(The podcast is running late this week due to some last-minute scheduling issues. If it’s not up by sometime this weekend, then expect it next Wednesday and a new one to follow a week after.)
After delivering the excellent “My Friend Dahmer,” John “Derf” Backderf decided to go mine a (debatably) more pleasant time in his life for this new graphic novel. Between 1979 and 1980, Derf worked as a garbageman and those experiences have been stretched into fiction for “Trashed” which takes place in the present day and follows J.B., a college dropout, as he embarks upon a new career in the world of sanitation. Rather than shatter illusions, this graphic novel shows that the profession is every bit as disgusting as you’d expect. We see J.B. go from a rookie struggling to keep his lunch down when confronted with a “cooker” trash can filled with flies and maggots to a seasoned veteran who barely bats an eye when tasked with picking up water bottles full of pee and used condoms. It’s a dirty job and J.B., his wiseass friend Mike, and (on occasion) his unhinged friend Magee are the ones who do it because it pays a little better than taking tickets at a movie theater.
If you’re expecting a focused narrative from this story, then you’re going to be disappointed. “Trashed” is a rambling series of loosely connected episodes that show J.B. going from one disgusting mess to the next. For me, this wasn’t a problem. J.B. and his friends may not have a whole lot of depth to them, yet they still manage to come off as likeably cynical wiseasses. As a result, it’s fun to see them both suffer through things like picking up fifty bags of dog poo in the rain and find creative ways to take joy in their work. Such as when they take some of the aforementioned doggie mess and leave it for a local thug to find in his mailbox. Derf also uses this story and setup as a way to illuminate his readers on the history of garbage in society and what’s going on with the massive amounts we produce today. Interesting as it may be, it still feels like lecturing at times. At least there’s not much of a story to derail here. Yet what it lacks in narrative urgency, “Trashed” makes up for in the fun it has with this offbeat look at a profession most of us take for granted. Even if I could’ve gone the rest of my life not knowing what a “cooker” is in garbageman terms, I still enjoyed pretty much everything this graphic novel had to offer.