Some quotes from Transmet that stuck in my mind, with a mild case of commentary.
SPOILERS MAKE BABY JESUS CRY!
"I hate Nazi sex midgets."
-Channon Yarrow in Transmetropolitan #49, page 14
This seems to be a reference to the famous Blues Brothers quote, "Illinois Nazis ... I hate Illinois Nazis." The Nazi sex midgets in question are basically a three-panel gag; Channon picks one up by the collar and throws him down the sidewalk while talking to Spider and Yelena about their current situation(see the issue-by-issue writeup in the Transmetropolitan node for more). Mention of her dislike for them comes almost as an aside. My personal theory is that besides being an amusing joke, the Nazi sex midgets are a reminder of the forces that Spider and his filthy assistants are up against: totalitarian officials, much like the you-know-who. Channon's dismissively contemptuous demeanor also demonstrates the attitude of all three characters towards their opponents - her actions don't draw any comment from Spider or Yelena, who seem to assume that her actions and feelings on the matter are perfectly normal.
"Actual journalism? Is that where you don't
commit any crimes?"
"Hell no! It's when we commit really good crimes."
-Yelena Rossini and Spider Jerusalem in
Transmetropolitan #27, page 12
This quote is one of several times Ellis reminds us of the moral of the series' story in the guise of telling us about Spider's worldview. "The Truth is worth any price," the story tells us. This quote comes almost halfway through the series, in a standalone issue; it comes at an appropriate time to remind us of the point of the whole thing. Like many serious messages in the story, it's wrapped in a layer of humor. The issue that it appears in treats us to a satire of Bill Clinton's treatment by the US media over Monica Lewinsky. The Clinton stand-in is a senator accused of accepting bribes and engaging in sexual shenanigans, who endures similar travails down to questions about the shape of his penis and journalistic stalking. Along with the humor, though, we are reminded of the serious themes of the series: passion, corruption, the pursuit of truth, and human frailty.
"If the President does it, it's not a crime"
-Gary Callahan in Transmetropolitan #59, page 20
"If the President of the United States does it,
it can't be a crime."
-The Beast in Transmetropolitan #21, page 9
The reference to Richard Milhouse Nixon in these very similar quotes is obvious. The Beast, Callahan, and Nixon all believed themselves to be above the law. The actual Nixon quote is "When the president does it that means that it is not illegal," which he said in an interview with David Frost of the New York Times on May 19, 1977. While history is still in the process of deciding why Mr. Nixon did what he did, Transmetropolitan's story makes it clear to us why the Beast and Callahan act as they do. The contrast between Callahan and the Beast is central to the story's theme of corruption.
The Beast, a clearly Nixonian figure, is a cynic who believes in "getting through the day... in knowing your station... in living somewhere quiet." When accused of callousness he responds, not quite facetiously, "Life sucks. Wear a hat." For all that, when he delivers the Nixon line, he's joking, acknowledging his cynicism while brushing off an accusation from Spider. He is a keeper of the status quo, and recognizes that. Spider views him as an embodiment of the darker, more primitive impulses of the population, a view which we're led to support through the device of always seeing the Beast(who is further distanced from us by never being called by a name other than the label Spider stuck him with) associated with heavy shadows; indeed, when he tells Spider "Don't you call me a fucking liar just because the truth offends your wimpy goddamn sentiment," his face is almost entirely hidden by darkness, sending us a strong message about just what the truth is to the Beast. He's the face of corruption that needs little exposure; he is known to be a Bad Guy from issue #1 onwards.
Gary Callahan, who replaces the Beast as President during the course of the story, is a charismatic figure, obviously heavily based on Tony Blair and George W. Bush. Nicknamed "the Smiler," he is introduced to us as a senator and presidential candidate. We see a fair amount of his face before the issue in which Spider interviews him, at which point we rapidly get the impression that he's very damaged. His behavior ranges from robotic to magnetic to psychotic over the course of the series. For all that he talks a much more appealing talk than the Beast, he is the primary vehicle for the message of corruption in the series. Within a few issues of his first speaking appearance, we see him cutting a deal which guarantees his nomination to the candidacy of his party (the parties, underscoring the corruption theme, are referred to only as "the party in opposition" and "the party in government") at the expense of making under-the-table concessions to a fascist, Pat Buchanan-esque wing of his party. He expresses extreme contempt for the lower classes, and later, for the population in general. We learn that he has, in his career, given a speech that is an obvious clone of Richard Nixon's Checkers speech and the situation that prompted it, only darker. The meat of Transmet's story is Spider's struggle to bring him down first as a candidate, then as a President. Callahan delivers the Nixon line in dead earnest at the climax of the story, when we see him most clearly as someone who wants power strictly in order to abuse it. It is also significant that at that climax, we see Callahan shadowed just as the Beast was earlier.