Daniel Clowes' masterpiece: The Death-Ray

By Mark Frauenfelder

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Daniel Clowes' comic book, Eightball # 23 contained a 48 page story called "The Death–Ray." It's a superhero origin story about a teenage boy named Andy who discovers he has superpowers whenever he takes a puff of a cigarette.

I won't spoil the story by telling you how Andy acquired this ability, but he also discovers a costume along with a comical-looking ray gun that can instantly and silently remove any life-form from the face of the Earth without a trace. Andy and his loyal sidekick Louie -- often the targets of bullies at school -- use and abuse Andy's omnipotence as a tool of revenge and vigilante vengeance, with mixed results.

This new hardcover edition (published by Drawn and Quarterly) is presented in a much larger format than it appeared in Eightball #23. As usual, the art and design is exemplary -- Clowes tells this story of triumph and betrayal in the form of one- and two-page chapters that jump between first person narrative, fly-on-the-the-wall reporting, and after-the-fact documentary style interviews. This masterpiece makes it clear (at least to me) that Daniel Clowes is one of the greatest living cartoonists.

I wish Clowes would write a novel. Not because I don't like his art (I love it), but because his graphic novels can be read in less than an hour, and I would like to become immersed in one of his stories for a much longer time.

The Death-Ray, by Daniel Clowes

Published 7:56 am Tue, Oct 11, 2011

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About the Author

Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the founding editor-in-chief of MAKE. He is editor-in-chief of Cool Tools and co-founder of Wink Books. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects


5 Responses to “Daniel Clowes' masterpiece: The Death-Ray”

  1. Rick. says:

    I’m not for anything that takes Clowes away from comics. Unless it’s a movie that’s as entertaining as Ghost World.

  2. scifijazznik says:

    Daniel Clowes is one of the greatest living cartoonists.

    It’s almost a shame to call Clowes a “cartoonist.”  I think his characters and stories set him above his contemporaries.  I heard a while back that Death Ray was going to be made into a movie.  I’m cautiously optimistic considering how well the celluloid version of Ghost World turned out.  I doubt, however, we’ll see a Hollywood version of Pussey! any time soon…

  3. azzamckazza says:

    Glad that they’ve released this as I agree its his best work. More people need to read it. 

  4. baronkarza says:

    He used to write comics that were actually blisteringly funny, but that was a bit before Eightball’s 20th issue. When he started with the muted colors, hardbacks  and heavy paper, it was like he started believing all the critical praise about himself and lost how to be funny. Maybe he just wasn’t angry at the world anymore, but it all got so angsty about these hollow people with boring lives in a prefab world where..ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz.

    That said, a movie version of “Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron” would be amazingly disturbing. With an animated cartoon of “Needle-Dick the Bug Fucker” before the feature.

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