Comic Book: Transmetropolitan
Spider Jerusalem (center) with Filthy Assistants Channon Yarrow (left) and Yelena Rossini (right)
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 Punk Graphic 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. Thompson IN 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.
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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.
- Adjective Noun Fred: The in-universe Animesque Edutainment Show Magical Truthsaying Bastard Spidey. One adjective too many, but the intent is clear.
- Affectionate Parody: It's Hunter S. Thompson in the 25th century.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: We rarely see someone talk with a machine that isn't on some sort of electronic drugs.
- All There in the Manual: Spider's "PODI" tattoo on his shoulder blade is, according to the artist, a corporate logo. Spider got it as a youth and then exposed the fact that corporations were paying to tattoo kids with their logos.
- 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.
- Art Shift:
- 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.
- Ascended Extra: One of the three unnamed strippers who watch Spider write his first column returns a short while later as his first assistant, Channon, becoming one of the main characters of the series.
- Asleep for Days:
- 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.
- Author Avatar: 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.
- Author Appeal: Spider's tattoos are mostly tribal because the artist just likes tribal tattoos.
- Awesome Mc Cool Name: Spider Jerusalem. He states in a later issue that he was originally going to be named Samson Jerusalem, but he was a spidery baby.
- Awful Truth:
- The chapter "Business" ultimately boils down to this:
- Badass: Spider and especially Channon.
- Badass Boast
Spider: I'm here to stay! Shoot me and I'll spit your goddamn bullets back in your face! I'm Spider Jerusalem and fuck all of you! HA!
- Badass Mustache: Robert McX's (yes, really) is quite magnificent.
- Bald of Awesome
- 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.
- Bedmate Reveal
- Spider and Yelena.
- Later subverted. Channon wakes up next to Spider and freaks out. It turns out they didn't sleep together, Spider just snuck in to mess with her head.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: On a society level. We know the future is seriously depraved when we see ads for intelligent dog prostitutes. It's still apparently a taboo, as exemplified by Bill Chimpfucker.
- 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.
- Big Applesauce: The City is rather transparently a future NYC, although it is hinted to have grown to cover most of New York State.
- Big Bad: President Callahan.
- Bittersweet Ending: Spider exposes the Smiler/forces him from the office of the Presidency and might just be in the 1% who successfully beats his terminal illness. But the Smiler's wealth and army of supporters are trying (and succeeding) to keep him out of prison, but Royce notes that his wealth will run out someday.
- 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.
- Blatant Lies: Spider uses them once to make a point:
Spider: [Has just beaten half the crap out of Fred Christ] Stand up.
Fred: Will you hit me if I stand up?
Spider: No. No more hitting.
Fred stands up. Spider knocks the REST of the crap out of him, and then some.
Spider: It's not nice when people lie to you, is it? Is it?
- Bodyguard Crush: A couple of in-universe shows based very loosely on Spider's life (including a porno) mistakenly assumed that he and Channon were lovers.
- Brain Uploading: The Foglets upload their minds into clouds of free-floating Nanomachines.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick
- Double on the Squick:
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: Spider carries a bowel disruptor most of the time, which shoots a beam that causes the target to crap his pants with variable intensity.
- The Bus Came Back: Channon returns to Spider after leaving him to become a Bride of (Fred) Christ.
- Butt Monkey: Spider receives the same amount of crap that he dishes out.
- 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."
- The Future Is Shocking
- The Future Will Be Better: Spider, despite a violently cynical misanthrope, genuinely believes this. He just wishes that it would happen FASTER.
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.
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: Channon literally fucks off to a nunnery after she's had enough of being Spider's assistant, joining the Brides of (Fred) Christ, who are essentially his groupie cultists. She leaves mainly because the sex was shit and Fred is really an ass.
- Guile Hero: Spider.
- 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.
- Groin Attack: Practically Spider's Catch Phrase.
- "Have a Nice Day" Smile: With three eyes (it's a Transient symbol when we first see it), ending every issue.
- Heroic BSOD: Spider has one during his research of television when the news starts reporting on him, thus making him television.
- 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 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.
- The mob-owned "Godti" brand of makers is a reference to notorious mob boss John Gotti.
- Blood-soaked riot police are seen in the Richard P. Daley precinct building. This is a reference to Richard J. Daley, a Chicago mayor who advised violent police action against rioters in the aftermath of the Martin Luther King assassination.
- The Dahmer's restaurant, where they apparently serve cloned human meat, is a reference to cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.
- 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".
- Homage: The whole series is a tribute to gonzo journalism and the late Hunter S. Thompson.
- Hostile Weather: Ruinstorms. Thunderstorms on crystal meth apparently capable of tossing cars around and flooding a city under tidal waves.
- Humble Goal: In spite of getting into a feud with the President himself, all Spider really wants is to return to seclusion in his little mountain shack.
- 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.
Zero Tactility Leader "We have your wife."
- 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. 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.
- Insult of Endearment: "Filthy Assistants."
- 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.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: When Spider gets serious you have two options: either you give him the truth, or he'll fuckin' take it from you!
Spider: Now, we can sit like adults. Or you can gasp out what I need to know between apocalyptic episodes of diarrheal attack. Either way, I get what I want.
Spider: LISTEN TO THE CHAIR-LEG OF TRUTH! IT DOES NOT LIE!
- Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Spider regularly gets away with violent and property crimes, but has to go on the run from the police when his insurance policy is revoked. Justified — it was his Journalist's Insurance. Raising hell in the name of a scoop is fine — if you're covered.
- 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.
- Jerkass: Fred Christ. Spider on a bad day.
- Karmic Death: Fred Christ's luck finally runs out as he tries to, one last time, commandeer the transient movement and set himself up as a hero. It turns out that standing up to corrupt police doesn't work when there are no cameras. He gets shot ignominiously.
- Kick the Dog
- One of the first things Spider does is blow up his local bar purely out of spite. This establishes Spider as an Anti-Hero.
- We learn early on that Spider used one of his assistants to get a story, which turned her into an unwitting porn star. Not only does he show no remorse, he has only a vague recollection of her existing. This further establishes Spider as a flawed individual.
- We first learn that the Smiler is more than just an ambitious cipher of a politician when he refers to the American people as "the new scum." However, he gets considerably worse from there.
- 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.
- Kubrick Stare: Spider is fond of these.
- 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).
- Luke, You Are My Father: Subverted. A French revenge weapon with no head claims it's Spider's son.
Royce: All right, let me say now that with your history of drug abuse, it was conceivable that you could produce a child with no head...
- Mainlining the Monster: A character injects molecularly replicated Hitler pee.
- Married To A God: Fred Christ's "Brides of Christ".
- 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.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: The Smiler. He can't even mimic Nixon's Checkers speech without killing the pet in question.
- Myth Arc: Spider's battle against The Smiler.
- 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.
- Nighthawks Shot: A panel in issue #32 is a homage to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. The diner Spider's sitting in is even named "Hopper's".
- Nixon Mask: Worn by "anticlowns".
- No Celebrities Were Harmed
- Spider Jerusalem is strongly based on Hunter S. Thompson.
- Tarleton Sweeney, the politician Spider runs down in "Monstering", is pretty clearly modeled on Bill Clinton.
- The Smiler is somewhat based on Tony Blair, with elements of Richard Nixon... and The Joker. And, jarringly, physically resembles Bobby Kennedy.
- The Beast also has elements of Nixon, right down to his peace pose (albeit now middle fingers to an America that hates him).
- No New Fashions in the Future: Thoroughly averted, as any look over the art will indicate.
- 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
- No Shirt, Long Jacket: Spider, when he isn't a Walking Shirtless Scene.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Spider's account of a Heller rally ends with one of these.
- 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.
- Not So Different: Spider gets this with many people
- 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.
- Noodle Incident
- 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.
- Our Presidents Are Different: The Beast is President Corrupt, The Smiler is President Evil.
- Our Showers Are Different: It takes less than a second for a "Voice-Keyed Physical Cleaning Unit" to turn Spider Jerusalem from hairy mountainman into a full-body Bald of Awesome. Given that he Screams Like a Little Girl while it emits a blinding flash of light, it apparently does so with lasers. It also appears to have been permanent, as he is never again shown with a single strand of hair. Not as crazy as it sounds - Laser hair removal was developed in The Nineties.
- 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).
- Parody Religion: everything that's not Path of Inspiration is this.
- 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.
- Phlegmings: Stomponato, the psychotic talking police dog, drools constantly. Likely to be a symptom of rabies.
- 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.
- President Evil: The Smiler could be the alternative Trope Namer.
- 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.
- 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.
- This Is a Work of Fiction: In-Universe, porn based on Spider disclaims any resemblance to persons "living, dead, or writing a weekly column for a newspaper".
- Those Wacky Nazis:
- Midget. Nazi. Gigolos.
- A Hitler look-alike shows up during Bob Heller's rally.
- Title Drop: The first time the title is mentioned in comic is during the clip from "Magical Truthsaying Bastard Spidey!"
I work for a great transmetropolitan newspaper! Mild-mannered reporter! Sixteen convictions for unusual and horrible assault!
- 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.
- Token Good Teammate: Vita for the Smiler's team.
- 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.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The chapter "Business", dealing with child prostitutes and the vicious cycle that perpetuates them.
- 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.
- The Unfettered: The Smiler. Spider claims to be this and can straddle the line at times, but the fact that Even Bastards Have Standards puts a dampener on that.
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.
- Unusual Euphemism: READ MY SCRIPTURE!!!
- Used Future: Some parts of the city.
- Villainous Breakdown: Callahan succumbs to one as Spider really starts kicking his ass.
- Villain with Good Publicity: The Smiler.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Spider and pretty much anyone he calls a friend - Yelena, Channon, Royce, Tico, etc. Averted with Oscar Rossini and Vita Severn.
- The Voice: The Whorehopper.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Spider almost never wears a shirt under his jacket.
- 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.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Spider mentions a government-sanctioned culling of intelligent dogs that he participated in. However, we also see in one issue that intelligent dogs serve as police officers.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- A source calls Spider out on losing interest in her once he got the information he needed for his story out of her, in effect treating her like a prostitute.
- Indira accuses Spider of ruining her life when she was his assistant just to get a story. And when asked about her, Spider doesn't even remember her name and denies that she was his assistant.
- 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.
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: "So we've got a deadline. We can do deadlines."
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit:
- The Smiler's favorite tactic is killing someone close to him to get him sympathy, then using the increased support to further his brutal agenda.
- Spider turns out to be faking the progression of his brain disease so that people will take care of him and not pressure him into coming back down his mountain to write.
- Writer on Board: As with most of Ellis' work. Even in-universe with Spider.
- You Can Keep Her: Spider's initial reaction to hearing his ex-wife has been kidnapped, wrapped in Spider's usual creative invective.
- Zeerust: The series was written in the late 90s and early 2000s, which is betrayed by some of its take on future technology.
- Spider's shades hold 2 gigs of memory and can take pictures and interface wirelessly, which was pretty futuristic when written. There are now sunglasses cameras that hold 8 gigs of memory, take pictures ''and'' film video with HD audio. Complete with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
- 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. Spider fails to mention it by that name, but he does tend to access something on dozens of Holographic Terminals simultaneously. Also, the City has "feedsites", which are essentially Twitter accounts run by various news outlets.
- The focus on paper books and newspapers does not anticipate the digital media and mobile devices that are already replacing them.
- 0% Approval Rating
- The Beast is so unpopular that the Secret Service has started charging him for protection.
- Near the end the Smiler's support has fallen lower than that of an earlier president who was caught fisting kittens in public.