursuing Truth in the written word is only slightly an exaggeration of that of many writers. And he does with that need what all successful writers must do: he writes. Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard, he puts himself in front of his machinery and he produces words. His two-fisted editor knows how to get the work out of him, with four little magical words: “Where’s my fucking column?”

In that regard, I envy Spider, and I see a level of production I wish to attain, which is the second reason why I want to read Transmetropolitan every year. Inspiration.

Not just for writing in general. I also get inspired to keep an eye on the Truth. Spider comes across as a very angry, bitter, cynical man. He pursues religious bigots and political powerhouses alike, with boundless zeal and merciless brutality. He’d be the first to break down why the tenets upon which your entire life has been built are absolute bullshit, and why you’d do the world a favor by jumping into an industrial wood-chipper right goddamn now. But he’d only do that if you’re an asshole. Spider, under all of the bluster and bravado, is a good person. He wants what’s best. He wants what’s right. He wants the Truth. And he will do what it takes to make sure the Truth wins out, no matter what.

While I envy and admire Spider in several ways, though, I won’t be shaving my head or getting an excessive amount of tattoos any time soon.

A very dear and close friend of mine describes Parks & Recreation‘s Ron Swanson as “my favorite person I wish nobody would try and emulate.” I see Spider in a similar way. I don’t want to be Spider Jerusalem, nor would I want anybody close to me to try and be him, either. I’d be glad for his presence, sure, but I can’t see him interacting with people around me on a daily basis in a way that’s conducive for staying out of jail or keeping my genitals intact.

I’m going to read Transmetropolitan every year because it’s brilliant, it’s inspiring, and it keeps the spirit of Spider Jerusalem fresh in my head.

People talk of having angels or devils on their shoulders. I think, sometimes, Spider perches on mine. He’s definitely on my shelf. Kind of like Bob from The Dresden Files, only instead of inhabiting a skull, Spider just ambles around my bookshelf. I see him being about six inches tall (which he hates). He’s smoking up a storm (not that I can smell it, his cigarettes are tiny). He’s glaring at me. And when I write something that isn’t to the best of my ability, he starts spitting nails and curse words and implications regarding my mother’s virtue at me. Spider’s never one to mince words. And I know he’s angry because he gives a damn.

The anger isn’t the point. What you do with that anger is the point. Do you sit back and complain at the television? Or do you wing your bottle at the damned talking box, grab your bowel disruptor and filthy assistants, hit the streets and do something about it?

Spider taught me that.

And right now he’s telling me we both need some goddamn coffee.

Back to the Funny Pages

Courtesy Red 5 Comics

As much as possible, I support my local comics & gaming store. The perfect combination, as far as I’m concerned, is a little shop in Doylestown called Cyborg One. Now, it’s not necessarily as local to me as, say, Comics & More in the King of Prussia mall, or the Alternate Universes gaming store in Blue Bell, but Cyborg has a neat and diverse selection, runs great events, and is staffed by very cool people. When I go there for Magic-playing, be it some casual Commander or full-on FNM, I sometimes come home with a graphic novel or two.

The Sandman

Reading one of the seminal works of vagabond genius Neil Gaiman has been a long time in coming. He’s never been afraid to mess with our perceptions of beings and concepts far bigger than the individual (American Gods, Good Omens, etc) and The Sandman, written for DC Comics in the 80s, matches his always proficient and often amusing or touching words with fascinating and often reality-warping art. The stories center around Dream of the Endless, also called Morpheus among other names, who rules the realm all mortals visit when they sleep.

Each graphic novel is a self-contained story arc, but as they progress we are introduced to more denizens of Dream’s kingdom as well as his fellow Endless – his dolorous elder brother Destiny, the capricious Desire and its negative twin Despair, Delirium, and his elder sister, Death. He also is seen dealing with the mortals who give life to his realm, and other creatures that dwell in otherworldly spaces, from fallen angels to old gods. I don’t want to give anything away, as Gaiman is perhaps at his best when you don’t know what to expect, but suffice it to say his stories will charm you, disturb you, delight you, and move you. Each of the graphic novels in The Sandman series are well worth your money.

Transmetropolitan

In the future, man will transcend his human form to become a new form of life. Well, at least some will. Others will be happy to make it to work without getting shot by a horrible bio-toxin bullet or pop down to the corner food stand for a bucket of baby seal eyes. It’s life in The City, a seething metropolis of festering urban decay, wealth disparity, political corruption, and religious proliferation. And gazing upon the City with an acerbic, unblinking, profane, and poignant eye is outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem. At least, he was, until he ran off to live up a goddamn mountain. He’s summoned back to complete a book deal he’d tried to forget about, and in the process gets wrapped up in the upcoming presidential election.

Transmetropolitan opens with Spider getting called back to the City he hates, which is also the only place he can actually write. A big reason for this particular series being successful is Spider himself, who is basically Hunter S. Thompson in the not-too-distant future and carrying a truckload of guns instead of drugs. While set in the future, more often than not Spider’s invective is not only focused on the people around him, but the people around us, and often including us. Rants on police brutality, religion, mass media, and others bleed from the pages and call us to the mat to look at our hypocrisy and ignorance head-on. And we also get stoned AIs, bowel disruptors, smoking cats, and perhaps the coolest pair of shades you’ll ever see. It’s weird, hilarious, disturbing, and wonderful reading.

Atomic Robo

In 1928, Nikola Tesla created the world’s first automatic intelligence, placing it within a humanoid robotic body. Highly resilient to damage of all kinds, this artificial person was raised just as much on pulp stories as he was on science, and proceeded to become an invaluable asset to investigations into the realms of weird phenomena and super-science. He’s smart and tough, compassionate and funny, a stand-up guy who can face down genius dinosaurs and brain-in-a-jar automatons without blinking his glowing eyes. He is Atomic Robo.

To paraphrase Wizard Magazine, Atomic Robo is what you’d get if you were put equal parts Indiana Jones, Iron Man, and Rocketeer into a machine driven by Tesla coils and possibly a forsaken child. The writing by Brian Clevinger of 8-bit Theatre fame is snappy and on-point, succinct and punchy without skimping on details or characterization. Most of the art is by Scott Wegener and jumps right off the page. It’s a delightfully pulpy take on action and super-science, with decent characterization and legitimate laughs.

That’s what I’ve been reading. As to what I’ve been writing… tune in tomorrow.

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