Series begins June 1971
I’ve written previously about my general dislike for prose treatments of super heroic characters, feeling that they often fail to make up in content what they lose in visual appeal. But there are a few exceptions, though almost all of them work because they were designed as prose in the first place. THE DESTROYER is one of those exceptions. I’m sure there are DESTROYER fans who’ll cringe at my categorizing it as a super hero series. But that’s really what it is.
For those unaware, THE DESTROYER follows the adventures of Remo Williams, a New Jersey beat cop who’s framed for a murder he didn’t commit and sentenced to die in an electric chair that doesn’t work, all so that he can be recruited by CURE, an organization empowered to act outside the Constitution in an effort to safeguard it, as their one-man enforcement arm and assassin. For a decade, Remo is tutored by Chiun, the last reigning Master of Sinanju, the martial arts discipline from which all other such systems sprang, and whose application allows him to catch bullets, rend steel, climb sheer surfaces, and a hundred other feats.
What makes the series work is two things: first, it never takes itself too seriously. THE DESTROYER books function as broad satire as well as simple action thrillers. They’re a tongue-in-cheek affair from cover to cover. And secondly, the individual plots play second fiddle to the characters. They’re colorful and inviting, entertaining on a consistent basis in the same way that Spider-Man is consistently entertaining, even if you’ve read a hundred of his adventures.
I first encountered the series in the early 80s, when there were only 50 books to be had. (And, thanks to a local bookstore, I plowed through them in a little over a month, reading 10 of them a week.) Today, there are well over a hundred, and new volumes continue to be released quarterly. The most appealing run in recent memory was that ghosted by pulp and comics historian Will Murray, which spanned approximately books 70-106.
2014 Notes: Despite a few false starts since then, the DESTROYER series ceased regular publication in 2008 after a total of 149 releases.