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Hunter S. Thompson, Transmetropolitan, and the Evolution from Author to Character

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posted on 14.11.2021, 05:31 by Nelson, Ashlee Amanda

This thesis examines American author Hunter S. Thompson, in the context of his own works – primarily Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary– as well as the representation of him as a character in the graphic text Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis. The evolution of Thompson from author to character and the development of that character in his own works is examined, as well as how this development allowed for his character to be fully realised in a completely fictional world. In turn, the fully developed use of Thompson’s character is the starting point for my analysis of Transmetropolitan could potentially be read as a work of New Journalism, albeit a fictional one. The first chapter examines how Thompson began writing himself as a character in his early fictional work The Rum Diary. Though largely overlooked by critics because of its long delayed publication and the focus on the more flashy and better known Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary is critical to Thompson’s development of himself as a character in his works in particular, and to his development as an author in general. Though The Rum Diary is ostensibly a purely fictional novel, this chapter examines how the character Paul Kemp is actually largely autobiographical, and how Kemp is an early version of the same character Thompson uses in his later nonfiction. I then analyse the development of that nonfiction version, Raoul Duke, in Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. As The Rum Diary is not actually purely fictional, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not actually completely nonfictional. Thompson, as this chapter shows, did not believe in the divide between fact and fiction, and he uses the character he develops in Raoul Duke to write about himself while creatively embellishing the truth. I then look at how Thompson wrote himself so strongly into his character that he became inextricably viewed as actually being Raoul Duke, and how that character was in turn viewed and written about. The second chapter examines the legacy of Thompson’s fully formed self-characterisation, as it is picked up by another author and written in the fully fictional context of the graphic novel series Transmetropolitan. I consider how Transmetropolitan’s main character Spider Jerusalem continues Thompson’s self-as-character through his characterisation, behaviour, and language. Furthermore I analyse how, within the world of the series, Spider as a journalist continues Thompson’s legacy as a writer. The third and final chapter examines how Spider’s characterisation as a continuation of Thompson is an important contextual factor for considering Transmetropolitan as a work of New Journalism. I consider the connection to Thompson, the content of Spider’s articles, and the format in which the articles are depicted in the graphic novel


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970120 Expanding Knowledge in Languages, Communication and Culture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Hessell, Nikki