Wednesday, May 27, 2015

31 Days of Comics: Day 27 – The Comic You've Read The Most Times

ROB'S NOTE: May has become the go-to month of the Comic’s Industry (even though National Superhero Day is late April, but whatever… Congress… pshaw).  It is when Marvel drops their big movie of the year.  May also sees the annual Free Comic Book Day celebration take place on the first Saturday of the Month, so I hope you all got to check that out.  May also has 31 days of the month so what better way to celebrate the wonderful world of sequential art with the 31 Days of Comics?

Seth Hahne, who runs the blog GoodOkBad, has put together the 31 Days of Comics challenge.  A daily challenge in which you are given a category and you have to fill it with a comic that you think fits it the best.  You’re all on the internet, I shouldn’t have to explain it to you.  For the rest of the month I will be taking this challenge.  It is my hope it encourages others to make and share their own lists either in the comments here or on their own websites.  The sharing not only might turn comic fans on to works they have yet to sample but maybe catch the eye of a few non-comic fans and highlight the diversity of the form. 

Our prompt for Day 27 “The Comic You’ve Read The Most Times”


Written by Warren Ellis
Pencils by Darick Robertson
Inks by Rodney Ramos
Colors by Nathan Eyring

I’m not going to lie, this is a pure guess.

Legitimately this entry could have gone to a number of different books.  I think I own several editions of Cassanova (single issues, trade, ICON reprints) and I’ve read each of those a number of times.  I’ve re-read Invisibles at least once a year since I got those trades, mostly to see if I actually understand it still.  In the future I think Young Avengers will probably be in the running.  In the end I know that if Transmetropolitan wasn’t exactly number one on the list, it is right up there.

Transmetropolitan is probably Warren Ellis at his most Warren Ellisy.  It’s equal parts speculation about the future, biting social commentary, and optimism hidden behind the cynical outlook of the protagonist.   Set in the 23rd century our story begins with Spider, holed up in the mountains away from civilization getting badgered by his publisher because he still owes two books on his deal.  Spider ends up returning to “the City”, which is basically what happens if our obsession with technology, social media, and consumerism continues to grow at its current rate.  Although there are several “mini-stories” throughout the run the main story centers on Spider’s coverage of the Presidential race between the incumbent, known as The Beast, and his challenger Gary Calhoun, AKA “The Smiler.”

Transmetropolitan is science fiction in the best use of the term.  It gives us a futuristic setting with wonderful technology and uses it to speak about modern society through that lens.  Ellis uses Spider to examine consumerism, body modification, apathy, politics, social media, alienation through technology, homogenization of culture, and the power of the media.  Although Spider is based on a number of journalists (and Ellis himself) he has most often been compared to “gonzo-journalist” Hunter S. Thompson in his approach and lifestyle.  Spider has no problem not being objective (he is a columnist after all) nor inserting himself into the stories he is writing.  Some of the better, overlooked issues, eschew dialogue and only have an article of Spider serving as our narration. 

Anybody who knows me will understand why I continually come back to this comic.  First of all, I am a sucker for the “power of journalism” storyline that runs throughout the series, no matter how unrealistic or rare it is in the real world. The Newsroom, Sports Night, Murphy Brown, and All the President’s Men have shaped this hope that although it isn’t the norm, there are good reporters out there who will deliver the truth for the good of our society and hold people accountable.  Spider is that idealized journalist that I really do hope that all journalists aspire to be.

In the end though it is the interplay of cynicism and optimism that really drives me back to Transmetropolitan.  Too often I believe that people view cynics as pessimists who can turn a witty phrase.  However I think Spider is an accurate portrayal of what a cynic really is; an optimist whose expectations for the world and the people around him are so high that he is constantly disappointed.  Spider has a genuine love for the world around him and not just the “beautiful things.”  He goes to the impoverished areas and basically wonders in a world where so much is possible, why do people have to live like this?  It’s a trademark of Ellis’ (you see it a lot with Jenny Sparks in his Stormwatch and Authority runs) for his protagonists to constantly remind people that this could be a much better world than it is. 

And it has one of the best, if not the best, final panels in all of comics.  Of course, to appreciate it you have to read the whole thing. Which I will continue to do, over and over again.

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