There’s very little that can be said about Transmetropolitan, the political cyberpunk comic from the late 90s starring heavily inked outlaw journalist Spider Jerusalem, that hasn’t already been said — and probably said better. The series, written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Darick Robertson, counts among its fans Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, author Cory Doctorow and actor Patrick Stewart. It ended its run ten years ago, but is still gaining new followers, even today.
And now it’s back. “Susan [Auġér, Darick Robertson's "webelf"] came to me with the idea,” says Pirate Press’ Chunk Kelly, the general production manager behind the Transmetropolitan art book, a charity project that brings back characters from the wildly popular series to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a group that protects the First Amendment rights of comics and its community, and the HERO Initiative, an organisation that helps comic book veterans through financial aid.
“If I remember correctly, a fan that owns a lot of Transmet art wanted to put something like this together for charity and brought it up with Susan. They sorted it all out and came to me for the printing because that’s what we do here at Pirates Press. “
The series’ original creators will be returning in a smaller capacity, with Ellis writing a foreword and Robertson illustrating some new pieces, including the cover. But the majority of the book will feature all new material from a vast array of creators. “Again this is all Susan,” admits Chunk. “I didn’t choose the artists, I just suggested a few friends I know liked Transmet.”
And what a list of friends. We’re looking at a who’s who of the comic and art world that includes legendary illustrators like Bryan Talbot and Gary Erskine, familiar comic names like Jim Calafiore and Ellis’ RED co-creator Cully Hamner, and some more experimental artists like Stephanie Buscema and Molly Crabapple. And they’re all here for a worthy cause.
Every creator on this book has donated their work to this project, and Ellis, Robertson and Transmet publisher DC Comics have waived all licensing fees and sales proceeds. So, that means that every single cent raised goes towards the CBLDF and HERO.
“As a team, we chose the optimal package to make the coolest book we can with as low a cost as possible, so the charities get the maximum amount of help — while still having an awesome product for the fans,” says Chunk. “As one of those fans, I really want to make a great product for my collection as well!”
Chunk, like everyone else involved in the book, clearly loves Transmet, and it shows — on his arm — in the form of a tat modeled after one of Spider Jerusalem’s inks. “The first time I met Darick was a few years ago,” recounts Chunk. “ [We] got to talking and, since I’m just as big a tattoo geek as I am a comic geek, I asked him to draw me something to get tattooed and he suggested (and sketched up) Spider’s question mark.
“I got it inked a few weeks later and surprised Darick with it when we flew to San Diego Comic Con with our mutual friend Aaron. I knew I wanted something from Transmet and what better way than to have the creator choose and draw up the piece?”
Chunk remembers the whole experience well, and to him, “that’s what tattoos are all about.” He adds, “They are visual representations of memories or things that had a profound impact on my life.” He also has tats from other comics like Fell, Wolverine and Daredevil with a Hulk piece in the works and “something from Ben Templesmith for the rest of my right arm, which has entirely too much skin showing.”
But that’s then and now’s now. And what’s happening now is that the art book has greatly exceeded its minimum donation amount of US$26,000. In fact, as this interview goes live, there’s less than a day left for you to donate and preorder it. There’s no news on whether it might be reprinted again in the future, so if you haven’t already, you can get a copy right now at its Kickstarter page.
However, if you’re too late to grab the book, you can still donate in some other capacity to the foundations here and here. And if you want to jump into the original Transmetropolitan series, you can pick up the volumes at Amazon.
(Update 18/02/11: It’s been announced that you might still be able to pick up a copy of the book, even if you missed your chance to preorder. Just send your full name to the CBLDF at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Transmet art book” in your subject line for more information when copies become available in late Spring 2011.)
(Photo is © Chunk Kelly. Artwork is © Darick Robertson. Transmetropolitan is ™ & © Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson.)
(Special thanks to Susan Auġér for her help with this interview.)