Filed under: Our favourite things | Tags: butcher baker, joe casey, mike huddleston, Rus Wooton, sonia harris
Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker is not the kind of graphic novel that might immediately hold your attention from the shelf. In its plain blue covering and red marker scrawlings of the title it looks more like something someone had put up themselves, but when you open the cover the pages explode into a chaotic, colourful story in front of your eyes.
Butcher Baker‘s style is nearly schizophrenic in its appearance – no consistent panel patterns and drastic contrasts between black and white newspaper-print style artwork, trippy brightly-coloured panels and old school comic strip styles. The story itself is a fantastic piece of superhero pulp with just the right amount of sex, drugs and violence to make it an utter thrill to read. It goes as follows; ex-superhero Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker is pulled out of his hedonistic retirement to finish off his old villains contained at the Bertrand Institute for Meta-Criminal Containment (colloquially known as The Crazy Keep). He’s given the weaponry and information to blow up the facility while sparing the employees, nice and clean. Reared by the government, given an engine heart with spectacular horsepower and handed a red, white and blue uniform, Butcher Baker is the American Dream incarnate; it’s the classic American Superhero story gone wrong, much like Watchmen‘s Comedian.
Things all seem fairly straightforward now – Butcher’s tearing down the highway in the Liberty Belle, his patriotic truck, ready to blow up The Crazy Keep. He knows he should be incognito but can’t resist messing with the cop who tries to trail him for speeding, and a macho rivalry between Butcher and officer Arnie B. Willard begins which will last the length of the book. Knocking him off the road, our moustached protagonist finally makes it to The Crazy Keep where he follows his orders to the letter and destroys the building and its inhabitants. The story should be over now, right? Well, wrong. A number of villains have described; the Alan Moore-looking Jihad Jones, a BDSM style brute called AngerHead, the hulking sumo El Sushi, The Abominable Snowman, the sexy White Lightning and the utterly strange Absolutely, a floating hermaphroditic entity which speaks in riddles and abstract metaphors.
The villains want revenge, clean and simple, for all the times that Butcher Baker has gleefully and sadistically beaten them down, and an unlikely team forms between Absolutely and the perplexed Arnie who is still chasing down the Liberty Belle, little knowing the nature of its driver. Most of the villains are dealt with fairly quickly but Jihad Jones has a much more personal stake in the matter, having lost his sidekick/lover Rocket Boy to Butcher Baker years ago. Still, he is beaten by Butcher Baker, shot by Arnie and crushed into the side of a rock by the Liberty Belle. Just the Absolutely remains and it’s obvious that this isn’t an enemy he can beat with physical strength; instead he plays on its emotional instability, painting an origin story of terrible tragedy which breaks the thing’s reality and it ceases to exist.
An awesome comic featuring the President of Reality, a paradise for retired superheroes and a frozen woman being snapped into pieces. The drawing style reminds me of the animation of Mickey in Natural Born Killers – that inky, hulking beast smashing through corridors, aiming to go out in a hail of bullets is really invoked in the last panel in which Butcher is drenched in the red of sniper lasers. This is most definitely not a graphic novel for anyone who has problems with swearing, sex, violence and other taboo subjects, but if you’re not easily phased and enjoy a bit of mind-bending superhero pulp, make sure you pick up Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker for a thoroughly fun read.
P.S. The back part of the book is filled with writings and rantings from the author on all manners of subjects; the history of comic books, the process of creating one and a charming interview with himself in which no questions are really answered. Also showing some of the script, individual comic covers, the logo design process and a previous collaboration between Mike Huddleston and Joe Casey, it’s not required reading for the comic but it’s a great extra and gives this graphic novel much more read time for one of its size.
By Jenny Mugridge – find me on http://www.jennymugridge.com
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