Josh of the Damned
Release Date: Volume 1, Josh of the Damned – April 16, 2012
Volume 2, The Final Checkout – April 29, 2013
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Josh of the Damned Volumes 1&2
Genre: GLBT, Comedy, Horror, Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal
Book Source: NetGalley
Volume 1 – Josh of the Damned
What most people call a hellish shift, Josh Caplan calls a normal evening. After all, he works nights at a convenience store beside the mouth of hell, selling snacks to zombies and lizard men.
Some monsters are odder—and more dangerous—than most. Like the rampaging, oversized mustache who skips the Pringles and eats the customers instead. Or Cthulhu’s half-brother Stan, who doesn’t know how to take no for an answer . . . or where to put all those tentacles.
But killer facial hair and inept hentai beasts pale in comparison to the monster even other monsters fear. When hell’s big boss demands a sit-down with Josh, she reveals a destiny bigger than he’d ever imagined—or wanted. You’d think preventing the apocalypse would net Josh more than minimum wage and a hot vampire boyfriend, but it turns out saving the world can be a pretty thankless job.
Volume 2 – The Final Checkout
Josh Caplan thought he’d solved his home office problem and stopped the Quik-Mart Corporation from expanding into hell, but it turns out a guardian’s work is never done. Medusa has plans for him, and she’s not the only one.
What’s a poor night clerk to do when he’s besieged on all sides by deluded vampire slayers, angry zombies, crazy gods, and the most terrifying enemy of all: a dickish CEO?
To survive this, Josh will have to do more than just rely on his necromancer boss, his hot vampire boyfriend, and his yeti stalker. This time, he’ll have to find his own inner hero to save the day.
Volume 1 of the Josh of the Damned series includes the shorts “Pretty Monsters,” “Peek-A-Boo,” and a third, which is further broken down into three parts titled “Night of the Mustache,” “I was Cthulhu’s Love Slave,” and “Interview with the Empire.” As far as openings go, this just might just be one of my favorites yet:
“The first time the hell vortex opened in the Quick-Mart parking lot, Josh very seriously considered quitting his job. But all that came out of it was a lizard guy, and all it did was amble inside, buy a bag of chips, and leave. All the monsters, while ugly, seemed nicer than his late-night human customers, and Mr. Kwon offered him hazard pay, so he stayed on.”
I suppose there are worse motivations, and Josh doesn’t seem to be interested in expending the effort and determination needed to find a better job. Josh is a flake—a lovable, entertaining flake—that is really only interested in paying his bills however he can, and possibly having sex with the “hot guy” that keeps showing up at the store to buy chocolate. The entire series is, in fact, a gleefully silly romp through any number of creature feature archetypes, and is filled with humor (both slapstick and crude) as well as moments of endearingly goofy affection.
The first story, “Pretty Monsters,” introduces the reader to Josh’s world and some of the creatures in it. Josh is mostly an observer, adopting a “live and let live” attitude that suggests that as long as none of the monsters try to eat him and the cash drawer balances out, everything’s good. The highlight of this part of the story for me was Josh’s inner monologues about both the creatures and events that transpire, and his complete lack of impulse control when it comes to Colin (the “hot guy”).
“Peek-A-Boo” continues in a similar vein, introducing an obsessed yeti to the mix, along with a deepening of the relationship between Josh and Colin. The yeti, or “Bobo” as Josh has named him/her/it, is hilarious and revolting all at once, but when danger comes calling at the Quik-Mart, Josh isn’t going to be picky about his allies. He isn’t a natural-born fighter, and tends to need a lot of protecting, so having a vampire boyfriend and a yeti stalker certainly come in handy.
Towards the end of Volume 1 we’re finally given an explanation as to why Josh is able to remember the monsters when most humans can’t, as well as why so many monsters keep hitting on him. It’s not exactly good news, either. We also get our first taste of the world on the other side of the vortex, or “Dev,” as the monsters call it. There isn’t really a “hell,” and Josh has a lot of readjusting to do, but it is here that he’s forced to accept that things are even more complicated than he thought they were. The boss of all the monsters, Medusa, wants him to stop the greedy CEO of the company he works for, or mankind will be eradicated. It’s not exactly the side job Josh was looking for, but he wasn’t given a choice in the matter, so he tries to make the best of it.
Volume 2, or The Final Checkout, is also divided into smaller chapters called “Clerk of the Living Dead,” “Plaything of the Gods!” and “Josh vs. Destiny.” Still coming to terms with his status as a “Guardian,” as well as his ongoing mission to save the world, Josh continues to work the night shift at the Quik-Mart. Filled with even more creatures, and a human who looks like Silent Bob but calls himself “Kevin the Vampire Slayer,” this part of the series gives us a ringside seat as Josh inadvertently becomes a hero.
One of the funniest characters in The Final Checkout is Josh’s roommate, Doug, who has a substantially bigger role to play in this volume. Doug is an unapologetic stoner with far more insight than should be possible after smoking as much weed as he does. Or, maybe the bouts of clarity are the result of it. Who knows? But, both Doug and Josh’s boss, Mr. Kwon, who is also a stronger presence this time, have some of the best scenes in the series, and nearly steal the entire show.
In addition to fighting off a zombie horde sent by the home office of Quik-Mart Industries to kill him, Josh and Colin are sent by Medusa to combat her Gorgon sisters while in Dev, and stop them from sending their failed creature experiments to wreak havoc on earth. By this point Josh has fully traded in his spectator status for that of an active participant, and, rather than having to be rescued, even gets to do a good bit of the saving himself.
Although I thought it was hilarious, Josh of the Damned is not going to be for everyone. It is a goofy, snarky read that is definitely for entertainment purposes only. While Josh is in a relationship, and he and Colin are there’s never anything explicit about their interactions. But, if you need a laugh, tend to geek out on inter-dimensional butt-kicking, and are, to quote Ms. Speed, “anyone who kind of feels sorry for great monsters in really bad movies,” this just may be the perfect series for you. I think that Josh still has lots of potential, and I hope to see more from the Qwik-Mart crew in the near future.
4 stars: Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #1
Josh of the Damned Triple Feature #2: The Final Checkout