The Devastator #8

Dev8

Rating: 4/5 – Anthology humor collection of short pieces skewering pop culture of the recent past

One of the advantages of living in sunny Southern California is the plethora of local comic book shops.  I usually spend most of my time at my local shop, but when I get a chance I poke my head in to the others and buy something.  I found myself by one of the larger shops, Meltdown Comics, and happened to stumble across this book.  They were wise to put some of the creator credits right on the cover and when I saw Jim Rugg and Box Brown, I said sold.  Not featured on the cover, but also a selling point would have been contributor Kenny Keil.

I had never dipped my toes in these waters, but think I may have seen them at a local con or two.  Still on the strength of those credits, I plunked down my cash and walked away with the book, completely ignorant of its contents.  Turns out this is a quarterly humor anthology book with this issue focusing on mash-ups of pop culture.  It is 5 ½” by 8 ½”, which I am calling digest size.  Not sure at what point the volume of text pieces takes a book out of the comic category but I am deliberately ignoring the website’s designation as this quack’s like a comic, so I say it is a comic.  I am sure the State Board of Equalization may quibble over such definitions for its sordid purposes but we at ComicSpectrum are made of sterner stuff.

The Jim Rugg contribution amounts to the cover image located above and Box Brown contributed a three-quarters page illustration but the other contributors put in quality work so I was not much put off.  Most of the pieces are a page or two so you will forgive me omitting the normal credit list.  This volume lists 13 writers, 15 cartoonists & illustrators, one “featured” credit, several special thanks and a crew of editors.  It truly takes a village.  Likewise, given the brevity of the pieces, I can’t reveal many specifics without sacrificing the humor.

Humor is always a tough tack to take but I would say this book has its roots in the Mad magazine style, perhaps further conflated by this reviewer in the fact that Mr. Keil has had several pieces in Mad magazine.  The back part of the book is a flip book style parody entitled “The Boxcar Boys meet the Sweet Basin Twins in The Mystery of the Satanic Babysitters Cult” which is an effective send-up of the sort of offerings many of us found in the “young adult” literature section back in the day.  The most striking feature to me was the time period of the properties referenced, which are generally found in the ‘80s, although there is one piece based on the film Network (1976) and we do get a little into the ‘90s with Boy Meets World and Saved by the Bell.  Probably the newest reference is the Spy Kids mash-up with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy but basically you need to be conversant in older references.  For this reviewer, it was no problem as I remember the ‘80s like I do yesterday (sadly, I do not remember much about yesterday).  For the properties I was less familiar with, I still got the gist of it but familiarity does help appreciation of the humor.

The book firmly establishes its bona fides in the comic book realm with a Crisis on Infinite Earths strip, along with a parody ad of that famous Charles Atlas full page comic spread us older comic book fans can instantly recall.  The Devastator website has a few sample pages to give you a feel for the humor.  I enjoyed the book, but the fairly steep price tag ($8) is likely to keep it from being an automatic buy in future.  I will continue to check out the book when I come across it and make sure I stop by their booth at the next comic convention that I see them at.  As always, please feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Reviewed by: Andrew Sanford – andrew@comicspectrum.com
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