One Punch Reviews #72: Trashed
Outside of the righteous “Pinball Number Count” by the Pointer Sisters, the Sesame Street song that has always managed to stick in my mind with the tenacity of a hungry Rottweiler is “Garbage Man Blues.” You can watch the video on YouTube here. It’s an ode to recycling and conservation. Footage of garbage trucks in a dingy urban area are accompanied by a tune that sounds vaguely like something from Paul Simon.
The reason I remember it so vividly, though, was because I always misheard the chorus as “Garbage Man Food.” They show all this footage of debris, and all my mind could think was that through some sort of process that stuff could be converted into edible foodstuffs. I remember even asking my dad, “Dad, is this what garbage men eat all day?” And I could remember the look of confusion and disgust that passed across his face that day, as if our moving to America had somehow robbed me of all common sense.
That song ran through my head once again as the mental background music while reading John “Derf” Backderf’s Trashed, a webcomic about the hard-working people who toil in our nation’s waste management industry. (NOTE: The comic is periodically Not Safe For Work.)
Derf has lived a very colorful life. He’s garnered many accolades. he was nominated twice Eisners, he was the Alternative Press’ best cartoonist in 2005, he received and was the recipient of a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for cartooning in 2006, and he was part of a newsroom team that won a Pulitzer in 1996. He also knew infamous cannibal Jeffery Dahmer as a teenager, an experience that he turned into a comic book entitled My Friend Dahmer.
And he used to be a trash collector, which turns out to be no less of an intriguing subject matter to structure a comic around. The art is going to turn a lot of people off. Similar to Robert Crumb and independent cartoonists of the 1990’s like Peter Bagge, characters are drawn unattractively, with long faces and terrible complexion. I’m not a huge fan of the style, but I thought that in this comic it was a stone cold match for the subject matter. These guys are garbage men, after all, not male models.
They’re ugly on the inside, too. There’s a scene where they throw garbage on a kid who they think is one of the ne’er-do-wells who pelted them with food. He’s not: he’s just an innocent kid. But rather than feel any regret, they just drive off, laughing. But if their personalities are ugly, it’s because they live in an ugly world. They’re harassed by pushy customers who want them to haul off heavy garbage that they have no right moving. They push wood through a chipper — not their responsibility — because the customer is related to their boss. They know what their class is, and they eye other people suspiciously out of paranoia.
It’s a hard-knock life … but it’s still a life, and Derf actually seems to look back at these days with a certain pride and nostalgia. When you’re a trashman you’re privy to everyone’s secret lives. Why would some toss out old photos? Why is there so much blood on a mattress? The blood. Why does one guy have mirror with a hole in the middle of it? Is it so he can make out with himself? The trash collectors can tap into a vast amount of resources, and by that I mean the good porn.
Most webcomics these days seem to dwell on first-world problems, and it’s a little eye-opening to read about life on the other side of the tracks. It’s a little more accurate than six-year-old El Santo’s understanding of the trash business, in any case.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5).
Posted on September 13, 2012, in 5 Stars, adult webcomic, alternative webcomic, comedy webcomic, One Punch Reviews, slice-of-life webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.