The City (Transmetropolitan)

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A section of the City's skyline, as seen from Spider Jerusalem's apartment.

The City is a fictional megacity which forms the main setting for the Vertigo comic Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis. Located somewhere in the United States, the City is the largest metropolitan area in the futuristic world of the series (an exact date is never given), and the center of political and social culture.

The City plays a key role in the U.S. Presidential elections described in the series, due to its unusual voting patterns in the past:

They say the city goes the way the country does. But that's not quite right. It chooses and punishes presidents. It's got a weird pattern of voting against second-term presidents ... and it's a rule of thumb that if the city goes against a president going for his second term, the fucker'll get in anyway.[1]

— Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan

Little systematic history is given on the City throughout the series. Various incidents in its history are described by Spider Jerusalem as the story progresses, but there is no unified narrative that explains its origins in detail.

The City features numerous 'culture reservations' in which particular traditional cultures – including those of China and Japan – can be experienced and lived in permanently, as well as a holographic pre-industrial reservation. The Angels 8 district of the City is also home to a group known as 'transients', humans who have used genome-altering technology to permanently take on alien characteristics.

Real-life basis[edit]

The fact that the City features a statue resembling the Statue of Liberty leads many to believe it is in fact New York City, or a massive conurbation including several other East Coast cities like those in the Northeast Megalopolis. The fact that the former Great Lakes are now known as the "Western Lakes" on the City's outer reaches lends further credence to the latter notion. If this were the case this would make the city similar in area to Mega-City One in the Judge Dredd comic strip.

The City also contains a Richard P. Daley Precinct House, a shoutout to Chicago.

The City is also a slang term used to refer to San Francisco, and there is a view of the Golden Gate Bridge in Transmetropolitan. San Francisco along with the rest of California is also pivotal in United States presidential elections due to their high population and resulting votes in the electoral college. Also the reservations are very similar to San Francisco's various districts home to strong concentrations of certain nationalities such as China Town. The implied proximity to the mountains in the opening of the series (from whence Spider comes down), and the associated drive across a bridge would also imply San Francisco; this is like the three-hour drive back into SF from the Lake Tahoe area. However, at a later point in the series Spider uses Farsight technology to replicate himself in California because booking a flight on an airplane would attract too much attention; since Spider owns a car, this implies that California is not within driving distance.

A final point of reference to San Francisco would be the link to the real person the protagonist of the series is based upon. Hunter S. Thompson, who Spider Jerusalem is based on, lived in San Francisco when he was creating what is now known as "gonzo" journalism, and subsequently moved to the mountains (in Colorado, however).

Conflicting references to real-world cities make it impossible to reasonably conclude anything except that The City is not based on any city in particular, and is instead an amalgamation of major US cities with an indefinite geographic location. References are not limited to US landmarks: the Autumn Rainfall Nanohuman Community building is drawn as a replica of the BBC's Broadcasting House which is located in London.


  1. ^ Transmetropolitan #49, page 18