Spider Jerusalem (center) with Filthy Assistants Channon Yarrow (left) and Yelena Rossini (right)
Yelena: It's like working with a four-year-old boy with a massive caffeine high and a permanent and yet very small erection. And you know what the worst thing about it is? He's the good guy.
Spider: Filthy assistants! To me!
Transmetropolitan is a Cyber PunkGraphic Novel series by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, originally published from 1997 to 2002. It's a wild mix of gonzo journalism, American politics and the weird future. Although much of its focus is on surreal comedy, the books ultimately tell a heartwrenching story of one nation's politics swirling the drain in every possible way.Well-known outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem (basically, Hunter S. ThompsonIN THE FUTURE!) begins the series "up a goddamn mountain", free from the constraints of dirty politics, toxic culture and his book deal. Until one day, his old publisher ("The Whorehopper") calls him up, reminding Spider that he still has two more books to turn out. Spider very reluctantly moves back to The City, a bastardized future version of New York City. He manages to get his old job back, and ends up picking up two "filthy assistants": first Channon Yarrow, his stripper-student-turned-nun-turned-bodyguard, and then Yelena Rossini, his editor's niece. For a while, he wreaks havoc upon The City with a keyboard and a bowel disruptor.It's only when Spider gets truly involved in politics that things start to get serious. He can't wait to get the current president, nicknamed "The Beast", out of office, and to usher his competitor, Gary Callahan, a.k.a. "The Smiler", into office. When it turns out that Callahan's willing to get his hands very dirty to become president, Spider realizes just what a monster he's released... and sets out to bring the entire government crashing down.A Characters Page is currently under construction.
This comic series contains examples of:
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A-Cup Angst: Yelena. She claims that for her to fill out the kinds of dresses that look good on Channon she'd "need to be shot in the back by two cruise missiles" first. Which, given Channon's rather more spectacular figure, doesn't necessarily mean much. Still, Yelena seems to have a preference for wearing clothes that understate her figure: seemingly so as not to call attention to it.
Action Girl: Channon, once she returns to Spider's side.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: We rarely see someone talk with a machine that isn't on some sort of electronic drugs.
Anti-Hero: Spider is an abrasive and often violent asshole, but he has a strong code of honor and fights tirelessly for the good side.
Arachnid Appearance and Attire: Spider sports a spider tattoo on his scalp and wears all black, giving him a vaguely spidery appearance. The pectoral tattoos revealed by his coat also look vaguely like an hourglass, though this could be coincidental.
The chapter "Nobody Loves Me" features 3 TV shows supposedly based on Spider's life ("Magical Truthsaying Bastard Spidey", a bizarre anime-style gag cartoon; "From the Mountain to the City", a crappy and over-the-top action/drama movie Very Loosely Based On The First Arc; and "I Hump It Here", a porno) and 2 drug-induced dreams of Spider's ("The Heroic Revenge Fantasy" and "The Ugly Paranoid Dream"), all drawn by different artists.
The Smiler is drawn like a cartoon character when he's shown putting on a face for the public. When he's shown behind closed doors, especially after he wins the election, he looks much more like an actual and horrible person.
Spider gets knocked out, comes to, and demands a machine so he can write a promised column, and is told he'd been out for four days.
A drug addled variant: he'll often snort himself into a coma or otherwise render himself unable to work. One Filthy Assistant recounts the time Spider thought he was in a birdhouse in Switzerland for a week. It's implied Spider does this to piss off people and shirk on work, though.
Batter Up: The Chair Leg of Truth. It is wise and terrible.
Batman Gambit: Spider's final one-upping of the Smiler; he starts to blatantly use firearms, causing the paranoid Smiler to make sure he's frisked for those during their final encounter... And in the process forgetting the first trick Spider pulled on him.
The Frost Biter 7-K. Who wouldn't want a big snowball gatling cannon... thing?
Also one of the guns Yelena considers buying... it requires "two backup spines" to fire safely.
Spider's Bowel Disruptor qualifies as a BFG because it has a final setting that reads "anal prolapse".note To put it as mildly as possible, it means you're basically starting to crap your colon. Not pretty.
Big Applesauce: The City is rather transparently a future NYC, although it is hinted to have grown to cover most of New York State.
Bizarre Alien Biology: "Transients", people who fuse alien DNA to them, appearing as stereotypical grey aliens, have their perception and biology change as the genes take over - Fred Christ says they lose the ability to digest human food at all, and their eyes change their perception so that people who seem like ugly, featureless aliens are extremely handsome or pretty in their eyes.
Channon: Waiter! I'll have another bottle of Chilean merlot, the raspberry pavlova, ten minutes of oral sex and an ambulance, please.
Spider mentioned having been a prostitute as a bit of background information to a witty aphorism he'd heard while employed as such. Blink and you'll miss it.
Brick Joke: In the first issue, Spider makes a threatening remark to the toll booth attendant giving him a hard time, stating "I'll be back for you". Guess what he does in the final issue? (The crater from the bar he shot with a rocket launcher is still there, too.)
Brown Note: Who doesn't want to have a bowel disruptor?
Butt Monkey: Spider receives the same amount of crap that he dishes out.
Call to Agriculture: Spider ends the series back up his mountain, growing real vegetables and utterly determined never to set foot in the City again, no matter how Royce tries to tempt him back.
Mitchell "Where's my fucking column?" Royce. At one point Spider lampshades it - when Royce calls about a threat on Spider's life, his first reaction is, "Hey, you didn't ask where your fucking column was".
Spider doesn't give two tugs of a dead dog's cock about catchphrases.
Spider picks up a cat with two faces early on. She smokes unfiltered Russian cigarettes, pisses on anything that slightly irritates her, kills almost any animal that crosses her, and supposedly attempted to rape one of Channon's boyfriends. In other words, it's his perfect pet.
A gang of talking alley cats confronts a talking police dog named Stompanato when he wanders into a bad neighborhood. He gets out alive, but horribly scratched up and blinded.
Sadly Subverted with Mary and her camera; she doesn't get it until after Vita's death but in the context of the final arc, Ellis states she got it beforehand despite blatant continuity error.
Chekhov's Skill: Channon mentions early on that she worked as a bodyguard, but she quits as Spider's assistant without beating anyone up. It's therefore less of a surprise when she shows back up and starts serving as Spider's bodyguard.
Cheshire Cat Grin: Spider could give seminars on the subject... as well as the Smiler, for obvious reasons.
Chewing the Scenery: Spider chews the scenery on a regular basis, especially when he's crammed full of drugs, which is most of the time.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Once the plot starts focusing on how The Smiler hates Spider and wants him dead, the Whorehopper ceases to even be referenced in-story.
Spider's column following The Beast becoming president:
Royce: Your first deadline's tomorrow. I want to see eight thousand words. Printable words. I still remember that essay you wrote when the Beast got elected. I do not want to see the word "fuck" typed eight thousand times again.
He and the Filthy Assistants also bust out some pretty impressive strings of swearing when things go wrong.
Continuity Snarl: a big fat one. Spider gives a camera to a woman, Mary, after Vita's death; this later comes into play at the end of the series with her taking a photo needed to expose and bring down the Smiler for his role in Vita's death. Unfortunately the event in question happens BEFORE Mary got her camera. Ellis has admitted in Q&A's that this was a mistake on his part, and that he didn't catch it before the issues went to press.
Conveniently Common Kink: In a one-page side-story, a woman stops to talk to a man who's sitting on the sidewalk, crying. He explains that he's crying because he has no friends — he keeps eating them. "Me too," she says. Then she invites him to dinner.
Cool Old Guy: Oscar Rossini, Yelena's dad, turns out to be a hell of a lot tougher than you might think.
Cool Shades: Spider Jerusalem's trademark camera shades with the mismatched lenses. Bonus points by being created, by accident, by a sentient nanotech manufacturing AI that was stoned out of its goddamned mind. So cool that when he lost those shades, another set was made for him with the same mismatched lenses.
Couch Gag: The three-eyed smiley at the end of every issue.
The two lowbrow bar patrons who discuss the sex lives of reservation residents and then accost Spider for a mention in his column in "Wild in the Country" bear a striking physical resemblance to Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.
The black-clad cigar-smoker on page 9 of issue 24 rather resembles Ellis, also.
Issue 33 has Channon and Yelena sneak out to have a day to themselves. They go out, have fun, talk about Spider, and get into an adventure. The perfect catharsis before the climactic arc of series 3.
Issue 51 centers on Royce being a badass. It is aptly titled "Two-Fisted Editor".
Da Editor: Mitch Royce, City Editor of The Word. Comes out the other side of parodic exaggeration to arrive at complete awesome.
Destination Defenestration: "I'll have my assistant defenestrate you. And you wouldn't want anything happening to your fenestrates, would you?"
Dirty Cop: Almost all of the CPD are corrupt powertrippers in it to murder people at random. Part of the Secret Service is also corrupt, too.
Disc One Final Boss: The Beast, who is defeated in the election fairly early in the series. It only becomes clear later that the Smiler is far, far worse.
Disposing of a Body: When Spider realizes that he's inspired The Smiler to murderous rage, he acquires Nanomachines designed to break human tissues and clothing down to monoatomic vapor, knowing he'll have to kill more than a few CIA assassins.
In the last story arc, the City Center police assault on a student protest is pretty evocative of Kent State. The image of the female student crying over the corpse of her classmate is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the massacre.
Spider overturning tables and chasing the religious leaders out of the shopping mall brings to mind a certain famous event in the Bible, particularly given the outfit Spider's wearing at the time.
A blue dress stained with Presidential semen.
Bob Heller's racist rhetoric and possible spoiling role in the election are more than a bit akin to George Wallace. There are also obvious Nazi overtones to his rhetoric. A Hitler lookalike is focused on in Heller's crowd, and Spider overtly compares Heller to Hitler just to make things clear.
The President's speech (which is summarized for us by Spider) about his kids' dog is Nixon's Checkers speech Turned Up to Eleven.
Spider's encounter with The Beast in a toilet is very similar to Hunter Thompson's encounter with Richard Nixon in Where the Buffalo Roam.
The Dog Bites Back: When The Smiler is fleeing the White House by helicopter in the last volume, Robert McX loudly challenges him, causing him to snap and shove his political advisor towards the crowd of journalists with a snarl of "You deal with their shit!" Shortly afterwards his flight path is leaked to the authorities and media.
Advisor: Fuck you right back, Mr President.
Doom Troops: The riot police have strong shades of this, what with having Submit Now emblazoned on their shields and taking Police Brutality to a whole new level.
The Prague telephone incident, where Spider drove six politicians to suicide using only a telephone. Done off-panel, sadly.
The last thing we see in the comic is Spider, quite likely on the verge of going insane from I-pollen poisoning, putting a gun under his chin. It's a lighter. "ONE PERCENT!"
Drugs Are Good: Spider is a functional drug addict who does a lot of his best work while blitzed out of his mind on various drugs. Future technology, however, seems to shield him from the worst consequences of habitual drug use.
Establishing Character Moment: For Spider it isn't blowing up the bar, or smashing his way into The Word's offices to demand Royce give him work, or using violence on anyone who gets in his way. It's sitting on the roof of a city block, typing his article on the savage police response to the Transient Riots, forcing the truth into the faces of the people who normally turn their eyes from it and making a difference to the world.
Even Evil Has Standards: Shortly before the election where The Beast and The Smiler are the biggest candidates, Spider has an interview with The Beast. He explains his standards: If 51% of the people have food on their table at the end of the day and 49% do not, he's succeeded at his job. After the interview Spider muses, "Turns out The Beast has some morals after all." The Smiler doesn't.
Despite the considerably loosened social and sexual mores of this future, where sometimes it seems anything goes... pedophilia is still beyond the pale. Spider uses the revelation of someone's association with a NAMBLA Expy organization and all that it connotes to destroy the person's reputation and drive him to suicide.
Eviler than Thou: the Beast and the Smiler. The Beast is evil, but only because his incredibly cynical outlook on life makes him that way. The Smiler is actually trying to be as horrible as he can possibly be.
Exotic Entree: The far-future setting allows for many (usually vat-grown) delicacies such as caribou eyes or "Leg of Bastard" (that is, human). Some prefer to save money by catching door-to-door political canvassers or other easy prey.
Extreme Omnivore: Damn near anything is eaten. Heck, there's an entire restaurant chain devoted to cannibalism. (And let us not forget the powdered children. PowderedIrishchildren.) Justified - pretty much everything can be cloned or replicated with the Makers without having to bother with killing creatures/people for their flesh and organs. Baby seal eyes for a light snack... yummy...
This◊ is Mitchell Royce. This◊ is Warren Ellis. Royce's job is to take Spider's work and deliver it to the people. Ellis spent five years taking the unchained id which is Spider and winding it into a coherent narrative. Ellis inserted himself in the comic as Spider's editor.
Robert McX has quite a few characteristics of G. Gordon Liddy.
Spider injecting into the corner of his eye. Augh.
Blinding Fred Christ's henchman.
Channon claims that when she was a stripper, some guy actually pulled out his eyes and threw them at her breasts. They stuck.
Fang Thpeak: When the Filthy Assistants wear fake teeth to frighten a politician.
Spider: You didn't have to do that gnashing chewing mime with those goddamn things[...]
Fashionable Asymmetry: Spider's look is based on this. He has asymmetrical glasses and a spider tattoo on one side of his skull. Most of his other tattoos, however, have a roughly matching partner on the other side.
Friend to All Children: As with Pet the Dog, despite his hatred for the "squalling brats" and causing mental trauma to some via bodily fluids and going on naked rampages, he buys back a poor child's toy when her mother was forced to sell it to help support themselves (if only for a photo opportunity), befriends the child prostitutes from "Business" and takes the time to hear their stories, when most adults are too frightened or disgusted to hear about it, and saves a child from a Pedophile Priest when he goes to war against the Smiler.
Foreign Queasine: In the future, just about all of the food we see eaten is disgusting, from New Zealander blood milkshakes to Alaskan caribou eyeballs. Cloned human flesh is served at "Long Pig," a popular fast food chain aimed at children. It's played for gross-out humor.
The Future: Quite a long way forward. In fact, no one in the comic actually knows the current year; they just refer to years by terms like, "The year when..." Particularly interesting was a memorial with a digital display that read the number of years since the event.
Future Imperfect: People in the City rarely think about the past, and when they do they often get it wrong.
"Who was Hitler?" "Rock star. He was in Led Zeppelin. Fucked goats and wrote the old national anthem. Blew up Auckland in the Blitz." "Wasn't all bad, then, was he?" "History's a wonderful thing, see? We learn from it."
Spider:The future is an inherently good thing. And we move into it one winter at a time. Things get better one winter at a time. If you're going to celebrate anything, then have a drink on this: The world is, generally and on balance, a better place to live this year than it was last year.
Gonk: A lot of people, especially when faces are twisted with rage. Darick does not do "pretty".
Good Is Not Nice: Spider Jerusalem is such a jerkass misanthrope that it makes his crusade to stop political corruption and stand up for the poor all the more noble.
Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Spider, the filthies and Royce all smoke. Even the cat smokes, and Spider suggests that the cat's the biggest chimney of them all. It's practically invoked by Spider, who forces his assistants to smoke in the first place.
Gorn: The series is regularly brutally, bloodily violent, but the assassination of Vita Severn is particularly gruesome.
Grey Goo: Nanotech in general is widespread but deliberately hardcoded to prevent this, but it's mentioned that it can be circumvented. We see the results twice - once was a man without legs, who lost them preventing an entire block from being wiped out by it. The second is when it's revealed that a contained version was used in Vita's assassination.
High Times Future: Spider's copious drug use is at least partially because drugs are tax deductible for journalists.
Historical In-Joke: Names of controversial figures appear obliquely throughout the series:
McVeigh High School is a references to Timothy McVeigh
Channon phones Spider from a street named Liddy, referencing to G. Gorgon Liddy
Spider states that "President Rodham" was caught fisting kittens, a reference to Hillary Rodham Clinton
A senile television character named "Ronnie" is a reference to Ronald Reagan.
Hit So Hard The Calendar Felt It: The exact year is never given, and Spider eventually states that no one knows the proper year anymore. Now people just give dates in relative terms: "25 years ago", or "the same year that boy band exploded on stage when their enhancements went horribly wrong".
Hostile Weather: Ruinstorms. Thunderstorms on crystal meth apparently capable of tossing cars around and flooding a city under tidal waves.
Human Popsicle: The trope is dealt with poignantly through the "Revivals", people who were awoken from cryogenic sleep only to find that the city no longer cares about them enough to prepare them for what now is accepted as "normal" (i.e., damn near anything), leaving them to go into near-permanent shock as soon as they leave the building and slip into the city's homeless population. Spider ends up befriending Mary Bannister, a 20th-century photojournalist, and helps her get back on her feet.
Humongous Mecha: The "Gladiator Wall" robots Spider talks about in "Filth of the City".
Hurting Hero: The person Spider has become, the things he does, they are all because he cares about the people of the City, cares so much that seeing them being stamped on by their elected rulers and then just going on with life makes him rage and weep.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Filthy Assistants (and to a lesser degree Royce, although he's Spider's boss) in regards to anything non-journalism related, who lampshade it repeatedly.
I Have Your Wife: During the Freeze Me With Your Kiss arc, Spider's wife is kidnapped by the Zero Tactility Foundation.
I'm a Humanitarian: Cloned human meat is socially acceptable and available in chain restaurants called "Long Pig," which is itself a joke name for human meat. It's apparently cloned meat. Beyond that, cannibalistic murders come up more than once: a family of crazed cannibals that eats election canvassers, and Spider makes an off-handed comment about once getting hit with an auto-cannibalism meme that left him unable to eat pork to this day. Also, the Beast eats Chilean Baby Extract.
Informed Flaw: Spider is constantly said to be out-of-shape and unattractive (in looks, not just personality). However, he has a wiry and toned physique, and his face is bereft of flaws save for slightly crooked teeth.
Intellectual Animal: The City's K9 corps, as seen in the "Freeze Me With Your Kiss" arc. Also a gang of talking cats in a brief appearance therein.
Intrepid Reporter: Spider isn't even the only one of these in the series. You need serious spine to deliver the news in this world.
It's All About Me: Society in general has taken this trait. People care only for themselves and their own pleasure. Other people and the rest of the world in general are only around to facilitate this.
Jerkass Has a Point: For all he's supposed to be nothing more or less than the lesser of two evils, the Beast actually makes a lot of good points when Spider interviews him prior to the presidential election. This ends up slightly raising Spider and the voting public's esteem of him, though not quite enough for him to secure a victory.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Spider can be surprisingly humane on a good day — problem is, he very seldom has one. He does have a soft spot for kids (despite protests to the contrary) and they normally bring out the best in him. At one point he sees a child who has just had her favorite toy pawned and immediately purchases it back for her. He talks about comforting victims of sexual abuse as well as saving children from pedophiles. We also know that he befriends at least one cryogenic Revival, and donates his fee for doing a Public Service Announcement to a Revival hospital.
One of the first things Spider does is blow up his local bar purely out of spite. The scary part is that the window sign reads "Open" when he blows it up! Did Spider just murder some people for no reason?
Spider actually goes beyond the call of duty with this trope, at one point collecting dogs in a sack to tie them to festive Christmas bells as "living mufflers". He also enthusiastically partakes in the cull, which doesn't only involve literal dogkicking but also dog mauling, dog evisceration, dog impaling and dog burning. On top of that, the dogs in question are intelligent and the whole cull was sanctioned by law under the pretext of birth control. It verges on Blood Sport to such a degree that it has to be pathological. Spider is not a dog person.
More seriously, there's Indira Ataturk, one of Spider's old assistants. He took her into a strip club that was triggering orgies in the audience without telling her, leaving her as an unwitting porn star in the aftermath. Spider didn't even remember her name, let alone what happened. Might well be that it didn't even really register that she was there. All he has is a vague recollection of "some student" carrying his stuff. It took him ages to remember who Yelena was, and he's usually stoned off his gourd.
Played straight with the Smiler, who engages in this frequently throughout the comic, and essentially starts his political career by doing this to a kitten.
Killer Rabbit: Spider's mutant cat is just as much of an unexpected badass as him, killing and maiming a larger dog and later a fox for sport.
Knight in Sour Armor: Spider. He's incredibly idealistic... but hides it between random bowel disruptor blasts and drugs.
LEGO Genetics: "Temping", temporarily adding traits from other species for recreation or fashion. As there is no real utility in becoming a komodo dragon, the full-conversion technique was nothing more than a curiosity until a colony of Grey Aliens(!) started offering their genome to body modification devotees.
Eventually Deconstructed in that the conversions are mostly sought out by disturbed individuals who are prime for recruitment into cults.
Fred Christ: You know where most transients start? In the psychiatrist's office. High incidence of dissociative identity disorder. High incidence of self-mutilation. Suicide attempts. Alienation. I mean, fuck, look at us. We're fucking walking alienation. For every transient who wants to explore a new genome, I can give you ten who thought all their problems would be solved by getting another body. Compared to 95% of transients, I'm a god. And you know, when the change gets hold, it gets into your visual cortex, and your sex center. You might see skinny grey things, but in my perception, I'm fucking Marilyn Monroe nine times a day.
Limited Wardrobe: Except for brief costumes, Spider either goes nude or wears the same outfit consisting of a black jacket over a bare chest, black pants and big stompin' boots. It's eventually revealed that he re-wears the exact same set of clothes without washing them until they're fit to be burned, then gets a near set. It's a telling character moment when Spider complains of feeling cold and starts wearing a shirt. His rustic attire in the end also visually indicates his retirement.
Lipstick Lesbian: One of the representatives for reservations, essentially living areas of history re-enacted by willing volunteers who are mind-wiped and believe themselves to be in that time period. Spider punches himself in the groin when she tells him (after he's just asked her out).
Matter Replicator: The "Makers" installed in any decent kitchen can make nearly anything you like (they have lockouts on some things). Either they'll have a "base block" to draw matter from or you have to fill them with trash.
Meaningful Echo: Both presidents, paraphrasing Richard Nixon's alleged words, say "If the president does it, it's not a crime." Only one of them then adds, "That's a joke, by the way."
Milholland Relationship Moment: Yelena ends up ghost-writing one of Spider's columns for him after he is knocked unconscious and unable to write it. Given Spider's jerkass nature, Yelena seems to prepare for the worst when she tells him... Spider kisses her forehead and tells her "thank you", in what is probably one of his most humanizing moments in the comic.
Nanomachines: "Makers", matter-rearranging engines that can produce almost anything from trash. There's even a whole community of people who download their entire consciousness into a colony of floating nanobots.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Bob Heller. Complete with one of the attendees at his rally being physically identical to Adolf Hitler (except with a larger mustache, as if it weren't obvious already), just in case the reader wasn't paying attention to his rhetoric. Then later, just to make sure, Spider invokes Hitler's name in describing Heller.
Necessary Evil: Of all Spider's epithets, the only one which gets The Beast's goat is being told that he "doesn't believe in anything." Sneeringly, he responds that he's no nihilist; he's simply accepted that the President doesn't have the power to change anything — only maintain the status quo with brutal efficiency. Contrast with a wacko like Callahan, whom The Beast warns is out to refashion the state in his image because he "doesn't believe in shit."
Never Live It Down: In-universe example. The porn movie about Spider references him getting turned down on a live feed.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Congrats Spider. You managed to get The Beast out of office. Problem is that his replacement is a million times worse to the point that he can't even hold an animal for a few minutes without killing it.
No Name Given: Spider's editor at Driven Books, to whom he owes two books as of the beginning of the story. Spider only refers to the editor as "the Whorehopper," and he's the only character who interacts with the editor in the comic.
No Party Given: Two political parties exist, but they're referred to by whether they're in office or not. (The Beast's party is referred to — by Spider — as the Party In Government.) It's still implied to be a Liberal vs. Conservative sort. Notably, despite the general adherence to the "Opposition party"/"Party in office" descriptors, Callahan is identified in his first appearance as "D-Cal." Of the two Opposition party candidates shown, Callahan's campaign shows traits of the modern Democratic party (such as hiring Vita as a showpiece for women's representation despite giving Schact more power), while Heller's campaign shows some aspects of the modern Republican party (with an exaggeration of the party's neoliberal economic ideals). Further obscuring the issue, Callahan and Heller's party is red on the election map, while the Beast's party is blue.note prior to the 2000 election in the US, red was generally associated with liberal organizations, whereas blue was typically linked to conservative parties; the Bush vs. Gore coverage in the news media solidified the Red State/Blue State affiliations that we are familiar with today. Although bear in mind Ellis is British, where it's still blue for conservative and red for liberal, and the Smiler is reminiscent of Tony Blair, PM of the allegedly left-leaning New Labour party
No Transhumanism Allowed: Thoroughly averted. They're not up to singularity levels yet, but that's mostly because it's most assuredly a Crapsack World. The Farsight Community is currently experimenting with transhuman technologies to see what's safe.
Yelena - as the series progress their similiarities become more and more visible. Royce and Channon even discuss if she's becoming more like Spider, or just more true to herself.
Yelena's father at first seems to be antithesis of Spider, being respected, mild-mannered former political adviser, but at the end of the day he's just as much motivated to do the right thing as Jerusalem.
Even Smiler gets this - compare some things Spider says with his famous speech about why he wants to be the president and you'll see they both are just tired of how stupid and easy to manipulate the masses are. The difference is that Spider tries to make the world a better place, while Smiler just wants to abuse the power and screw people over for fun.
Spider claims to have killed 16 people. All in self-defense "except one." Ellis confirmed that Spider feels responsible for Vita's death.
The Prague incident, in which Spider drove six politicians to suicide using only a telephone. Almost no information is given other than this.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Spider, multiple times. He intentionally plays up various portrayals of him (drug-addled loon, trigger-happy gunman, holed-up pet writer) to distract people from what he's actually up to. He even does it on occasion to Yelena and Channon.
Out-of-Clothes Experience: For much of the run, Spider wears as little as possible: usually a jacket (no shirt) and pants, often just his shorts, but frequent bouts of semi-public nudity are implied. Played for laughs. Mostly. It's eventually clear this was played straight all along when he comes down with a degenerative illness, and Spider begins wearing a full shirt at almost all times. He still seeks the Truth, but he's hiding plenty now, too, and his bouts of insanity have gone from revelatory to crippling.
Path of Inspiration: Several religions are depicted like this, most notably Fred Christ's church (founded so he could gain political power by whoring women out).
Pedophile Priest: Spider beats one up for info on a politician, which inspires a Pædo Hunt since pedophilia is one of the few remaining sexual taboos (despite the presence of the X-rated children's show "The Sex Puppets").
Pet the Dog: Spider has a soft spot for what politicians have dubbed "The New Scum" - the marginalized outcasts that the rest of society abuses for the hell of it; hookers, drug addicts, homeless, fetishists, etc. Most obviously, he's a Friend to All Children - particularly victimized ones.
Little Girl: I've lost my mommy.
Spider: Sssh. Nothing to worry about. No need to cry.
Little Girl: Will you help me?
Spider: 'Course I will, sweetheart. Why else d'you think I've stayed here all these years?
And then Spider goes on to buy the girl's beloved stuffed toy back from the pawnshop for her.
Police Brutality: The cops in The City are repulsive thugs. In the first arc, after Spider writes a column detailing their thuggery and role in inciting a riot, they catch him in the street and beat him up. One Splash Panel shows their shift change. It involves cleaning the blood off of their riot shields. Riot shields with "SUBMIT NOW" written on them.
Pretty Little Headshots: Graphically averted on many occasions. Headshots in this series are messy in general, but a special, brutal, rather horrible mention goes to Vita Severn's assassination.
Properly Paranoid: One of Spider's sayings is that "A paranoid is simply someone in possession of all the facts".
Protection from Editors: Used as a plot point in-universe. Royce, the editor at the newspaper Spider writes for, doesn't actually edit Spider's writing, nor does anyone want him to. He does occasionally suggest topics, but mostly he runs interference, gets Spider on-track (where's my fucking column?), pays for all the damage Spider causes, and protects Spider, finally getting a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for it in the run-up to the finale.
Psycho for Hire: Agent Franklin Cauley. He may carry out his "special assignments" for the money, but anyone who guns down dozens of innocent bystanders as a distraction is going to be lacking in moral scruples.
Punch Clock Villain: The secret service in general doesn't really like either president, but it's still going to do its job. At least until the ending, where even they can't be bothered to keep supporting the Smiler.
Putting on the Reich: Many of Heller's rallies are like this, if only to appeal to the neo-Nazi/redneck demographic. Lampshaded by Vita.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Bill Rose, the man who runs the orphanage most of the child prostitutes come from in "Business". Spider thinks he's responsible for their actions... only to learn Rose, while not at fault for it, is perfectly aware of what they're doing, but has no ability to stop them, as hard as he - and the government, several religious organizations, and charities try. He tries to protect them and gives one of the most intelligent speeches in the series.
In the issue "Straight To Hell", one of the rioters bears a distinct likeness to Wolverine, complete with gripping some sort of weapon that sports three jagged claws.
Comedian and Actor Brian Posehn of Just Shoot Me! and Mr. Show appears at the bottom of one page. His name appears in a lot of background signage and graffiti.
A lookalike of Lola from Run, Lola, Run is shown... well, running through a crowd scene.
The same issue seems to sport a young Tom Waits in a crowd.
"Spider's Thrash" features someone looking suspiciously like Tyler Durden walking through a crowd, with a billboard behind him saying "use soap." The demolition company shown later in the same issue bears the name of Durden Demolitions.
Edward and Tubbs of The League of Gentlemen fame feature prominently in a couple of panels...just before Edward catches a bullet in the forehead.
A newscaster near the end is named Tim Leherner. Tim "Telstarman" Leherner is a real person who got Ellis's attention due to owning 130+ versions of the song "Telstar" (though he looks nothing like the comic character).
A billboard in "Here To Go" features a couple of faces who look an awful lot like Leela and Bender. Notably, the two share the setting of a future New York and depict it in a similarly parodic, exaggerated way, although Transmetropolitan came first.
Oscar Rossini has a significant but not total resemblance to acknowledged fan Patrick Stewart.
The gun Spider pulls on the phone and later Royce in the first issue isHan Solo's blaster.
In issue 8, "Another Cold Morning", in the medley of scenes Mary beholds of the city, there is a woman with a chopper, and the exhaust on the chopper reads "Zed." In Pulp Fiction, Zed, who is central to Butch Coolidge's story, has a chopper.
There's a sign for 'Aronofsky' on the side of a building in one issue. Director Darren Aronofsky is another famous fan.
The ever-changing slogan on Yelena's shirt occasionally reads Gloom Cookie.
In the scene in the chapter "Two Fisted-Editor" where Spider is sitting in a wetsuit with a bowl of frogs to throw at the TV, one of the frogs is on the floor next to his feet, wearing a tiny top hat.
Two Pixies' songs, "Gouge Away" and "Wave of Mutilation," are directly referenced, the former as the title of one of the comic's collected volumes, the latter as an appropriated quote in one of Spider's columns.
Tank Girl can be spotted on the sidewalk in one panel, helpfully wearing a t-shirt reading "Tank Girl."
Qi threatens her laptop, which replies, "I'm sorry, Qi, but I'm afraid I can't let you do that," quoting HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It also quotes George Washington by proclaiming, "I cannot tell a lie," before making a confession.
Smoking Is Cool: The heroic characters all chain smoke (even the cat!) and strike their most photogenic poses with cigarettes in hand or mouth. Spider explains that health problems caused by smoking can be eliminated simply by inserting the proper trait into your genome.
The Smiler. He grows his own vice president to make sure his record's clean while appeasing a rabid right-wing group that has Nazis in it; he assassinates his campaign manager to earn polling points for sympathy; and he arranges for the death of his wife and children when they start coming out against him. He even admits to Spider that he wants to be president just so he can fuck with the American people — but only when he knows Spider won't be able to obtain a record of the conversation. However, he's mentally unstable and Spider takes one potshot after another at him, gradually wearing him down.
Fred Christ as well.
Snowball Fight: In the side-story "Next Winters", Spider reminisces about the winters of his youth while snowball fighting with the filthy assistants. Near the end of the story, he produces the Frost Biter 7-K, a rapid-fire automatic snowball gun. The filthy assistants retaliate with a cannon.
The Social Darwinist: Bob Heller, whose Rousing Speech says anything short of American in-breeding would cause America to fall. The Beast also has more than a bit of this, but it's more a cynical, angry, apathetic uncaring sort of Darwinism - let the dumb get wasted and drunk and leave the rest of them alone.
Statuesque Stunner: Channon. She stands about a head taller than almost every other character in the series (even her boyfriend), and she is almost unique in that she is depicted as being very attractive by modern standards, whereas most other people are shown as either plain or ugly.
Strawman Political: Averted; there are only the "Ruling" and "Opposition" parties, and they aren't identified so much by policies as by their tendencies to play dirty and screw with the American populace.
Stripperiffic: Channon's election night party dress. It has a triangular hole cut out over her left nipple. Appropriate enough as she IS actually an ex-stripper.
Subverted Kids Show: Two of 'em in the setting. "Anthrax Cat" is Tom and Jerry as a torture Gorn show, and "The Sex Puppets" is Sesame Street puppets and people doing hardcore pornography.
"Kids, would you like the Anthrax Cat cornholing kit? Call this number now!"
Take That: As might be expected for an Author Tract based on Hunter S. Thompson and making frequent references to A Modest Proposal, every issue has this to some extent about topics ranging from shallow mass media, to political corruption, to religion as a means to oppress and abuse people rather than comfort them. The biggest, most ongoing Take That, though, is probably for the audience itself.
Spider: You people don't know what the truth is! It's there, just under their bullshit, but you never look! That's what I hate most about this fucking city — lies are news and the truth is obsolete!
Spider: Just a little reminder:
when I talk about the doomed, the scum, the people who no longer give a shit, the people who look away from the pain in the streets, the people who don't care who runs the country...
...when I talk about the filth of the city...
...I'm talking about you.
The first volume contains a rip on Charlie's Angels, with a show about three bisexual survivalist women guided by a disembodied voice on mindless killing and sex, on a channel literally for lonely virgins.
There Is a God!: Said by Spider Jerusalem when a party-goer tosses a grenade necklace into his lap while he is feeling down.
A Hitler look-alike shows up during Bob Heller's rally.
Toilet Humor: Spider is not afraid to share how constipated mental acuity drug Jumpstart makes him, nor how loose his bowels get after he stops taking it. In general, the off-handed and easy discussion of waste elimination (not to mention frequent demonstrations of urination) are to be expected rather quickly. And that's not even beginning to describe the shenanigans with Spider's bowel disruptor.
Trans Human: Everyone on some level (even 'regular' humans usually have gene modifications and some sort of implant), but the Farsight Enclave takes it to extremes, even by the standards of Transmetropolitan.
Tsundere: Yelena, who noticeably helps Spider out routinely despite being adamant that she hates his guts, also subjects him to a hellride of an emotional rollercoaster love affair throughout the series: she has sex with him; denies that she had sex with him (he was too drunk to remember); when she finally admits it, she has to do it in a way that deliberately publicly insults him at his own party; she acts possessively over him when sensing rivals (Vita) but still refuses to admit having feelings for him; and they only end up together when she's one hundred per cent sure (or should we say ninety-nine per cent sure) that he's dying. Even then, nobody else is allowed to know that they're together.
Spider: He's prepared to do anything to get what he wants. Well, newsflash: So am I.
Unreliable Narrator: Slightly, in the bits narrated by Spider's columns. Much like Thompson, he exaggerates the unimportant bits in order to point up the ones that matter...and to be funny. Subverted in that, also like Thompson, many of the more outrageous things he writes are confirmed by other characters' viewpoint to be perfectly true.
The Unseen: Spider's old publisher who gets him to come out of retirement. The writing even goes as far as to never refer to him/her using any gender-specific nouns or pronouns.
Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Spider treats his assistants like garbage, talks about sterilizing the entire city, runs over several people, and uses the Bowel Disruptor on random pedestrians. He's also a man singularly devoted to exposing the truth, no matter what the cost.
Weapons That Suck: A guy tries to sell Channon one. Channon, a true professional, comments that exsanguination is far too time-consuming, and that she wouldn't be caught dead packing a "Goatsucker".
We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: It seems that people with at least a middle-class income can afford to install genetic traits that make them immune to carcinogens and other illnesses. The poor, however, seem to be even more riddled with disease than in the real world.
What Happened to the Mouse?: John Nkrumah is first introduced as Qi's lover/partner in running The Hole when Spider goes rogue after being fired from The Word. After Spider's first column is released on The Hole, he's seen having celebratory sex with Qi- then he's never seen or mentioned again, while Qi gets a drastic makeover and continues assisting Spider alone.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: The location of the City is never explicitly stated, though it's pretty clearly either New York City or its future equivalent. It's apparently on the East Coast, since it's coastal and isn't on the West Coast. It has a version of the Statue of Liberty off its shores with a sword and shield instead of a tablet and lantern.
Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things: In-universe — Spider states that part of the reason he became a hermit on the mountain was his overzealous fans, who at one point attempted to mug him for his gizzard.
Worst News Judgment Ever: Enforced by the government under the Smiler, and if it's not the government, it's the private news media being as offensive as possible, though The Word, Robert McX, and a few other news channels try their damndest to bypass government censorship.
Spider's laptop is called a "typewriter" in early issues and has round keys like a typewriter. Later issues simply call it a computer and show square keys. It's also bulkier than most modern laptops.
Ellis started writing the series just as the Internet started becoming mainstream. The City has "feeds" instead of the Internet, which ultimately comes across as a more limited and crude version of the Internet.
The focus on paper books and newspapers does not anticipate the digital media and mobile devices that are already replacing them.