‘The Devastator’ #6 Takes On Hipsters (And Alan Moore’s Very Hipstery Beard)
At this point, making fun of hipsters is so played out that I'm pretty sure it can only be done ironically, at which time you have officially become the thing you hated. Imagine my surprise, then, when I cracked open the new issue of The Devastator, a quarterly comedy magazine that set its sights on "indie culture" this time out, and found that there's actually some pretty hilarious stuff in there.
Really, though, they had me at the cover blurb promising "The Poetry of RoboCop."I broke into professional writing doing movie reviews for the short-lived CRACKED v.2 (which sounded like a dream job until I had to watch 10 Adam Sandler movies in a week to make a deadline), so it goes without saying that I've got a soft spot for comedy mags. As a result, I was pretty interested to find out about this one, especially with the gimmick of being so tightly focused on a particular target. Each issue of the Devastator -- not to be confused with the Transformer, the guy who fought the Hulk, or the guy who fought ROM while wearing the armor of the guy who fought the Hulk -- is built around a particular theme, so this one is 54 pages of wall-to-wall shots at the hallmarks of Indie Culture, with a lot of solid stuff in there.
Most of the laughs come from the more text-based pieces, like a set of infographics about college radio, a quiz on whether a given phrase is the title of a zine or a randomly generated Captcha phrase and a bit on the minutes of an American Apparel board meeting that goes from cutting to absurd and back again with bits like "12:31 PM: New Topic: Sluttier baby clothes?" For our purposes, though, the focus is on the comics, and the Devastator manages to deliver there as well.
As mentioned above, the one I was most looking forward to was Tom Van Deusen's "Poetic Justice," a one-page tale of RoboCop retiring from the police force and moving to Portland to focus on his poetry.
The story goes about exactly as you'd expect from a story with that premise, but it's still pretty amazing to see it all play out, especially once the body count of Robo's free verse starts piling up.
The strip one I identified with the most, though, came from Noah Van Sciver. Although it's titled as "Scenes From An Indie Bookstore" (and thus fits right into the issue's theme), his strip is a pretty accurate look at what life is like when you work in a comic book store:
This happened at least once a week in my six years at the shop, although as I've mentioned before, the best one was when a guy thought Superboy #0 (1994) was even more valuable because it obviously came out before Superman was even a grown-up.
There are a lot of other highlights, too. Kenny Keil, last seen here on ComicsAlliance thanks to his awesome superhero-themed recreations of hip-hop album covers, takes a pretty scathing look at Banksy and the commercialization of anti-commercialist street art, which, okay, maybe that doesn't sound like it'd be funny, but trust me on this one: It is. And so is Micki Grover and Matt Taylor's short story of a guy who builds a time machine for the sole purpose of making sure he's the first to like everything before it gets cool, a simple premise that sounds like well-traveled ground but ends up with an enjoyable twist.
Plus, Marly Halpern-Glaser and Jojo Ramos's Public Radio superheroes really need to expand into their own comic when the next pledge drive rolls around:
That's what's so great about what the Devastator's doing here. It's not just the same tired gags about PBR and oversized glasses that everyone else was making years ago, even if the word "Portland" is still occasionally considered to be a punchline all on its own. What makes the Devastator so enjoyable is that it zeroes in on elements that are part of the culture and uses them as the foundations to springboard into jokes. Or, in the case of their assessments of Etsy, frighteningly accurate portrayals.
The strip about the guy going back in time, for instance, isn't just funny because he builds a time machine to make sure he's not the last person in his group to get into Neutral Milk Hotel. It's funny because it keeps building and building until he's riding down the streets of Williamsburg on a triceratops while wearing a toga. Admittedly, I will approve of virtually any comic that involves toga-clad dinosaur-riding, but you get the point. It's not lazy, and in comedy, working for the laugh without seeming like your working is one of the hardest things to pull off.
The Devastator does exactly that, and while there are a few clunkers buried in their 54 pages, they do it well enough that I'm pretty excited to see what else they come up with in the future. I'm definitely down for checking out what they have to see about Spies -- the theme of #7 -- but what I really want is to get my hands on the previous issue, as that one was devoted to Fantasy and featured Dan Hipp, Tony Millionaire, and a D20 system RPG that was actually playable. That is devotion to comedy.
For more, check out DevastatorQuarterly.com, where you can read a sample of the current issue and get a solid idea of what they're all about. Seriously though: The Poetry of RoboCop. I think we can all agree that this is a concept that's worth rewarding.