Alexander Gordon Jahans
The world is filled with violence, death and suffering, Roger Moore has died and a suicide bomber decided to blow up an Ariana Grande concert in fucking Manchester. It feels stupid to care about anything small at the moment, to take pleasure in good food, good weather or good fiction at the moment. For the past two years especially I have felt like I’m not allowed to have a good time, that I must be frantically panicking on the edge or the universe will contrive some fresh reason for me to be.
Yet life continues. It has to. I know it maybe isn’t the best form to bring up and then so quickly dismiss such weighty and emotional topics but I didn’t feel like I could just leave such topics unsaid and I did not want to rush out an article when so much is still unknown and I haven’t had time to process recent events myself. Also the subject I’m going to talk about would make not mentioning a major act of terrorism in my own country seem odd.
So about a week ago I listened to School of Movies review Transmetropolitan. A comic series. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have bothered because I don’t read comics and School of Movies can be a bit preachy. And having read 500 pages on the subject of how psychologists mostly don’t know dick about things has made the prospect of their usually interesting psychoanalysis of popular media seem distinctly problematic. I mean don’t get me wrong I may be an anti-theist but I can enjoy a good astrology reading or tarot session. That said their otherwise interesting discussion of Scott Pilgrim Versus The World did have me squirming the moment a Jungian breakdown of the film/comic took place because this wasn’t just interesting nonsense anymore, my brain was associating it with the guff that got autistic kids and their families mistreated for decades.
(If Alex or Sharon Shaw ends up reading this somehow. No offence is meant. We all bring our own biases into media and that will affect how we interpret it. I don’t say this to slag anyone off but to provide context for my review by outlining the baggage I went in with. I still otherwise love the podcast and your work.)
That said the weather lately has been amazingly beautiful and my sister has been on me to exercise so I needed a walk and I needed accompaniment to keep my brain from dissecting all the reasons I suck and how I should really die in fire then get sent to the lowest circle of hell. So I listened to the podcast and, it was amazing. School of Movies is a deep and rich discussion podcast, I may not be so how on their psychological analysis right now but I still love that School of Movies is that kind of show which tries to go that deep into it. They won me over. I tracked down digital copies of the comic issues and I have been reading them instead of politics. I just finished the series and I have things to report.
Firstly it would appear that as I approach 25 I have accumulated enough massive interests that I can pretty much know I will love something just by tropes and subject matter covered. Transmetropolitan is a story about a journalist (check), taking on evil politicians (check) in a cyberpunk/post-scarcity society (check) in which jokes about people being eaten are regularly made (check) and he is aided by a tall, slim, ginger, female, stripper/bodyguard (Checkity-check-check).
Except it is so much more than that. This has epic story telling, multiple ongoing character arcs and a sense of place and cultural context that is distinctly American while having the best kind of British comedic sensibilities with wit, sarcasm and politeness judo.
I love this series. I love this comic and I think a lot of this love has to go to Darick Robertson. The writing is obviously the thing I will gush most about because I arrogantly consider myself one and am most interesting in writing but without Darick Robertson I am certain I could despise Transmetropolitan. The reason I don’t do comics normally is because of the uncanny valley affect where something looks normal but not quite so it creeps the ever loving fuck out of you. Darick’s art is not uncanny and his consistency of art style is no doubt what let me pay attention to the writing of Warren Ellis. Not that Darick’s art isn’t also beautiful and graphically appropriate and grotesque when it needs to be either. It’s just that for me the art style makes or breaks my enjoyment of a comic. The writer can have an off day and I can push through it. I forced my way through the audiobook of a Song O Ice And Fire for Zarquon’s sake. But an artist? They have to be at least good every issue or one bad page can send me right off the comic.
Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson have not just written a damned fine comic series and one I will be recommending to everyone I know but they have done something I had not throught possible. They have shown me that I can love comics. That it isn’t all Marvel and DC with fucked continuities. The story of Transmetropolitan is contained, well told, well shown and fucking glorious. I feel like I did after I read Lungbarrow, the book that solidified my love for Doctor Who. This wasn’t me losing my comic book virginity but this was the first comic book good enough to have me actually wanting more.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go have breakfast and read through the TV tropes of Transmetropolitan.