To a proud and initiated few, the name “Tom Waits” summons musical memories of sad stories and morbid ballads accompanied by a surreal array of unconventional instruments (such as screeching horns and clanging drums), all masterminded by a gravel-voice, howling madman. To others, it conjures images of an indecipherable singer who sounds like Cookie Monster.



(The following essay was originally presented at the Fourth Annual New Narrative Conference at the University of Toronto on May 6, 2011.  See a list of presenters and abstracts from the conference here and visit Jon Adams online here – TH.)

The first time we meet a superhero in Jon Adams’ Truth Serum, he’s brushing off a friend who wants to fight crime, or just “get some lunch or something” and who doesn’t even realize he’s being rejected.  The first time we meet a villain, he’s inviting one of his son’s friends over for a sandwich – but then hands him an empty plate;  there’s not enough cheese to make another sandwich.  These two scenes introduce two of the major themes of the strip’s cynically humorous world – the similarities between heroes and villains and the mundane, even boring, nature of their daily lives.  


Jon Adams, Truth Serum (2000).