Yelena: It's like working with a four-year-old boy with a massive caffeine high and a permanent and yet very small erection. And you know what the worst thing about it is? He's the good guy.
Spider: Filthy assistants! To me!
Transmetropolitan is a 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.
- 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 in series 2.
- 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-Star Cast: Tales of Human Waste is illustrated by a few dozen of the greatest artists working in comics today.
- Anti-Hero: Type III or Type IV
- Arachnid Appearance and Attire: Spider.
- 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.
- 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 rend him unable to work. One Filthy Assistant recounts the time Spider thought he was in a birdhouse in Switzerland for a week.
- 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: 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!
- Bald of Awesome
- Oscar Rossini.
- 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.
- The Frost Biter 7-K. Who wouldn't want a big snowball 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, who now widely hated and is spending vast amounts of money to stay out of prison (and may or may not run out), but he's caught an incurable disease that will kill him in a year.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: While the original aliens don't show up, people who have modified their DNA to resemble them do, and once the change is advanced enough, they lose the ability to digest human food.
- 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: Who doesn't want to have a bowel disruptor?
- Butt Monkey: Spider receives the same amount of crap that he dishes out.
- But You Screw One Goat!: On an entire 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.
- 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.
- Catch Phrase
- 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/Chekhov's Gunman
- Mary and her camera.
- Source Gas.
- The Hole.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Spider could give seminars on the subject.
- 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.
- City of Adventure: The City.
- 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.
- He and the Filthy Assistants also bust out some pretty impressive strings of swearing when things go wrong.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Spider Jerusalem resembles 19th-century abolitionist and suffragist William Lloyd Garrison, who also happened to be a bald outspoken journalist with glasses.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 even get into an adventure. The perfect catharsis before the climactic arc of series 3.
- Issue 51 centres on Royce being a badass. It is aptly titled "Two-Fisted Editor".
- Da Editor: Mitch Royce, City Editor of The Word. Comes out the other side of parodic exaggeration to arrive at complete awesome.
- Destination Defenestration: "I'll have my assistant defenestrate you. And you wouldn't want anything happening to your fenestrates, would you?"
- Dirty Cop: The CPD are pretty much a secret police staffed by psychos.
- 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, right down to the female student crying over the corpse of her classmate.
- Spider overturning tables and chasing the religious leaders out of the shopping mall brings to mind a certain famous event in the Bible, particularly given the outfit Spider's wearing at the time.
- A blue dress stained with Presidential semen.
- Bob Heller's racist rhetoric and possible spoiling role in the election are more than a bit akin to George Wallace. See also "A Nazi By Any Other Name" below.
- The President's speech (which is summarised for us by Spider) about his kids' dog is Nixon's Checkers speech Turned Up to Eleven.
- Spider's encounter with The Beast in a toilet is very similar to Hunter Thompson's encounter with Richard Nixon in Where the Buffalo Roam.
- Doesn't Like Guns: Spider, for the majority of the comic. Bowel disruptors and snowball throwers are apparently fine; actual guns are not. He does use a gun late in the series, much to everyone's surprise, after a lot of death threats and a few assassins. It turns out in the end to be misdirection; the Big Bad is so worried about him having a gun that he only searches him for weapons, and Spider uses something else against him, something that he didn't bother to look for.
- It's not so much that he hates guns, he owns quite an impressive arsenal, he just prefers to humiliate people rather than kill them. For a couple issues in volume 3 he carries something that looks like a chrome desert eagle and Channon usually has a push-pistol and a sharpened expandable baton at minimum.
- 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.
- 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, where Spider drove six politicians to suicide using only a telephone. Done off-panel, sadly.
- The last thing we see in the comic is Spider, quite likely on the verge of going insane from I-pollen poisoning, putting a gun under his chin. It's a lighter. "ONE PERCENT!"
- 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 Bastards Have Standards: Spider goes through a lot of work to get an interview with the Smiler's wife, up to and including using an experimental teleporter... He uses a lot of the interview to cause a lot of trouble but leaves out the part where Mrs. Callahan explains that she knows that the Smiler is unfaithful, and moreover that he knows she knows and just doesn't care. Spider eventually releases the clip, but only after the Smiler has murdered her.
Spider: She seemed so sad.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Beast. He claims that even his kids call him that.
- Eviler Than Thou: the Beast and the Smiler. The Beast is evil, but only because he is too lazy, venal and cynical to make the slightest effort to be good. The Smiler seems to actually be 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.
- 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.
- This is Mitchell Royce. This [dead link] 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. Only he smokes pens, it seems.
- 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...
- 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[...]
- Fashionable Asymmetry: Spider's glasses.
- Friend to All Children: See Pet the Dog, below
- Although Spider seems to see-saw on this a bit- he quite often expresses deepest loathing of children and delights in tormenting them.
- 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.
- 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. 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. If we can even call him 'good'.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Spider, the filthies and Royce all smoke. It's practically invoked by Spider, who forces his assitants to smoke in the first place.
- Gorn: The series is regularly brutally, bloodily violent, but the assassination of Vita Severn is particularly gruesome.
- 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.
- Hit So Hard the Calendar Felt It: And then they never bothered to make a new calendar, so 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.
- Hot Amazon: Channon.
- 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 Guardian robots Spider talks about in "I Hate it Here".
- Hurting Hero: The person Spider has become, the things he does, they are all because he cares about the people of the City, cares so much that seeing them being stamped on by their elected rulers and then just going on with life makes him rage and weep.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Filthy Assistants (and to a lesser degree Royce, although he's Spider's boss) in regards to anything non-journalism related, who lampshade it repeatedly.
- I Have Your Wife: During the Freeze Me With Your Kiss arc, Spider's wife is kidnapped by the Zero Tactility Foundation.
- I'm a Humanitarian: Cloned human meat is ubiquitous. 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). Robertson usually draws him as rather toned, with a face on the good side of average except for slightly crooked teeth. Only in a few panels does he develop a slight potbelly, mostly to reflect feeling old. Granted, the shape of his face may not matter much, what with all of the wild expressions he usually has...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Spider actually goes beyond the call of duty with this trope, at one point collecting dogs in a sack to tie them to festive Christmas bells as "living mufflers". He also enthusiastically partakes in the cull, which doesn't only involve literal dogkicking but also dog mauling, dog evisceration, dog impaling and dog burning. On top of that, the dogs in question are intelligent and the whole cull was sanctioned by law under the pretext of birth control. It verges on Blood Sport to such a degree that it has to be pathological. Spider is not a dog person.
- More seriously, there's Indira Ataturk, one of Spider's old assistants. He took her into a strip club that was triggering orgies in the audience without telling her, leaving her as an unwitting porn star in the aftermath. Spider didn't even remember her name, let alone what happened. Might well be that it didn't even really register that she was there. All he has is a vague recollection of "some student" carrying his stuff. It took him ages to remember who Yelena was, and he's usually stoned off his gourd.
- Played straight with the Smiler, who engages in this frequently throughout the comic, and essentially starts his political career by doing this literally. Well, to a kitten.
- Killer Rabbit - Spider's mutant cat is just as much of an unexpected badass as him, killing and maiming a larger dog and later a fox for sport.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Spider. He's incredibly idealistic... but hides it between random bowel disruptor blasts and drugs.
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.
- Kubrick Stare: Spider is fond of these.
- Lego Genetics: "Temping", temporarily adding traits from other species for recreation or fashion.
- Limited Wardrobe: Except on special occasions Spider always wears the same black suit. Justified in that it's a standard design out of the Matter Replicator, and further lampshaded in a scene where one of the filthy assistants reveals that Spider only owns one set of clothes at a time, which he wears continually until it's too disgustingly unclean even for him, at which point he dials up a new one and has the old one burnt.
- Lipstick Lesbian: One of the representatives for reservations, basically living areas of history. 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...
- Major Misdemeanor: 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.
- 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.
- My Dear Idiot: "Filthy Assistants."
- Myth Arc: Spider's battle against The Smiler.
- Nanomachines: "Makers", matter-creating engines that can be powered by 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, 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.
- Never Live It Down: In-universe example. The porn movie about Spider references him getting turned down on a live feed.
- Night Hawks: An homage in issue #32.
- Nixon Mask: Worn by "anticlowns".
- No New Fashions in the Future: Thoroughly averted, as any look over the art will indicate.
- 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, mind you—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 said 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.
- 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.
- Our Presidents Are Different: The Beast is President Corrupt, The Smiler is President Evil.
- 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 Paedo 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 children.
Little Girl: I've lost my mommy.
- 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".
- 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.
- Refuge in Audacity: Oh, boy. It starts out taking refuge in audacity; and very quickly progresses to building a holiday home there.
- 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.
- Satellite Character: Robert McX. That guy with a scar. Tells people just how awesome Spider is and what did he write 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.
- Second Hand Storytelling: Used early on to give readers a good idea of how batshit insane Spider is.
- Shaggy Dog Story: The "talking bulldog police officer" B-plot in the storyline with Spider's frozen ex-wife, appropriately enough.
- Show Some Tits
- Channon averts this the first time we see this (her nipples have been "temped" to have barcodes instead), but then goes straight with a "peek" late in series two and a full-on flash in Series 4.
- Yelena in bed in series 2.
- Expository Hairstyle Change - Vita Severn, the Smiler's campaign manager, explaining why she let her hair down from a pair of buns: "That haircut was all cultural buttonpushing (...) Made me look tough and smart, but also the underdog, fighting an evil empire as best I can..."
- Also, Spider himself - when he first comes down off the mountain, he's a mass of insane hair reminiscent of Alan Moore. After he steps in a
shower"Voice-Keyed Physical Cleaning Unit" all that is left is a full-body Bald of Awesome - and then he puts on some very Cool Shades and you get Grant Morrison!
- Also, Spider himself - when he first comes down off the mountain, he's a mass of insane hair reminiscent of Alan Moore. After he steps in a
- The smiley gaining a set of clock hands near the end.
- Also a reference to the fact that Spider's time is running out from I-Pollen at the time. His mind's going to hell.
- A minor one, but noticeable - there's a sign for "the Church of Ennis" at the religious convention in the sixth issue. With a tag under it saying "Custer".
- Another subtle one: the cigarettes Spider smokes are called "Carcinoma Angels"—which is the title of a story by Norman Spinrad, originally published in Harlan Ellison's 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions.
- In the issue "Straight To Hell", one of the rioters bears a distinct likeness to Wolverine, complete with gripping some sort of weapon that sports three jagged claws.
- Comedian and Actor Brian Posehn of Just Shoot Me and Mr. Show appears at the bottom of one page. His name appears in a lot of background signage and graffiti.
- A lookalike of Lola from Run Lola Run is shown... well, running through a crowd scene.
- "Spider's Thrash" features someone looking suspiciously like Tyler Durden walking through a crowd, with a billboard behind him saying "use soap." The demolition company shown later in the same issue bears the name of Durden Demolitions.
- Edward and Tubbs of The League of Gentlemen fame feature prominently in a couple of panels...just before Edward catches a bullet in the forehead.
- A newscaster near the end is named Tim Leherner. Tim "Telstarman" Leherner is a real person who got Ellis's attention due to owning 130+ versions of the song "Telstar" (though he looks nothing like the comic character).
- A billboard in Here To Go features a couple of faces who look an awful lot like Leela and Bender. Notably, the two share the setting of a future New York and depict it in a similarly parodic, exaggerated way, although Transmetropolitan came first.
- Another Groening reference: the Dice Bar has Duff Beer on tap.
- Oscar Rossini has a significant but not total resemblance to acknowledged fan Patrick Stewart.
- One of Spider's panels in Issue 30 (when Detective Newton has a gun to his head) is an exact copy of Rorschach's final "DO IT!!!" in Watchmen.
- The gun Spider pulls on the phone and later Royce in the first issue is Han Solo's blaster.
- In issue 8, "Another Cold Morning", in the medley of scenes Mary beholds of the city, there is a woman with a chopper, and the exhaust on the chopper reads "Zed." In Pulp Fiction, Zed, who is central to Butch Coolidge's story, has a chopper.
- Spider takes a ride in a Bickle Cab.
- There's a sign for 'Aronofsky' on the side of a building in one issue. Director Darren Aronofsky is another famous fan.
- The ever-changing slogan on Yelena's shirt occasionally reads Gloomcookie.
- Issue 6's first page references an "intrinsic electric field".
- In the scene in the chapter "Two Fisted-Editor" where Spider is sitting in a wetsuit with a bowl of frogs to throw at the TV, one of the frogs is on the floor next to his feet, wearing a tiny top hat.
- Expository Hairstyle Change - Vita Severn, the Smiler's campaign manager, explaining why she let her hair down from a pair of buns: "That haircut was all cultural buttonpushing (...) Made me look tough and smart, but also the underdog, fighting an evil empire as best I can..."
- Shrine to the Fallen: Quite a few pop up for Vita Severn after her demise.
- The Singularity: Not quite there yet, but damned close—they have free energy due to solar plants on Mercury, nanotech assemblers, casual genetic engineering (up to and including a pill you can take that makes it so you genetically no longer need to do anything but breathe to be fed), cybernetics (Spider gets a built-in cellphone later in the series), mind uploading (into immortal nanotech cloud bodies, natch), mental time travel, mind modifications, teleportation, intelligence augmenting drugs, human cloning, and the repair of ancient cryogenically frozen minds. But people are still people, and most of the futuretech is used for truly depraved entertainment—a popular fast food is nanotech assembled human flesh, for example, and a popular vacation for the middle class is to temporarily turn yourself into a Half-Human Hybrid (such as going swimming with the dolphins... as a human/dolphin hybrid).
- The existence of a reservation for "potential civilizations", which appears to have even more advanced technology than even the city has suggests either there are deliberate attempts to regulate/slow the singularity or the world is too crapsack to support an outright singularity outside of ideal conditions.
- It has been suggested on a few Singularity sites that the singularity did happen in Transmetropolitan, but anyone affected directly by it are busy elsewhere. The geeks are gone, the rest of humanity—well, life goes on.
- Spider invokes the Kardashev scale to point out that the world is far from Singularity level.
- Slasher Smile: Spider and The Smiler.
- Slouch of Villainy: Spider is really really good at this, even if he isn't technically a villain.
- Smoking Is Cool: And it actually is in Transmetropolitan, as the 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; he assassinates his campaign manager to earn polling points; 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. The Beast also has more than a bit of this.
- The Sociopath: The Smiler.
- Statuesque Stunner: Channon.
- Stepford Smiler: The Smiler again, naturally.
- 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. Makes sense since both of them are based on Nixon.
- The Smiler is visually more of a Reagan than a Nixon, if the campaign posters closely resembling Ronald Reagan's smiling face are any indication. However, the veneer that separates The Beast from Thatcher and The Smiler from Blair is very thin indeed. It helps that Ellis is British originally. But there are certainly elements of various elected leaders throughout history to both candidates.
- 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 off of Spider.
- 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 pretty 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, pretty much 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!
- Technology Marches On: Spider's shades hold 2 gigs of memory and can take pictures and interface wirelessly. 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.
- 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".
- Token Good Teammate: Vita for the Smiler's team.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Midget. Nazi. Gigolos.
- A Hitler devotee shows up during Bob Heller's rally.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The chapter "Business", dealing with child prositutes.
- 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 of course 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. And even then, nobody else are 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.
- 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.
- The Voice: The Whorehopper.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Spider almost never wears a shirt under his jacket.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: While disease catches up with society, but smoking has lost most of its stigma, as people can "install" genetic traits in themselves that make them immune to carcinogens.
- 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?: In the culling mentioned above under Kick the Dog, Spider lets us know that intelligent dogs have no rights.
- 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."
- Writer on Board: As with most of Ellis' work. Even in-universe with Spider.
- 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.
- presumably along with other cloned meats given that Spider once eats a bucket of caribou eyes
- like the time he crashed a religious gathering dressed in a white robe, false beard, and halo-onna-stick