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"Filthy assistants! To me!"

"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."
Yelena Rossini

Transmetropolitan is a Cyberpunk 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.

This comic series contains examples of:

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  • 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.
  • A-Cup Angst: Yelena 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 and Yelena prove to be extremely handy with guns, especially after the Smiler ramps up attacks on Spider - splattering several Secret Service goons sent to tail them as they go about gathering evidence.
  • Adjective Noun Fred: The in-universe Animesque Edutainment Show Magical Truthsaying Bastard Spidey. One adjective too many, but the intent is clear.
  • An Aesop:
    • The entire run was a big, long, spiel about two things: First, the importance of standing up for the truth and speaking out for what you believe in, regardless of the personal consequences. Second, the evils of complacency and blindly accepting authority. Making the character who most embodied these principles a self-proclaimed bastard further emphasizes the already subtle-as-a-sledgehammer point.
      Spider Jerusalem: I'm sorry, is that too harsh for you? Does that sound too much like the Truth? Fuck you. If anyone in this shithole city gave two tugs of a dead dog's cock about the Truth, this wouldn't be happening.
    • #40, "Business", is a stark look at child prostitution and the failings of underfunded social services. Despite the comic's post-cyberpunk setting, the story rings far too true. But the conclusion/anvil that the story comes to:
      Why are your kids selling themselves on the streets? Because you completely fucked up the job of raising them.
  • Affectionate Parody: It's Hunter S. Thompson in the 25th century.
  • A.I. Getting High: Just about everyone in Transmetropolitan is on drugs, and the computers are no exception. In fact, Spider Jerusalem's trademark Cool Shades were created by a fabricator AI that was stoned out of its mind on machine drugs at the time.
  • 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.
  • Angel Face, Demon Face: How attractive characters are drawn often reflects how sympathetic their actions are at the time. Spider is a great example. In some of his worst moments he can look positively monstrous, but when writing about the plight of the revivals, or comforting children he looks much more handsome.
  • 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 left bare by his coat also look vaguely like an hourglass, though this could be coincidental.
  • Arc Words: "Trust the fuckhead."
  • Artificial Cannibalism: The popular fast-food chain Long Pig specializes in cloned human meat.
  • Art Shift:
    • The chapter "Nobody Loves Me" features three 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 Django Heraclitus Jerusalem, but he was a spidery baby and his mother was a bit crazy.
  • Awful Truth:
    • The chapter "Business" ultimately boils down to this:
      Bill Rose: Why are your kids selling themselves on the streets? Because you fucked up the job of raising them. That's what no one wants to hear. That we can't blame anything outside our houses.
    • Spider believes it to be this when he discovers he has "become television" by way of participating in the senseless commercialized outrage culture (namely, by harassing television personalities as they're live on air) - and becoming one of the constantly angry and moralistic television personalities he hates as a result. His assistant is unimpressed by his drama and tells him to just eat his Caribou eyes.
  • Badass Boast: Shortly after being beaten to near-death by corrupt cops...
    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!
  • 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.
  • BFG
    • The Frost Biter 7-K. Who wouldn't want a big snowball gatling cannon... thing?
    • One of the guns Yelena considers buying 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.
  • Bio Data: Data pollen. Literally, pollen from plants that's encoded with newsfeeds, advertising and other information. Breathed in, it releases the information to the nervous system. It's linked to degeneration of the synapses in the brain and goes in and out of legality several times over the series.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Spider exposes the Smiler, forces him from the office of the Presidency and is apparently 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, though 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 and Circuses: It's implied that this is one reason why The City is such a Crapsack World, and also why the Beast is President; the abundance of luxuries and entertainment provided by future tech make it easier than ever to ignore the less fortunate. The Beast tells Spider straight out that he feels his job isn't to fix all the problems in society but simply to make sure the average citizen has a few creature comforts to get them through the day.
  • 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." He makes good on his promise at the end of the series, published five years later.
  • 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. Settings include Loose, Watery, Fiery, Burning Anal Geyser, Rectal Volcano, Prolapse, Unspeakable Gut Horror, Shat Into Unconsciousness, and Fatal Intestinal Maelstrom. The highest settings require hospitalization and could possibly be fatal.
  • 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.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday:
    • Spider routinely causes collateral damage and even destroys lives in revealing his truths. In one specific case, he brought a film student along for an investigation into a club using libido enhancers to incite orgies that are then filmed and sold. Spider protected himself but didn't even warn the student, resulting in her participation that destroyed her reputation and family - leading to a years/decades-long plot to get hired at Spider's newspaper, work her way up, and try to murder him via assassins. He doesn't remember her name, and only that she volunteered to carry his stuff into the place, and has absolutely no idea she's behind half of the assassination attempts on him during that arc.
    • Likewise, Spider doesn't seem to have any recollection of having dog-cop Stompanato neutered and is completely oblivious to the latter's search for vengeance, not even noticing the dog's final (and closest) attempt.

  • Call-Back: The crater from the bar he shot with a rocket launcher is still there when Spider returns to the mountain.
  • 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.
  • Catchphrase
    • 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.
  • Cats Are Mean:
    • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
  • 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. Although this could be because Spider managed to silence him by finishing the contract. He mentioned in year two that he would produce two more books: a compilation of his Word columns and one about the election. He wanted to return to the Mountain afterwards but then the Smiler got elected, forcing Spider to focus on getting him out of office.
  • Cloning Body Parts: Human body part cloning is so commonplace that a fast food chain called "Long Pig" serves it, and you can even grow your own vice presidential candidate.
  • Cluster F-Bomb
    • 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.
    • Spider and the Filthy Assistants also bust out some pretty impressive strings of swearing when things go wrong.
    • In volume 2 some assassins come to Spider's apartment to kill him and he goes berserk on them.
      Spider: [firing wildly] FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! Fuckers! Fuckers! Die fuck-pigs die fucking bastards. Fucking dead you hear me you cock-suckers. Fuck you! FUCK YOU!
  • Comfort Food: Invoked. When Channon breaks down after being dumped and turns almost catatonic, Spider's first impulse is to carry her outside and feed her deep-fried foods and wheat beer. Channon is... less than enthusiastic.
    Woo-hoo, my boyfriend just left me, let's go plug up my fucking arteries.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Spider bears a distinct resemblance to Grant Morrison, who also loves funky-looking glasses and cats. When Spider still rocks the mountain hippie look, he resembles Alan Moore.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The true horror of the infamous chapter "Business" is that it's not just that children are selling themselves on the streets, it's that they're so casual about it. On meeting a fourteen year old hooker, she greets Spider with an idle offer "Thirty for French and sex" and when he questions her price, appalled that she has so little self-esteem that she's selling herself practically for pocket change, she mistakenly thinks he's trying to barter and offers a price of twenty-five instead. All throughout the chapter, the kids Spider interviews casually recount stories of the horrible things they've been through like they're describing the latest episode of their favourite TV show, including eleven-year old Matt casually describing how his back "looks like a railroad track" after his last stepdad mutilated him in front of his uncaring mother for swearing, as well as how he was raped by a fifteen-year old shortly after he was taken into care back when he was nine. And he thinks it's funny.
    Bill Rose: These kids don't feel anything. They've learned not to feel anything. And because they don't feel anything they can pretend to be adults and cope with the pain that game brings. They can be fucked half to death in the back of a family car and call it affection. Or business.
  • Contractual Obligation Project: invokedAn in-universe version; Spider is forced to come down from the mountain to complete his two-book contract. He ends up declaring that one book will be an Omnibus rerelease of his columns.
  • 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.
  • Crapsack World: Interestingly played with if you pay attention: the City is a hellhole, and Spider goes on several tirades about how modern civilization is fucked six ways from Sunday, but on the rare occasions we get a glimpse of life outside the City, it actually looks pretty pleasant, especially in the final issue epilogue. The argument could be made that the City is its own "world", and in face is nearly treated as such by the narrative.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • 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.
  • Da Editor: Mitch Royce, City Editor of The Word. Comes out the other side of parodic exaggeration to arrive at complete awesome.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Royce makes this challenge to the board of directors of The Word when the Oval Office puts pressure on them to have Spider sacked. Sadly, they're too much of a bunch of pussies.
    Royce: Don't be weak! Be tough enough to enjoy the notoriety and the money and the power and the best writer in the country.
  • A Day in the Limelight
    • 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".
  • Dead Animal Warning: Parodied. Spider owns a "maker" produced by a Mafia-owned company and if he tries to throw it away (its AI is a drug addict) severed horse heads appear in his bed.
  • 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?
    • 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 Jesus chasing the moneylenders out of the temple, particularly given the outfit Spider's wearing at the time.
    • A blue dress stained with Presidential semen is an obvious nod to the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Driven to Suicide
    • Alan Schacht, the Smiler's advisor, commits suicide on being exposed as a pedophile.
    • More humorously, Spider's reaction to "From the Mountain to the City" is to turn his bowel disruptor onto a lethal setting and put it in his mouth. His apartment turns on a porn channel to distract him.
    • The Prague telephone incident before the series began, where Spider drove six politicians to suicide using only a telephone. In issue #5 the incident is referenced when a TV chef he called threatens to jump off a skyscraper, but the police apparently talked her down.
    • The last thing we see in the comic is Spider, quite likely on the verge of dying 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.
  • Due to the Dead: After Vita Severn is murdered, a group of devotees set up a shrine to her in a back alley in the City. Over time, it gradually evolves into a full-on place of worship. Spider pays multiple visits to it throughout the story.
  • 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.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Spider is noticeably terrified after leaving Heller's press conference, ending with a "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer.
    • 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.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Beast. He claims that even his kids call him that.
  • Everything Is 3D-Printed in the Future: 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.
  • Evil All Along: The plot is kickstarted when Spider helps out the Smiler, only to then learn that the Smiler is far worse than the Beast ever was.
  • Eviler than Thou: the Beast and the Smiler. The Beast is evil, but only because of 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. Powdered Irish children.) 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...
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Channon's long blonde hair is cropped short and dyed black when she decides to join a nunnery after losing her boyfriend.
  • Eye Scream
    • 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[...]
    Channon: Thorry.
  • 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, Spider 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.
  • Forced Creativity: Spider Jerusalem is dragged out of retirement with a reminder that he still owes two books on his publishing contract. He plans to compile one anthology and write the second book about the upcoming presidential election, but this motive loses importance as he comes to take an interest in the political upheaval.
  • 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. It's actually a very clever way to avoid having the calendar catch up to the comic; without a frame of reference, Transmetropolitan can always take place in The Future.
  • 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: For people from the Present Day. The Revivals, cryogenically preserved individuals from the late 20th/early 21st century, are rendered catatonic and traumatized when forced into The City with no buffer or psychological care.
  • 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.
  • Geometric Magic: late in the story's second act, Spider tells the tale of an entire city block spontaneously incinerated except for a single empty room containing an old man's journal full of mathematical equations and diagrams. A university took ten years to figure out what it was for — a machine that was "just three ideas in motion around each other." It was supposed to make a new City, one kinder and happier than the old. A flaw in the math caused a firestorm instead. The rebuilt city block's suicide rate is so high it skews the entire City's suicide rate higher than anywhere else in the world. Except Calcutta...
  • 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 nobler.
  • 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. Then again, Spider does also demands his assistants take anti-smoking traits, too, implying he wants the look but not the side effects.
  • Gorn: The series is regularly brutally, bloodily violent, but the assassination of Vita Severn is particularly gruesome. In-universe depictions of violence appear on this level as well, as noted by the ultra-violent cartoon antics of Anthrax Cat.
  • 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. One of Spider's columns also references nanomachines as being responsible for what happened to the city and people of what is now called Lake Baghdad.
  • Groin Attack: Practically Spider's Catchphrase.
  • "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 reference to bomber Timothy McVeigh.
    • Channon phones Spider from a street named Liddy, referencing G. Gorgon Liddy of the Watergate scandal.
    • 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, who had Alzheimer's.
    • 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.
  • Hitchhiker's Leg: Channon, Spider Jerusalem's female bodyguard, goes straight to flashing her boobs to hail a cab in the pouring rain. This being the City, home of every weird fetish imaginable, it takes Yelena joining in, and both stepping into the street, to get the driver to stop.
  • 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".
  • 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.
    Spider: I have considered this information carefully. I have decided that I do not give two tugs of a dead dog's cock about my ex-wife and that you may keep her. Goodbye.
  • 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. Spider also describes a jar of powdered Irish babies as perfect for mixing into a jug of vodka for summer afternoons on the balcony.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Variant, after Stompanado takes a dump on Spider's Maker:
    Maker: I gave up drugs for this...
  • Industrialized Mercury: Mercury is said to be covered by solar panels on its surface to gather large amounts of solar energy needed to power the advanced technology on Earth.
  • 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 a serious spine to deliver the news in this world.
  • It's All About Me: Society (especially in Spider's eyes) 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.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Half-literal - one-half of Spider's glasses is jade-colored, while the other is rose-colored. True to form, Spider swings between hardened, cynical misanthropy and loathing/abuse of everyone around him, and loving, idealistic hope that humanity - a beautiful, loving species in his eyes - can change for the better, no matter how long it takes.
  • 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.
  • 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, but he also 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.

  • Last Disrespects: After Alan Schact commits suicide upon being exposed as a pedophile by Spider Jerusalem, the news reports the discovery of a giant pile of shit on Schact's grave with traces of Spider's DNA in it.
  • 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: What Spider does after the Smiler has his column shut down and the media has turned him into a cartoonish joke, not taken seriously by anyone anymore. It's this near-destruction of his power to change minds that causes Spider to get nasty with Callahan and bend all his energies to bringing him down. This also marks the moment where Spider and the filthy assistants start using real guns instead of bowel disruptors.
  • 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).
  • Little "No": This is all Spider can utter when the first fatal shot is fired that kicks off the massacre of students by government troops at Dick Cavett University.
  • 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...
  • Married to a God: Fred Christ's "Brides of Christ".
  • 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.
  • Mirror Character: Spider gets this with many people
    • Yelena - as the series progresses their similarities 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 the 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: Most notably, the hilarious and cathartic "Monstering" chapter is immediately followed by the horrific "Lonely City" arc, which starts with a gang of violent thugs savagely beating an innocent man to death solely because they used a G-Reader to determine that he had recessive traces of the Sexgang trait in his DNA, and it only gets worse from there.
  • 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.
  • Necessarily 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."
  • New Technology Is Evil: Played with the G-Reader, a ranged DNA-testing device "so new it hasn't been restricted yet", in the "Lonely City" arc. First Spider uses one to expose a Moral Guardian politician's screwing of mentally disabled sex slaves, but then a gang of bigots use a G-Reader on a carrier of a controversial recessive gene and beat him to death while a police car that also has a G-Reader stands by and does nothing. However in the final arc Spider uses a G-Reader again to bring down the Smiler.
  • 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's personality, career and lifestyle is strongly based on Hunter S. Thompson. He's physically based on Grant Morrison.
    • The look of Spider in the first issue makes him look like Alan Moore.
    • 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. Physically he resembles Bobby Kennedy and failed US presidential candidate Gary Hart.
    • The Beast also has elements of Nixon, right down to his peace pose (albeit now middle fingers to an America that hates him).
    • Robert McX has quite a few characteristics of G. Gordon Liddy, being a conservative talking head and sharing a few aspects of his face.
    • Oscar Rossini, Yelena's dad, is Patrick Stewart, who wrote a glowing introduction to the Volume Five trade paperback. Heartwarmingly, though Stewart wrote the introduction fully expecting to appear in the comic as some "fucked-up, mechanics-addicted, feces-smeared background character", Oscar Rossini is essentially Jean-Luc Picard as a foul-mouthed Uncle Pennybags who enjoys baiting corrupt cops.
  • 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. There's a common fan theory that "the Whorehopper" might not actually exist outside of Spider's drug-fueled fantasies.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: The porn movie about Spider references him getting turned down on a live feed.
  • Only a Lighter: Spider Jerusalem develops a fast-progressing neurodegenerative disorder with very little chance of recovering. In the epilogue he has barely any manual dexterity left, his assistants leave him alone for a minute and he whips out what looks like a gun and slowly draws it towards his head... then lights a cigarette with it, revealing that he is recovering after all.
  • Oppressive States of America: The police are pretty corrupt and oppressive to begin with, carrying riot shields with SUBMIT printed on them and stomping of protestors' faces. When the Smiler takes over it gets worse, culminating in the City getting put under martial law.
  • 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 mountain man into a completely bald person. 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 '90s.
  • Our Time Travel Is Different:
    • Entire groups of people willingly mindwipe themselves and join historical recreations of the past to keep it alive. Spider "time travels" in this way, and escapees (usually people who get flashes of nostalgia, or descendants of parents who grow up in clades that aren't friendly to modern morals, like homosexuality or atheism) often flee into the City, looking out of place.
    • Later, Spider and the Filthy Assistants use quantum tech to project themselves into Victorian London, showing up as barely-visible apparitions. This is apparently the reason of ghost sightings back then.
  • Outlandish Device Setting: The settings of the bowel disruptor gun start out as mostly reasonable in context, such as "loose", "watery", or "prolapse", but as the story goes on and stakes get higher, its primary user Spider Jerusalem reveals it can do far worse: "Intestinal Maelstrom", "Unspeakable Gut Horror", "Rectal Volcano", and "Shat into Unconsciousness".
  • 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 (the presence of the X-rated children's show "The Sex Puppets" raises questions on this, but there are also hints that it's really just Sex Education).
  • Pet the Dog: In spite of being a violent and abrasive misanthrope, Spider occasionally shows that he's a good guy underneath.
    • 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.
    • Even as early as the second chapter, Spider Pets The Cat when he finds a scruffy, ugly, three-eyed, two-faced, cat smoking a cigarette on his way home from Angels 8. When she lunges at him and tries to claw his face off, only to collapse in a heap from hunger, he takes her home and feeds her and she becomes his pet for the rest of the series; she stays with him right up to the final chapter.
  • 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.
  • Posthumous Character: Senator Longstreet, the last presidential candidate from the opposition party who ran against The Beast. His name is brought up several times during the election arc and he inspired Vita Severn, Kirsten was his former campaign manager, and was bankrolled by Oscar Rossini. Spider even broke one of his rules and gave him a (relatively) positive write-up, a move he describes as being willing to do practically anything to get The Beast out of office. When The Beast won re-election anyway, it ultimately led to Spider abandoning the city and setting the comic in motion. Longstreet died shortly afterwards; it's implied he might have comitted suicide.
  • 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, 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.

  • Rabid Cop: The CPD has a fair few of 'em. Stomponato would be a literal example.
  • Rapid DNA Test: The G-Reader can scan someone's DNA from a distance, Spider uses one to bring down a hypocritical politician in one chapter, and then another one is used by a hate group to find a victim.
  • 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, the public, and charities try. He tries to protect them (even as they spiral into self-abuse anyway) and gives one of the most intelligent monologues in the series on human nature.
  • Right-Hand Cat:
    • Spider's two-faced, three-eyed cat should be one, but she's more likely to pee on his head.
    • The Smiler expresses a wish for one, just to complete the Bond villain look.
  • Romantic Fusion: Channon's ex undergoes Brain Uploading into a cloud of nanomachines, merging with another cloud just after. When she asks what's going on, she's told he's basically having sex with another uploaded person.
  • Satellite Character: Robert McX. That guy with a scar. Tells people just how awesome Spider is, and what he wrote recently, and isn't afraid of anything.
  • The Scottish Trope: K9 officer Stomponato goes into a seizure whenever someone says Spider's name, after an incident that left him maimed and castrated.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The secret service agents Callahan brought for his final confrontation with Spider.
  • Secondhand Storytelling: Used early on to give readers a good idea of how batshit insane Spider is.
  • Sell What You Love: One issue has a poor mother pawn her child's stuffed toy so they can buy a trait that removes their need to eat. Spider runs into the child while her mother is in the trait shop, and decides to pay off the toy.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The "talking bulldog police officer" B-plot in the storyline with Spider's frozen ex-wife, appropriately enough.
  • Shout-Out: So many we gave the series it's own page.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Quite a few pop up for Vita Severn after her demise.
  • Slasher Smile: Spider and The Smiler.
  • Slouch of Villainy: Spider is really really good at this, even if he isn't technically a villain.
  • Smell Phone: Spider once got asked to test out a TV that uses a small Matter Replicator to add scent. The image shows him standing over the wreckage of it with a machine gun.
  • 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.
  • Smug Snake
    • 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.
  • The Sociopath: The Smiler.
  • 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.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Bottles of "Sin Gin" are occasionally seen in various panels. "Sin gin" is the phonetic pronunciation of the surname "Saint John."
    • Spider's trademark sidearm is a "Bowel Disruptor", making him both literally and figuratively a shit disturber.
  • Stepford Smiler: The Smiler. When he's introduced, a series of panels shows his plastic smile fading as his aides bicker. Then he reasserts his smile as broad as ever when he takes back control of himself.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: The movies and cartoon based on Spider.
  • Sub-Par Supremacist:
    • One man proselytizing for a church of Norse gods is dressed like a Barbarian Hero, but is short, skinny and wears Nerd Glasses.
    • Social Darwinist politician Bob Heller is a bit on the short side (the showgirls introducing his speech are nearly twice his height), with "a really punchable face" in Spider's terms.
  • 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.
  • 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 hell ride 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 percent sure (or should we say ninety-nine percent 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 look much like modern-day, except overgrown and overused - many mutants and hicks live in these parts. There's also the issue of several abandoned giant robots around the city that no one knows how they got there - people think they were made for defense, and then forgotten about.
  • Urban Fantasy: Of a sort: There are references to magic, including a number-based ritual meant to improve the city (and instead set a city block on fire that burned for days), and the reason why no one in the world remembers exactly what year it is.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Callahan succumbs to one as Spider really starts kicking his ass, getting increasingly deranged and mood-swingy.
  • 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.
  • 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, seems to be even more riddled with disease than in the real world.
  • Wham Shot: During the Ruin Storm, the window of the bar suddenly and without warning exploding inwards, throwing Spider backward in a cloud of shattered glass, one piece cutting right across the spider tattoo on his head.
  • 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.
  • Won't Do Your Dirty Work: Near the comic's end, the Smiler orders his Secret Service agents to kill Spider Jerusalem. The agents tell him to get bent. The Smiler decides to kill Spider himself... only for Spider to reveal he has a live microphone.
  • 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.
  • 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. Sunglass cameras hold 32 gigs and record HD video the entire time - to say nothing of head-mounted cameras that pack far more power.
    • 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.
    • The general lack of cell phones and smartphones. Spider's mountain home and first apartment are rotary. The Filthies are occasionally seen with PDA-like devices, but they still aren't phones. There are genetic traits that can cause you to grow a mobile inside your body, but Spider rejects an offer of those (after asking if they have a cell phone and getting a pill bottle thrown at him) in favor of finding a payphone.