TITLE: The Death-Ray
YEAR: September 2011
COMPANY: Fantagraphics Books
Art/Story by Daniel Clowes
When it comes to alternative comics success, Daniel Clowes has seen his stories such as “Ghost World” (2001) adapted into a film, and “Art School Confidential” (2006).
These stories were among the many stories that were featured in his solo anthology comic book series “Eightball” which was published by Fantagraphic Books.
In “Eightball” issue #23 (Spring 2004), Clowes introduced his story “The Death-Ray” and the story has been reprinted in a hardback book in full-color.
The book begins with an introduction to a middle-aged man named Andy walking his dog, Dianne and discussing his life and how he has been married and divorced twice and is staying out of trouble. While going out on a walk, he sees someone discarding trash on the sidewalk and gives him a talking to.
And thus begins the introduction to Andy when he was much younger and hanging around his only friend Louie. Andy lives with his grandfather after the death of his parents and his grandfather is getting older and having difficulties. He has a girlfriend named Dusty who lives far, so they only communicate via letters.
His friend Louie often cusses and says anything that he has on his mind, even if it may hurt someone’s feelings. It’s part of the problem why he doesn’t get along with another student named Stoob.
One day, while Louie offers Andy a cigarette, Andy gets sick and immediately his body goes through major changes and giving him super-human strength.
His grandfather gives him a box that he is to give to Andy on the day he started smoking. In the box is a journal from his father that he has super-powers and that he has a Death-Ray gun.
His friend Louie starts to get Andy to start using his powers but what happens when one misuses his power?
In most superhero books, we see many young people who developed powers deciding to use their power for good. Many having a foundation of knowing right from wrong or learning from their experiences, thanks to good parenting or something positive. Afterall, comic books and superheroes were to be wholesome and inspirational for children reading them, that was back in the day.
“The Death-Ray” is interesting because this takes place in the early ’70s, Andy is a loner, his parents died and his grandmother had just died and now he lives with his grandfather who is not in the greatest health. So, in some ways for this young kid, life is a bit f’d up. He doesn’t have many friends but Louie, a guy who is a major sh*t talker and tries to get his friend, Andy to do things for his sake it seems.
But who would know that Louie getting Andy to smoke a cigarette would change his life forever. Granting Andy the ability to have super strength and also a Death-Ray gun that can zap things. But Andy is a loner and has his own perspective of life. He has a girlfriend (or more of a pen pal) named Dusty, he has a thing for very old women and you get a feeling that he has OCD or something that makes you feel that he’s a little off.
But overall, “The Death-Ray” is an interesting story about a young man who inherited superpowers by smoking a cigarette but unlike other superhero stories, his doesn’t actually go all that well.