Spider Jerusalem is a fictional character and the protagonist of the comic book Transmetropolitan, created by writer Warren Ellis and artist Darick Robertson, introduced under the now-defunct Helix imprint of DC Comics before being moved to the Vertigo imprint.
He is a sarcastic, drug-addicted, foul-mouthed, troubled, bitter, but deeply brilliant gonzo journalist with a deep-seated hatred of authority, political corruption and dogs. Almost always drawn wearing a set of stereoscopic sunglasses with one lens red and the other green, and is most often compared to the real-life figure Hunter S. Thompson.
Spider is a renegade gonzo journalist forced to return to The City after having exhausted a substantial advance from a publisher without completing the books required by contract. After five years of effective retirement as a long-haired hermit in a compound in the mountains, he returns to The City to complete the books, takes up work for an urban newspaper to support his writing, and finds himself battling political corruption at the highest level.
One of Spider’s most apparent character traits is his heavy drug use, which he makes no attempt to conceal. In addition to being a chain smoker and heavy drinker, Spider uses an extensive and bewildering variety of drugs ranging from mild stimulants, intellect enhancers, and mood-altering drugs to cocaine, heroin and rare, exotic, futuristic drugs. As is common in his society, Spider is resistant or immune to many forms of drug addiction, as well as lung cancer. Spider is well known for his foul language, especially when combining the word “fuck” with other words to make new and amusing insults. Spider is easily angered, his displays of temper ranging from mild verbal outbursts to violent physical assault. However, despite his temper and contempt for the City as a whole, Spider is often seen to treat innocents (particularly children) with kindness and care.
Spider’s past is not well known, however characters like Mitchell Royce and Spider himself have referred to past memorable incidents such as the enfant terrible (a French child assassin from the Anglo/Franco war) and the Prague telephone incident (in which Spider caused six politicians to commit suicide using just a phone). There are also hints at his childhood and early ambitions—”I wanted to be a sniper when I grew up. Didn’t everyone?”—and his parents’ growing madness. He claims to have worked as a prostitute at some point in the past, and as a stripper at 8 years old. He grew up on the City’s docks with drunken parents as an only child. His father drove a city bus and his mother was a housewife who cooked lizards for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. He returned to the docks as an adult to see that everyone was gone and the docks were abandoned and vowed to never forget his childhood there.
Spider is a firm believer in the truth and delivering it to his readers in the most direct and blunt manner possible; he often capitalizes it as “The Truth” in his writing for emphasis. This is most notable in one story, when Spider’s editor recounts the tale of how Spider submitted an article on the election of the Richard Nixon-analogue “The Beast“, which consisted of the word “fuck” repeated eight thousand times (see Transmetropolitan #1). His approach to journalism has been encapsulated by Spider as “The truth…no matter what,” and his appraisal of others rises if they feel the same way.
The primary focus of conflict within Spider’s psyche, over the course of the series, is a combination of concern for his delivery of ‘The Truth’ and misanthropy towards his public. Spider hates and struggles against authority figures who oppress others, but he is also bitter toward the uninvolved public who give the authority its power. Likewise, he struggles to convince the public to listen to The Truth, but is disgusted by those who blindly accept what he reports. In addition, Spider’s talents earn him unwanted fame and adoration, which clouds his ability to “get at The Truth”, often resulting in him experiencing writers block and depression. His editor, Mitchell Royce, opines that Spider needs to be hated in order to function as a writer and journalist.
Despite his absolute disdain for those around him, Spider is quite loyal to those few who he considers friends and is equally quick to hurt those who would betray him. Indeed, much of Spider’s motivation in the second half of the series was dedicated to bringing the President to justice for ordering the murder of Vita Severn, whom Spider had befriended.
Although he opposed The Beast, Spider is not loyal to any political party or organization, and his initial support of The Smiler was tinged with contempt at his cynical attitude and false altruism. He is also an avowed, often virulent atheist who opposes all organized religion, which he sees as little more than unworthy authority figures that exploit their members. It is therefore interestingly ironic when, in an early issue of the series, Spider travels to a religious convention and begins upending tables and destroying booths while wearing an improvised robe, a reference to Jesus throwing the money changers out of the Temple.
Influences[edit source | editbeta]
Hunter S. Thompson is perhaps the most obvious inspiration for the character of Spider Jerusalem, and the fictional reporter’s fondness for weaponry and spectacular consumption of drugs both indicate a resemblance toward the American gonzo journalist. (In Transmetropolitan #13, page 5, a book by Thompson is clearly visible amongst the objects strewn across the table in Spider’s apartment. A book entitled “FEAR AND LOATHING” is also visible in Issue #1, Page 1, Panel 3, in the lower left-hand corner of the panel.)
Visually, Spider Jerusalem is based on Darick Robertson’s friend Andre Ricciardi.
Hunter Stockton Thompson (July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005) was an American journalist and author. Born in Louisville, Kentucky to a middle class family, Thompson had a turbulent youth after the death of his father left the family in poverty. He was unable to formally finish high school as he was incarcerated for 60 days after abetting a robbery. He subsequently joined the United States Air Force before moving into journalism. He traveled frequently, including stints in Puerto Rico and Brazil, before settling in Aspen, Colorado in the early 1960s.
Thompson became internationally known with the publication of Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967), for which he had spent a year living and riding with the Angels, experiencing their lives and hearing their stories first hand. Previously a relatively conventional journalist, with the publication in 1970 of “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved” he became a counter cultural figure, with his own brand of New Journalism he termed “Gonzo“, an experimental style of journalism where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories. The work he remains best known for is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972), a rumination on the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement. It was first serialized in Rolling Stone, a magazine with which Thompson would be long associated, and was released as a filmstarring Johnny Depp and directed by Terry Gilliam in 1998.
Politically minded, Thompson ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, in 1970, on the Freak Power ticket. He was well known for his inveterate hatred of Richard Nixon, whom he claimed represented “that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character” and whom he characterized in what many[who?] consider to be his greatest contribution to American literature, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Thompson’s output notably declined from the mid-1970s, as he struggled with the consequences of fame, and he complained that he could no longer merely report on events as he was too easily recognized. He was also known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs; his love of firearms, and his iconoclastic contempt forauthoritarianism, and remarked that, “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
While suffering a bout of health problems, Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67. As per his wishes, his ashes were fired out of a cannon in a ceremony funded by his friend, Johnny Depp, and attended by a host of friends including then Senator John Kerry and Jack Nicholson. Hari Kunzru wrote that, “the true voice of Thompson is revealed to be that of American moralist … one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him.”