The Shocking Ways Hunter S. Thompson Inspired A Famous Comic Book Character
Reality blends with fiction when we explore the daily routine of the legendary Rolling Stone Magazine contributor and compare his likeness to Spider Jerusalem.
Vegas, October. It was half-past eleven at night when my door swung open and the disembodied ghost of Hunter S Thompson floated into my hotel room. There is not much someone can say or do when something so randomly incoherent happens, but freeze in a dumb stupor.
Did I instantaneously recognized the father of gonzo journalism when he hovered across the living room? No, of course, I did not. It was late, it was dark, he was translucid and greenish, kind of glowing at times when he moved through the smoke of my cigarettes.
So, how can I be sure that this floating specter was the man’s ghost and not some mirage coming from the couple of bottles I’d been emptying around me all night while trying to write this article? Well, for once, because he told me so. Trust me, you wouldn’t doubt the ghost of Hunter S Thompson if it showed in your room in the middle of the night and introduced himself. I know I didn’t. No doubt, the man was who he claimed he used to be and I was petrified.
Because as it turns out, my article was about him.
“What are you writing there, brother?” He said.
My jaw was clenched too tight to answer.
I was about to turn the red Selectric 2 typewriter around the coffee table so he could read at what was written on the page, but he hovered above me and won me to it.
The greenish apparition yanked the page out and sat on the couch across me with a “Let’s see here–you a writer?”
“Is this for a magazine or something?”
I nodded again, but not immediately. He caught me glancing at the distance between me and the door and there was a bit of a pause. He looked at the door, then looked back at me and said, “I wouldn’t.”
“Why?” I said.
“You won’t make it.”
Right. The ghost of Hunter S Thompson just told me to sit put, so I sat put.
“Let’s see what we have here…” he muttered, then went on reading from the page out loud.
“How Hunter S. Thompson Inspired Spider– who? Who the hell is this Spider Jerusalem? Never heard of the guy.”
“He’s not a guy–I mean, he’s not real. He’s a character from a… from a comic book.” The comparison sounded better in my head.
“I’m joking, I know all about him.”
“Hell yeah, man! I love that comic. I would change this title if I was you, though. It doesn’t work. Feels flat.”
I shrugged. Hunter kept reading.
Spider Django Heraclitus Jerusalem in all his glory.
“Many people don’t know it, but back in 1997 when Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson birthed their Transmetropolitan Comic Book series, something incredible happened. For the first time in the history of creation, wether was a conscious effort or not, immortality was achieved. Really? That happened?”
“It could be said so, yes. I mean, not literally, but… you know.”
He shook his head a little.
“Look, it’s just a stupid metaphor. I was going to change it later…”
Hunter gave me an over the glasses look, “Oh. Right. So this is like, the first draft?”
“Yeah yeah, a first draft.”
“Gotcha. You were building up to something then? With the immortality-thing.”
“Sort of, yeah.”
“Not your fault.” He said, “Nobody likes metaphors. When you use one, you force readers to use their imagination and they hate that. Most of us do. We rather something else do the work for us. That’s why we have drugs and television.”
I said nothing.
“Where was I? Oh yeah… First published by Helix, a short-lived DC science fiction imprint that had to change its name from Matrix to Helix because of the then-upcoming The Matrix film by the Wachowskis brothers. See, this is why I hate big corporations, “Not long after, the story was picked up and published by Vertigo Comics. The ultra-violent cyberpunk gonzo-journalist Spider Jerusalem was just about to take over the world by surprise.”
“Strange enough, the star of Transmetropolitan is also known for having many striking similarities with another infamous…" He made a pause, “gonzo-journalist, long time Rolling Stone Magazine contributor, the one and only, Mr. Hunter S. Thompson.
“Something wrong?” I said.
“Not at all,” He said, flicking the paper with his finger, “I just love the “one and only” bit here. Glad to know after this long nobody has come close to reproducing my grandiosity”.
He lit a cigarette, gave it a few drags, then continued reading.
“Looks, while too important to be completely ignored, are not the only resemblance these two appear to have with each other. And though Thompson was as real, Never start a sentence with an ‘and’, that’s basic writing–okay, it doesn’t matter, and though Thompson was as real, and as original and iconic as a person could ever wish to become, thank you very much for that, Spider Jerusalem, though fictional, almost appears to have gone beyond a mere inspiration and now serves as a window into what the future could look like if Hunter S. Thompson around was still around with us. "
“But, to begin to understand both characters and why their likeness continues to be so relevant for the comic book industry and the science fiction community at large, we have to first discuss their most undeniable similarity: the so-called gonzo-journalism.”
What is Gonzo Journalism?
“The short answer to what is gonzo journalism would be a form of first-person journalism, as in first-person shooter video game. Gonzo journalism often includes the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. Hunter S. Thompson is credited to have been the first in using the word “gonzo” to describe the style back in the 70s Yeah, that’s true, I suppose,” He said, “although, I don’t know about this video game stuff. Trust me, journalism is no game.”
“I agree, but, how would you describe it?”
“Nah, yours probably fine. Times change. Gotta appeal to a mainstream audience, right? What else is in here… oh, here we go, So, how exactly Hunter S. Thompson inspired Spider Jerusalem? That’s what I want to know.”
Spider Jerusalem and Hunter S. Thompson are both gonzo-journalists
Spider Jerusalem is a journalist, so was Hunter S. Thompson.
“Upon reading a few pages of “Transmetropolitan”, it is dead obvious funny that you used that adjective, that Warren Ellis’ main inspiration for his comic book character Spider Jerusalem was the drug-abusing rockstar-like gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Now that’s a description for the resume.”
“What’s more: Spider Jerusalem’s “filthy assistants” Hunter chuckled at that one, are said to come from Thompson’s longtime assistants Deborah Fuller (who he shot once), that was an accident, I can prove it, and Anita Bejmuk, who he eventually married, guilty as charged. Who wouldn’t have?”
“But what stands the most is that both, Hunter S. Thompson and Spider Jerusalem, are journalists. Both work under tight deadlines, both are nihilists and both are as extreme as a writer can get.”
“Well?” I said.
“So this comic book character, he writes for a newspaper?”
“I know plenty of people who write for a newspaper. Some have assistants. Most are nihilists. I mean, we nihilists are everywhere these days.”
“And understandably so.”
“Right. So I don’t see how this is going to work. I mean, besides the drugs, you’re clutching at straws. You’re on a deadline or something?”
“No, I’m the editor actually; it’s my magazine.”
The spectrum laughed, “An independent medium, uh? Glad to see some are still at it.”
“Because of his job as a journalist, Spider gets tangled in a conspiracy as he tries to stop people from electing Gary Callahan, ‘The Smiler’, a populist who is secretly in bed with a fascist group. Spider ends up being threatened with lawsuits, beat up, trivialized as a liar and spreader of fake news. But, just as Hunter S. Thompson would have, he keeps on writing and, eventually, finds a way to go around censorship and reveal the truth about the then elected president and his inner circle of corruption.”
“So?” I said.
The greenish apparition shrugged. “You’ve got a point there.”
Spider Jerusalem likes to party hard. So did Hunter S Thompson.
“The story of Transmetropolitan centers on Spider Jerusalem and his return from retirement after failing to deliver an entire book contract to his publisher. Jerusalem sees no other choice but to make a comeback to ‘The City’, a futuristic megapolis that spills lust and corruption everywhere he goes.”
“After having used every penny of the advancement his publisher sent him for the books, Spider will find work as a journalist for an urban newspaper to support his writing. That’s when we start seeing the parallelisms to Hunter S. Thompson and his alleged lifestyle; sex, drugs, alcohol, weapons misuse and a particular thirst for violence. The City brings out the worst of Spider. Too bad its all made up,” Hunter said.
“Sounds like a place I wouldn’t mind to visit.”
Even though Transmetropolitan, ran from 1997 to 2002, its themes are as relevant now as they were back then.
Spider Jerusalem Quotes are something Hunter S. Thompson could have said.
“Just like in any of Hunter’s articles, the Transmetropolitan stories are filled with memorable quotes that give life to not just the narrator, but to the world, he attempts to survive."
“All right,” He said, “let’s see what we have here.”
_–“You people don’t know what the truth is! It’s there, just under their bull**** , but you never look! That’s what I hate most about this f****** city–LIES ARE NEWS AND TRUTH IS OBSOLETE!"_
“What’s your opinion on that?” I said.
“Trust me, man,” The ghost laughed, “you don’t want to know what I think about people who read and watch the news. Let’s just say I agree with the statement. What else is in here… oh, here’s a good one:”
–“Journalism is just a gun. It’s only got one bullet in it, but if you aim it right, that’s all you need. Aim it right, and you can blow a kneecap off the world."
“Poetry. Sheer poetry.” Hunter said. I agreed.
–“I want something that’ll give me the stamina of a young werewolf, the vision of a shaman, the thoughts of a serial killer and the gentleness of a hungry vampire bat."
The ghost smiled at mee. “Totally something I would say, I like this one.”
–“It was like washing down a bucket of peyote with a vatful of absinthe."
We both laughed at that one.
Hunter S. Thompson Daily Routine is something Spider Jerusalem would do
“If biographer E. Jean Carroll had not recorded Hunter’s daily routine in her book ‘Hunter: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson’, Spider Jerusalem’s lifestyle would have probably been seen as exaggerated and fictional as the other characters he meets through the comic book series.”
“Truth to be told, even when Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson made their best to paint Spider Jerusalem’s violence and drug abuse as extraordinary as they did, it falls short when comparing it to the legend of Fear and Loathing in Vegas. You making me blush there, friend.”
“You were pretty extreme.” I said, “Was it all…”
“Real? Yeah, of course. She did a pretty good job of nailing it down as far as I remember. My memory of those days is… fuzzy. You know.”
“I can understand why, yes.”
“Disclaimer: what follows is not a work of fiction, but the real account of Hunter S. Thompson daily routine as described by his biographer E. Jean Carroll. Great warning. Gives it credibility.”
After reading through the rest of the article without making a sound, Hunter feeds the paper back inside the IBM Selectric 2 with a somber look in his ghostly eyes.
“You don’t approve of it?” I barely managed to say.
Hunter floated back until he was almost touching the cheap cushions of my motel room and for a moment, looked troubled.”
“I’ve got it,” He said.
“This is a… good,” He said, obviously lying, “but its all old news. Let me show you a way to spice it up.”
Before I could ask how or what was he planning, the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson took out a small plastic bag from his shirt and unrolled it with a calculated movement of the wrist.
I would like to write in detail about what happened next, so I could have titled this piece ‘the time I did peyote with the ghost of Hunter S. Thompsom’, or something in that line. But the absolute truth is that I have no recollection of what was in that plastic bag, the events that followed that night, or how in the hell did I wake naked at top of the donut sign of the Superkilen park in Denmark.