Some people mark their lives in terms of great events. Others remember what they were reading at a particular time. During 1996-1997, I was in reading bliss because my father-in-law, a great book collector, loaned me a large box full of the adventures of Remo Williams: The Destroyer. During that year, I made my way through about 80 volumes of the awesome pulp fiction series and counted myself a lucky man to have such an interesting father-in-law.
Some of you are probably thinking the men’s action/adventure genre is blandly similar. The hero arrives in town, has a shower, a steak, a woman, and then gets down to business blowing all the baddies away. Remo didn’t fit that pattern. He was a former Vietnam vet/beat cop framed up for the express purpose of becoming the one man enforcement arm of a special organization named CURE. The group would freely violate the Constitution in order to enforce it.
Remo was trained by the Asian assassin Chiun, a self-satisfiedly racist old man with the deadliest hands and feet in the world. He accompanies Remo on his adventures because he can’t stand to see his good work endangered. Remo is only a white man, Chiun reminds him, but he has almost transcended his racial limitations. The old Asian creates much of the comedic relief in the series, particularly as he interacts with hippies and other assorted leftists. They regularly praise him and give him honor because he’s “third world,” but don’t realize that he is about as royalist and reactionary as anyone could be. Nevertheless, he soaks up their laurels. Chiun also amuses with his horrendous poetry.
Remo becomes almost as deadly as Chiun through his training and often resents his transformation from man to superman. He is bored with sex because he knows all the technical details about how to drive women wild. He also yearns for American junk food, but his body has been so purified he is only able to eat fish and rice, like Chiun. His body rejects anything else. Despite his annoyance with life as a super-assassin, Remo enjoys bringing bad guys (and girls) down and displays a lot of style in so doing.
Finally, there is the head of CURE, one Dr. Smith. Smith is simultaneously brilliant and terribly dull. He was selected to head the organization because of his lack of imagination. A visionary type would figure out how to turn CURE into a platform for subtle world domination. The highlight of Smith’s day, on the other hand, is eating his usual prune whip yogurt. He runs things behind the scenes from the Folcroft Sanitarium.
The series was created by Warren Murphy and Dick Sapir. It was quite good until Sapir died and Murphy quit writing them. Since the 80’s, it has been licensed to various publishers with varying results. Of late, Remo has been in the hands of a Canadian publisher who doesn’t understand the property. Which is why I wrote this entire post, just to link to this National Review story about the recent fate of Remo.