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The Death-Ray

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  3,059 Ratings  ·  202 Reviews

Teen outcast Andy is an orphaned nobody with only one friend, the obnoxious—but loyal—Louie. They roam school halls and city streets, invisible to everyone but bullies and tormentors, until the glorious day when Andy takes his first puff on a cigarette. That night he wakes, heart
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published June 2004)
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Dec 25, 2012 Forrest rated it liked it
I found The Death-Ray intriguing in its main conceit, compelling in its design, and frustrating in its hipster aloofness. I'll spare the plot outline (see the summation under the book's description on goodreads - it's adequate enough) and only say that the main superhero tropes are old enough and trite enough to just be acceptable at face value by anyone who has even a passing knowledge of the superhero genre. And perhaps it's this blase acceptance of the fantastic that led me, ultimately, to fe ...more
Anthony Vacca
Jul 19, 2014 Anthony Vacca rated it really liked it
A familiar story of male adolescence: you are an unpopular, scrawny-bodied teenager with only one (equally unpopular) friend and a long-distance girlfriend, named Dusty, with whom you maintain a chaste, unfulfilling pen-pal relationship; you sleep and sweat through hot and heavy dreams about the middle-aged, granny-glasses wearing black woman who takes care of the withering grandfather who raised you; you feel a restless sense of purpose - or maybe even destiny - that is strangled by the vacuity ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

It was just a month or two ago that I was reviewing Daniel Clowes' Mister Wonderful, lamenting that little wisp of a story and declaring how much I was looking forward instead to his next major masterpiece; and now it's here, in the form of a giant oversized hardback called The Death-Ray, although with "ne
Sam Quixote
Nov 24, 2012 Sam Quixote rated it really liked it
Meet Andy, a quiet, lonely boy growing up in the 70s who has one friend and is being raised by his grandfather who is likely developing Alzheimer’s. One day by chance Andy smokes a cigarette and discovers that nicotine activates “super powers” where he gains super strength. Couple that with his father’s legacy leaving Andy a handheld “death ray” once he realises his super powers, and Andy goes from being an awkward teen to having the power of life and death in the palm of his hand.

Andy is your
Glenn Sumi
Jun 22, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-books
The comic and movie kick-ass and the films Super and Defendor have turned the real-life-superhero genre into a cliché. But Daniel Clowes breathes new life into it in The Death-Ray, a dark and philosophical look at what it means to have the godlike power to take lives.

Scrawny high-schooler Andy, who lives with his grandfather (both his parents have died), is bullied and friendless, save for his rebellious buddy Louie, who's got problems of his own. But a puff on a cigarette (a typically dark Clow
Mark Desrosiers
Mar 19, 2012 Mark Desrosiers rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
The plot here begs for ridicule: an orphaned boy discovers that his father had performed genetic experiments which cause him to acquire superhuman strength and rage when he smokes tobacco. Also, there is a death ray involved, which only he can use. In Clowes' hand, this goofy premise takes on an eerie, evocative quality, with brief (dreamed?) snatches of sex to spice up this virgin superhero's saga. And you can probably guess how tedious and grim his love life becomes, how middle age shapes him ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Richard rated it did not like it
I’m not sure what the point was for this. Daniel Clowes is a good artist - his drawings are deceptively simple, but often expertly arranged - and the story is sort of well-constructed. I appreciate that it must have taken a lot of effort to create, but there’s really nothing in this graphic novel that grabbed me – nothing to make me care much about the story (the overdone comic about comics trope of “hey, what would actually happen if a “real”, flawed person gained super human powers?”), the ...more
Mar 21, 2016 Andrew rated it really liked it
Since Watchmen, it's been common practice for comic books to "deconstruct" superheroes to expose the icky crypto-fascist male power fantasies beneath the capes and masks. In the hands of most writers/cartoonists **cough cough** Mark Millar**cough cough**, this now comes off as glib and cynical. In the hands of Daniel Clowes, it somehow still feels revelatory.

Unlike Millar, Clowes isn't concerned with being clever, and he definitely isn't trying to generate "hot new IP" for film rights and the li
Jan 06, 2012 Sarah rated it did not like it
Shelves: graphic-novels
You know, every time I go to pick up a Daniel Clowes book I think to myself "Maybe this time it will not be an incomprehensible pretentious mess". And every time I'm disappointed. Where to start? This book doesn't have a plot. It has a string of semi-cogent moments, self-referential diatribes, time skips, and characters that frankly all kinda look the same. Story lines with certain characters are dropped like hotcakes (whatever happened with the grandpa) and sometimes you're not really sure what ...more
Nick Kives
Dec 13, 2011 Nick Kives rated it liked it
There will always be a place on my bookshelf for a Clowes book. When the movie for Ghost World came out, I loved it and immediately went out to find the book for it, and loved that as well. It was the first comic I had picked up in years, and would be the only until after Katrina. Unfortunatly, I haven't felt the same way in the last two books. This one is better than David Boring but still not up there.
Oct 17, 2014 Andy rated it it was ok
Shelves: comix-novel
It's no coincidence that Daniel Clowes designed the poster for Todd Solondz's film "Happiness". Like Solondz, Clowes has made his mark depicting people that are ugly and socially constricted. The Death Ray's no exception, and it's unfortunately just as bad as his previous work Mr. Wonderful.

The misanthropy in this book is sludgy to the point of crushing. At least in Wilson there was some humor to temper the pithiness of the main character. There's nothing here, just the rantings of an angry, se
Feb 01, 2012 Erika rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Haters
Purely an emotional rating. It would have been another start if I had been on some kind of drug while I read it. I only have to quote one thing to sum up this book:

"You try to make the world a better place and what does it get you? I mean, Christ, how the hell does one man stand a chance against four billion assholes."

Fun read.
May 23, 2013 Jordan rated it liked it

Daniel Clowes takes on The Superhero. That is what this is.

In The Death-Ray, he gives us the classic origin story (or at least his version of it), where we have present day, regular citizen, old Andy retelling the account of his life from discovering and understanding his new power, to dealing with the complications of it, to Clowes taking us all the way to the probable cause of his anti-hero’s ultimate death.

Yeah, Andy's dad and mom were scientists who are
Peter Derk
Jul 16, 2013 Peter Derk rated it liked it
Daniel Clowes does some weird stuff. I don't know how someone who doesn't read a lot of comics would take it. Maybe it would be easier because you don't have all these ideas about capes and underpants and muscles and stuff. On the other hand, maybe someone who doesn't read a lot of comics would find his stuff just completely bizarre. I just don't know how integral it is to read some comics before really getting into his stuff.

That said, I read this one in the middle of the Museum of Contemporary
Nov 25, 2011 D.M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been enjoy Clowes for quite a few years now, and his output seems to have increased in frequency and quality over the past decade or so. Unfortunately, my income hasn't kept up, so I've missed his last couple books. It was with great pleasure, then, that I found this one at my library!
That Clowes has, after all this time, decided to do his own take on superpowers is surprising. He does it almost exactly how one would expect him to: the superpowers make bad people worse, and good people bett
Stewart Tame
Sep 07, 2015 Stewart Tame rated it really liked it
Superheroes from the mind of Dan Clowes! No, really; that's more or less what this is. Of course there's more to it than that, and I guarantee it's nothing like any other superhero book you may have read. There are, I suppose, maybe some vague similarities to Kick Ass, but that's about all I can come up with. So what would really happen if a high school student discovered he had super powers? This being a Dan Clowes book, our hero is a loner, not athletic, reasonably intelligent, socially ...more
Stuart Woolf
Jan 07, 2014 Stuart Woolf rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by this book, in part because, for me, the work of Daniel Clowes generally falls into one of two categories: (1) very well written-and-illustrated coming-of-age stories (Ghost World, Wilson, Mr. Wonderful) or (2) surrealist fiction (Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, David Boring). This book is a little bit of both. Like most of Clowes work, it is quite thought-provoking, but what I like about this particular story is that its subject matter - superheroes and superpowers - are ...more
May 23, 2014 Verevoof rated it it was ok
Daniel Clowes' The Death-Ray won multiple awards but I don't understand why. Perhaps I put too much faith in The I.T. Crowd's set designers, seeing Jim Woodring and Maakies items appearing on desks and walls along with a poster of The Death-Ray reminding me I should read it every time I queue up another episode. Don't get me wrong, Clowes is a great artist and knows how to arrange a page, but story-wise the book is lacking. Borrow it from the library like I did.
Jul 30, 2015 Alan rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Super wannabes
Recommended to Alan by: Ghost World
Daniel Clowes' The Death-Ray distills the entire arc of a second-rate superhero's life into a single short graphic novel, from his bullied youth and discovery of super power, through his acquisition of a costume, a sidekick, and the Death-Ray itself, to his career as a vigilante crime-fighter and its carefully—and appropriately—ambiguous aftermath.

Andy is not really a traditional superhero, though. A different costumed do-gooder is fond of saying that "with great power comes great responsibility
Sep 10, 2016 Lualunera rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sent, no
No puedo con él. Me gusta mucho Daniel Clowes, me suelen gustar sus historias y también cómo dibuja. Pero WTF. Los personajes son odiosos y patéticos (he perdido la cuenta de cuántas veces llaman "puta" a una mujer), la trama no tiene sentido. Paso de perder mi tiempo. FUERA.
Jan 24, 2014 Derek rated it really liked it
What a bizarre coming-of-age, over-the-top story/satire. The concept is both amusing and disturbing. Compared to other Clowes works, I enjoyed this one just slightly more than Ghost World. He is a master of color and layout. I love that this is a gorgeous coffee table book, which begs to question whether or not this is an author's desparate attempt to be recognized as a home staple and in plain sight, rather than collecting dust on a book shelf. The only problem that I find is that I tire of his ...more
Jennifer Haight
Jul 07, 2014 Jennifer Haight rated it really liked it
As cringe-worthy as it is revolutionary, Daniel Clowe's work is a peek into the deepest, darkest reaches of the every-man's soul. His drawing is crisp, linear and stark, he is a master craftsman.

The story itself clunks with scene changes sometimes in Andy's mind, sometimes his reality. Andy is in middle age, in dream state, as a teen. He feels like he is victimized by bullies and ex-wives and yet he as a "hero" victimizes others.

This is a graphic novel for adults and for adults who want to be
Jan 18, 2012 Andy rated it really liked it
I'm giving this four stars right now and may give it five after another read-through. What looks, from the cover, like a fun science fiction send-off is anything but that. I'd never previously read Clowes, so I didn't know what to expect. Again, I hope to read this again in a few days to delve into all the layers Clowes has placed in this complex story - then I'll be able to decide (hopefully) whether this is convoluted or genius. (I suspect the latter.)
Sara Habein
Nov 18, 2011 Sara Habein rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
A sad and lovely tale, submerged in loneliness and alienation. It's a thoughtful story that also explores desire and the fronts one puts on when out in the world. It's also a story of consequence, and I enjoyed it immensely.

(My full review can be found on Glorified Love Letters.)
James Payne
Oct 25, 2011 James Payne rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
Somewhat bleak; its Bush-era paradigm is like an old friend I never see around, don't miss, but viscerally feel every particular of. D&Q republishing this in hardcover feels quasi-money grab. Seems to articulate philosophical issues re: power + ethics/morality well. Leaves me all Rorty.
May 22, 2012 Sye rated it really liked it
Clowes always hits the spot.
Shane Quinlan
Oct 20, 2016 Shane Quinlan rated it really liked it
A dark and thoughtful story on what it would be like to have super powers (gained by smoking cigarettes) as an irresponsible loner teenager. Funny, sad, and most of all, disturbing. The Death-Ray was a breath of fresh air among all the "normal kid decides to be a super hero" tropes.
Fernando Hisi
Nov 25, 2016 Fernando Hisi rated it liked it
As últimas 3 páginas, que valem pelo resto todo.
Michael Emond
Jun 21, 2016 Michael Emond rated it really liked it
I heard Daniel interviewed on Marc Maron's WTF podcast and it made me think "I need to read some more Clowes" so I picked this one. Clowes' graphic novels (a term he dislikes but can't come up with a better substitute) are never ones that make me think "I can't wait to read another!" but they are always unique and they use the medium of comics in a way so unique and raw compared to my typical comic book fare. While most graphic novels are summer super hero blockbuster, Daniel's are Indy film ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Leew49 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
Daniel Clowes turns his unique perspective on the superhero comic in "The Death Ray," the story of Andy, a disaffected teenager who acquires super powers and then has no idea of how to use them intelligently. Many of the recurrent themes of Clowes's other works are found here: alienation, the outsider who sees the hypocrisy of social conventions but can't discover anything better, pointless crushes, friends drifting apart (rather dramatically in the case of Andy's "best friend" Louie), confused ...more
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Daniel Gillespie Clowes is an Academy Award-nominated American author, screenwriter and cartoonist of alternative comic books. Most of Clowes' work appears first in his ongoing anthology Eightball (1989-present), a collection of self-contained narratives and serialized graphic novels. Several of these narratives have been collected published separately as graphic novels, most notably Ghost World. ...more
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“You try to make the world a better place and what does it get you? I mean, Christ, how the hell does one man stand a chance against four billion assholes?” 9 likes
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