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.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.