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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dr. DeBunko: Debunker of the Supernatural

Here is a comic for the grouchy scientists among you. Chris Wisnia, author of The Lump, has a new compilation of one of his characters, originally featured in his faux yellow rag Tabloia. Dr. DeBunko, sort of a PZ Myers-as-Caine-in-Kung-Fu, a skeptic that walks the earth attempting to disabuse the gullible of their various harmful superstitions.

As Wisnia says, "I think this is a fascinating subject matter, that so many people believe so many different things, and once they believe it, it’s almost impossible to sway their views, even with facts. To each person, their “reality” is how they view their world based on their beliefs. Whether it’s their belief in science, their particular religion, UFOs and aliens, government conspiracies, miracle diets, Santa Claus, or whatever."¹

Indeed. Dr. DeBunko features 11 short comics, and in each the good doctor arrives at the scene at the height of its hysterical pitch, as the citizens are convinced cloven footprints mean Satan is dancing in a field or a burned body in a bed is a case of Spontaneous Human Combustion. Dr. DeBunko slices neatly through the swirl of superstition with logic, science-based explanations, and in each the villagers never really seem to appreciate his no-nonsense explanations.

And that's it. There's no actual plot to any of these stories. Initially meant to be short little blurbs between chapters in comics, Dr. DeBunko is limited to rubes presenting a superstition (sex with Satan is a favorite theme), Dr. DeBunko shoots it down, the crowd clings to its ridiculous beliefs, and Dr. DeBunko manipulates the rubes into channeling their beliefs to a less dangerous conclusion.

As Wisnia, in the voice of his exclamation point-addicted alter ego, faux Tabloia editor Rob Oder, (Rob! Oder!) warns that you may not want to read the entire comic in one sitting.

"...this is just way too much Dr. DeBunko to take in one sitting! So a word of caution...Enjoy these pithy little presumptuous stories the way they're meant to be presented....Swallow them (or gag them down ) in small portions! Otherwise,they're simply just too irritating, and you'll despise him as much as he despises you! They're the perfect length to read while you're on the toilet!"

This is true, and I submit that Dr. DeBunko in the brown wicker magazine holder next to the toilet beats the snot out of old Wireless catalogues.²

Incidentally, as Oder, Wisnia really lets himself go, especially when retorting to fake letters to the editor criticizing the magazine or chastising Oder for debunking their beliefs. Spontaneous combustion seems to be a particular pet peeve with him, and it's great to read his rants against stubborn believers, even the ones he made up.

"Taking a science class, or just using a little common sense, may be quite valuable to you! Here's how science works! You have to come up with a theory that's not imbecilic! Also, the evidence has to support the theory, not contradict it!"

Although it's true that Dr. DeBunko works best in limited doses, you'll still get a certain satisfaction from allowing Dr. DeBunko to occasionally speak for the part of you that is contemptuous and impatient with those who insist on clinging to stupidity.
¹Contino, Jennifer M., "The Dr. DeBunko Is In!", Interview with Chris Wisnia, Comicon Message Boards

²What happened to National Public Radio's gift catalogue? Have you seen it lately? Last time I looked through it, back around '93 or '94, it was devoted to cheesy replicas of Kokopelli. Then I looked at it again this year and it was all "Git R Done" tee shirts and quotes from The Man Show. Seriously, who's their buyer now, Toby Keith?


Buy here.

Dr. DeBunko: Debunker of the Supernatural
First Issue
By Chris Wisnia
November, 2006 by Salt Peter Press
32 pp, Saddle stitched

First posted at the Journal for the Lincoln Heights Literary Society

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