Spider Jerusalem is one of those characters who give the first impression of brutality, nihilism, and total disregard for the people around him.
Nevertheless, it should be noted that Spider Jerusalem, the protagonist of the Transmetropolitan comic series, is the product of a time of brutality.
Transmetropolitan is an American satirical and dystopian cyberpunk comic written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Darick Robertson.
It was released by DC Comics between 1997 and 2002 and has a total of 60 editions. The series was initially part of the short-time affiliate of DC Comics, Helix, but after the first year it was moved to Vertigo.
The action of Transmetropolitan is centered on the cynical and unconventional journalist Spider Jerusalem, who usually explores various scandals that involve corruption at the highest levels of the government of the future.
He publishes his articles in the column for the Word magazine, with the help of two assistants, Yelena and Channon.
Spider comes across as an almost mythical religious figure, especially at the beginning of the comic, when he comes down from the Mountain.
The story starts there. Spider returns to the city that almost cost him his sanity and life. The City, almost a living entity, acts as the center and soul of a new society in the future we only know is washed and faded away.
The City and its dwellers
The City is the intersection of many cultures, religions, movements and philosophies that can barely work in this chaotic vision of the future.
The contrast of Spider’s return from the Mountain, which is shown in a couple of panels as pure and untouched nature, is totally contrasted with the City. The city is dirty, full of shit and condemned to ruin. Just like its peoples.
City dwellers are peculiar just like the city itself. Through sixty editions of the comic we meet all manner of interesting and fucked up characters. The only thing everyone has in common is the gray morality that hangs like a noose over their head.
The incredible number of freshly generated religions, and social and political movements aim to override the lives of citizens with a dose of ultra-violence, drugs and sex.
The city is full of strangers, freaks and addicts. It’s home to whores, addicts, and strange alien and human hybrids.
All this gives the City a special and interesting charm. It is a place without hope and salvation, but the protagonist through his work in journalism still wants to save the City.
Throughout the comic, Spider Jerusalem works for two very different news organizations.
The first, more conventional newsfeed called The World is presented as a legitimate news agency with a rather powerful editor and tools that open many doors for Spider.
The Word has a newsroom every journalist would kill for. Nevertheless, as such a rich journalistic feed, the Word has shown itself sensitive to the opinions of the owners who, of course, are quite rich and politically close to the despotic authorities that shape the news and the world.
The other news outlet that Spider work for during the comic is the so called the Hole. It’s almost an antithesis to the exclusive newspapers in which Spider has acquired his fame and abundant wealth.
Intended as a dispatcher site for porno content the Hole becomes a serious journalistic service only because of the effort of a few serious journalists. As the plot thickens, the Hole proves it’s capable of resisting the fights and power attacks.
Marked as a medium for the poor, this feed shared politically unbiased news of other major media sites. During his later adventures, Spider began exclusively writing for the Hole. Only this time he was not burdened with journalistic ethics.
The central theme of the whole comic, at least in my opinion, is the loosening of checks and balances of the wealthy and the powerful, as well as the aching goals of journalists to always provide a perspective on the happenings in high places where ordinary folk can’t easily intrude.
That’s why Spider is heavily involved with coverage of two presidents. Although Spider believes the old president is bad, he still concludes that the new candidate, Gary Callahan, is even worse off. In the first few issues of the 60 issue long comic Spider Jerusalem is more and more confronted with various institutionalized forms of power and repression.
As Spider’s story unfolds, the supreme authority – the presidents – notice and really dislike his meddling. In fact, two very different, but in a way, very similar men are observed.
The first one, who can’t escape the notorious nickname The Beast, is an embodiment of egoism and corruption that has eroded social institutions and led to a policy that favors those in power.
The Beast is maybe best understood as a selfish person with whom we can’t overly sympathize, but on the other hand, compared to his successor Smiley, the Beast, if anything else, believes in what he’s doing.
Smiley, on the other hand, is a rather unsetting person. Introduced as a competent and working man that was supposed to bring order to the City, under Spider’s pencil that facade soon crumbles. We readers, as well as characters imprisoned in a depressed city, soon realize that Smiley is a hundred times worse animal than the Beast.
I don’t want to get into the story too much; I really do not want to reveal the action to those who have not read the comics yet.
The comic Transmetropolitan is translated into several languages like Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and German, and the story is divided into several parts, so as stories progress, various new obstacles and assistants that work with Spider are leaving their mark on him.
Journalism, specifically, investigative journalism
One of the building blocks of the story is the fact that impartial journalism is not only good but also necessary to maintain the transparency of authority in society.
Only with the help of perfidious journalists like Spider Jerusalem can the public see what’s happening in the political arena. After all, the importance of investigative journalism can’t be stated enough in both the City and in our world, too.
Spider is not completely alone in his struggles. In addition to the chief editor and Spider’s boss Mitchell Royce, he’s hired two assistants, Channon Yarrow and Yelena Rossini, that become a daily fixture in the journalist’s life.
Channon Yarrow is a fairly cheerful athletic woman who, apart from journalism, has both been a stripper and a bodyguard. An Amazonian, she is in charge of security of her boss and colleague Yelena Rossini.
She’s doing her job seriously, and over the years has become a pillar for Spider and Yelena. Yelena is almost anti-Channon. Shown as a depressed and rude, slightly lethargic person through the comic she is transformed and becomes almost an extension of Spider. Her own thought on occasion mirror those of her boss, and she’s shown to share his passion for journalism too.
The devil himself, Spider Jerusalem, is loosely based on eccentric journalist Hunter S. Thompson. To be honest, he’s a mess. A frequent drug abuser with violent tendencies, Spider becomes more aggressive throughout the comic.
I can’t really blame him, thought. In a world infested with maddening weapons, genetic readers and very unpleasant people, it seems like the only option is give in to the pressure and just beat the crap out of that poor guy that just found himself in the wrong place.
There’s almost something romantic in the way Spider behaves. He’s a good cop and bad cop rolled into one, just without the pork. In other words, it seems to me that the truly crazy ones usually make the best in their fields. It’s certainly true for Spider Jerusalem, the craziest and most famous journalist in Transmetropolitan.