Thursday, June 11, 2015

TRULY GONE&FORGOTTEN : THE BUTCHER


Subtlety was not the Bucher's oeuvre.

Then again, there's clearly very little stock placed in subtlety with a character called The Butcher in the first place, particularly when he makes his debut on the cover of his self-titled book (The Butcher no.1, May, 1990) with a knife clenched between his teeth and wielding a semi-automatic weapon.

The Butcher was John Butcher, military man, martial artist and possessor of one of the least well-hidden secret identities in the history of comic book vigilantism. When his parents are murdered by the evil Namdorph Corporation in an attempt to steal the couple's valuable, undeveloped real estate, John Butcher abandons his responsibilities to arm himself for bear and start stabbing dudes in the face and neck with a huge knife ... until he gets justice!

I'm not super-crazy about the scalping, either.
As part of the book's aversion to gentle nuance, it's worth mentioning that Namdorph had set its sights on the aforementioned stretch of land not because it was simply some tedious corporate landgrab, the likes of which happen every day in abundance in the real world. Rather than merely being valuable for the inherent value of land, THIS land was home to "special crystals" which Namdorph intended to use to create a highly destructive particle beam weapon with which they could conquer the world. No small goals here.

Likewise, Namdorph ends up being - in the way of these stories - staffed entirely by mustache-twirling, rape-happy corporate execs with titanic Asian bodyguards, and inkily evil board members portrayed half-hidden in shadow whenever they do appear. I guess if they weren't so egregiously evil, we might've felt bad when John Butcher stabbed them in their faces.

It's odd that Namdorph is portrayed as a company so influential and so powerful that it can cover up its executives' collective murders, rapes, drug use and general criminal mayhem, but they couldn't just force a Native American mom and pop donut shop off of its land. That is LITERALLY what evil corporations have been doing since Europeans first settled this continent, I'm not sure you even have to fill out any paperwork to drive Native Americans off their land these days. Probably you just fill out an online form. There might even be an app for it.

Created by Mike Baron - co-creator of The Badger and Nexus, and fresh off the relaunch of the post-Crisis Flash title which saw Wally West graduated to his former mentor's mantle - and artist Shea Anton Pensa, the Butcher debuted in his own five-issue series, moved on to a five issue team-up book with Green Arrow and the Question, and then disappeared from DC's lineup, for one reason or another. My guess is that there's only so far you can go with a character bearing a sobriquet like that, and DC wasn't yet hooked up to the post-Image-boom tip...

For all his cunning Lakota ways and extensive martial arts and military training, the Butcher didn't act alone; he encircled himself with a small nuclear family, complete with tow-headed toddler, his former sensei (conceptual multimedia artist Tsunami, a "hip sensei" of the Baron variety) and, in both his series, archer vigilante Green Arrow. At one point it's revealed that the family's wife and mother enjoys baking and that "Tsunami" works in wax, and they just stand there in a room with Butcher and force that joke to land by just straight-up telling the reader that we've got ourselves a Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker situation going on here.

So, again, subtlety.

The Butcher had its flaws, but there wasn't a lot of time to smooth them out to find the salvageable character underneath . Proving to be a weird fit in the DC Universe, even at this increasingly grim-and-gritty time, the Butcher nonetheless didn't exactly have Justice League membership in his future...

5 comments:

neofishboy said...

Oh God, I was so hoping to find a paragraph that began "Created by Mike Baron, not to be confused with the Mike Baron of Badger and Nexus fame ... ", but no. Damn.

Oh, and YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD I READ YOUR BOOK!

Sorry ... I'm been waiting to do that for a while.

Calamity Jon said...

I gotta remember not to hang any paper.

Erik said...

That Question/ Green Arrow team up was a weird book. Very "gritty".

Kitty Trundle said...

The book was CO CREATED, by Baron and Pensa. Both their contracts with/from DC reflected this in phrase and function

Kitty Trundle said...

It was not created by Baron, it was co created by Baron and Pensa. They both had co creator contracts from DC.

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