Transmetropolitan Art Book Spins Spider Jersusalem’s Angry World
Artists reimagine the wild, dystopian world of Transmetropolitan in a new book that honors the legacy of Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s classic comic book series. The art book, exclusively previewed in Wired.com’s gallery above, expertly distills the comic’s seething cyberpunk world view — for charity.
Anchored in the arch rage and madcap antics of outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan mercilessly mocked media, politics, technology and commodification during a five-year run that ended in 2002. But according to Robertson, the comic’s syringe-sharp satire is needed now more than ever, in a new millennium drowning in cutthroat commerce, propaganda and paranoia.
“The future that Spider inhabits in Transmetropolitan seems more likely every year,” Robertson said in an e-mail chat with Wired.com.
The art book — funded by Kickstarter donations with profits going to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit that provides aid to comics creators — brings together various artists’ interpretations of Transmetropolitan’s characters and locales.
“Transmetropolitan is one of those rare works that functions as a compelling genre story, perceptive science fiction and cutting social satire all at the same time,” said Charles Brownstein, executive director of Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, in an e-mail to Wired.com. “The series uses edgy, and sometimes taboo, topics to address the changes that are happening to our society, and that’s what expressive speech is supposed to do. Transmet does it exceedingly well.”
Brownstein said it’s the kind of art that gets people agitated — and motivated — to produce constructive social changes.
“We need the idea that it’s not only OK, but it’s a moral duty to speak truth to power when power is abusing people,” said Brownstein. “Spider Jerusalem is a protagonist who embodies that idea in a way that, when you close the last page of any given book, you’re angry and want to do something about it.”
That might not be enough at this stage of the geopolitical confidence game, if you ask visionary writer Ellis. He’d be much happier to find Spider Jerusalem clones spawning across planet Earth.
“I’d rather we had more real journalists like Matt Taibbi or Laurie Penny or Jake Adelstein,” he told Wired.com in an e-mail. “Rather than monkeys on content farms, or lizards who lie for coins.”
The charity art book originated after a Transmetropolitan fan approached Robertson with the idea. Robertson contributed new art to sit alongside inspired work by talents like Jim Calafiore, Cliff Chiang, Molly Crabapple and Cully Hamner, while Ellis provided a patently sharp foreword.
Shepherded into being by Robertson and project manager Susan Auger, the Transmetropolitan art book will be published by San Francisco-based Pirates Press. The book was solely funded through Kickstarter and the print run will be limited to a few thousand copies. Most will become property of the project’s online backers once the book ships May 23, but the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the Hero Initiative should have copies available in late spring.
So what about the Transmetropolitan film adaptation, which has been stuck in development hell for years? The comic’s profane and brilliant text and art might still be too hard-core for 21st-century lightweights, and Ellis said fans should forget about it.
“We explored that route a bit in the early ’00s,” he said. “But at this point, I’m quite happy for Transmetropolitan to exist only as the books we created, in the way we intended.”
Robertson, however, still holds the torch for an adaptation — as long as it’s free of the kind of watered-down pap that continually sent Spider Jerusalem into spastic fits of rage and violence in the comic’s pages.
“I would love to see a faithful film or hard-hitting TV series created,” Robertson said. “My first choice was always Tim Roth to play Spider. He’d still be perfect. And I would love to see Darren Aronofsky direct.”
Until then, Transmetropolitan fans are left with the comic series, which turns 15 next year, and the fan-fueled art book, to keep the memory of the fearless, deranged journo alive.
“Spider Jerusalem is needed more than ever,” Brian Pulido, who sits on Hero Initative’s board of directors, told Wired.com in an e-mail interview. “A voice of reason in an unreasonable world is a welcome relief.”