Bad guys everywhere better start quaking in their boots, because Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker is on his way – though, really, he’s already been here for quite some time.
“Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker” is not only the newest project from collaborators Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston, it’s also the subject of Image Comics’ recent teaser campaign that ran throughout the month of November. Describing “Butcher Baker” as a Superexploitation story, Casey sat down with CBR News for an exclusive first interview to discuss the story of the series and the character, the kind of action readers are in store for, the overall goals of the teaser process and much more.
“It’s a twisted, adults-only, epic tale of deranged superfiction and two-lane blacktop mayhem,” Casey told CBR of “Butcher Baker.” “That kinda sums it up. If I went too deeply into the plot and premise, it might take away some of the fun of reading the thing when it hits. Having said that, I do think the teasers set a tone, as well as an expectation as to how jam-packed this comic book is going to be. Quite often, people trot out that ol’ showbiz chestnut ‘more bang for your buck,’ but in this case, it’s definitely more fuck for your buck.”
Enter Butcher Baker, the titular Righteous Maker who Casey described as an All-American superhero in the most iconic sense. “He’s seen it all and he’s got the scars to prove it,” said the writer. “He drives a powerhouse rig appropriately decorated in the stars and bars called the Liberty Belle. But it’s been a while since Butcher was on the front lines of superhero action, [and] as our story opens, he is called into service to tie up a loose end from his glory days. That loose end is the catalyst to a life-altering adventure that will test this guy on every conceivable level.”
While Butcher might come off to readers at first glance as your classic cigar-chomping, swear-spewing, butt-bashing bastard of a hero, Casey said that there’s more to the character than meets the eye. “That kind of tough guy archetype definitely has a lot of broad audience appeal, but what I like to do – and I’ve done it here, too – is to subvert the expectations of that archetype,” he said. “So, when you read the book, it’ll become obvious that there’s a lot more to Butcher Baker than the stereotypical Bruce Willis in ‘Die Hard’ mentality. So, from a creator’s point of view, that’s the main attraction: to do something different with something inherently familiar.”
Although he’s the title character, Butcher is far from being the only notable presence in his self-titled series. “Anyone who might be familiar with my work knows that I tend to build fairly eclectic casts of characters, mainly because I like to have a lot of toys to play with. That’s where story comes from, out of character, and when it comes to casts, diversity is key. You want different character types to bounce off each other, because that’s where the real grist of the story comes from. That’s where the conflict comes from. And, trust me, you’re not gonna find characters like Jihad Jones, Angerhead, Arnie B. Willard, the Absolutely and El Sushi anywhere but in this series.”
At least one or more of those aforementioned characters is likely to find themselves on the receiving end of Butcher Baker’s wrath, as Casey explained that this series is definitely extreme in the violence department. “You’ve heard of Blaxploitation – this is Superexploitation,” he said. “That’s right, folks, a new genre classification is born! But what that means is that the action is over-the-top, the situations are extreme, the emotions are extreme. Explicit sex, sensational violence, controversial chaos – everything is pushed to its absolute limit. Frankly, it’s what all superhero comic books should be but rarely are these days. Lots of conservatism creeping into our beloved genre.”
As for Butcher’s own combat style, Casey described him as akin to a runaway freight train: “He just keeps going until the enemy has been defeated. He’s a superhero soldier, after all – he’ll never say die.”
Casey said that the idea for “Butcher Baker” has been floating around for about five years now. “As with most things, it started out as one thing and morphed over time into what will now see print,” he recalled. “That’s usually how it goes with me – some ideas I have to sit with for a while. It’s all about Creative Darwinism: if ideas can hang around for a long enough period of time, my feeling is that I have to see them through. Plenty of ideas don’t make it past the initial burst of inspiration; this one obviously did.”
As “Butcher Baker” moved past that initial burst of inspiration, Casey turned to Mike Huddleston as his artistic partner-in-crime. “Mike and I have been planning this collaboration for a few years at least; it was just a matter of timing to get things rolling,” said the writer. “The first step was a lot of discussion about the type of book we wanted to do. Mike wanted to experiment with different artistic approaches, and I guess I’m known for pushing artists out of their comfort zones a little bit. As to what it takes to make a series like ‘Butcher Baker’ happen, we’re running a ton of development art in the backmatter of the book, starting in issue #1, so readers will be able to see just how much work was put into this.”
Of course, readers already have a sense of how much work was put into “Butcher Baker,” thanks to the book’s monthlong teaser campaign that concluded in November. “I was talking to Eric Stephenson, who drives the Magic Image Bus, and we were discussing how played out a lot of comic book promotion has gotten,” he explained of the teaser process’ origins. “Everything’s been done, there’s a lot of white noise out there, from one-off teasers to Photoshopped scam jobs. And I’m not saying this isn’t more white noise – it definitely is – but the idea appealed to me more as an art project than it did as flat-out promotion. Comics are fun, so it stands to reason to try and make every step of the process as fun as possible. We had plenty of finished art at our fingertips, entire issues were in the can so we could cherry pick the most effective images, so we figured, ‘Why not?’ I’ve heard that some folks figured out right away what we were teasing, so it wasn’t about the ‘mystery’ of the whole thing. It was a performance piece, more than anything else.”
The art and text seen throughout the “Butcher Baker” teaser campaign were derived from specific panels and pages in the ongoing “Butcher Baker” title, a feat that was possible due to the fact that Casey and Huddleston are already several issues deep into production. “We’re way ahead, considering we’re launching in March,” said Casey. “Issues #1 and #2 are in the can, issues #3 and #4 will be done by the end of the year. By the time we launch, we’re shooting to have at least five done and in the can. I think, fundamentally, people will wait for quality, but in reality, no one wants late books. Image doesn’t want them, retailers don’t want them, and as a reader, I’m not wild about late-shipping books. So we’re doing what we can to combat that plague upon our nation. You’ve seen the PSAs: ‘Lateness kills.'”
Although Casey is undoubtedly excited to put the final “Butcher Baker” product out there in front of the fans, the writer said that he hasn’t been looking too closely at the fan reactions to the teaser campaign. “Honestly, I haven’t been paying all that close attention,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, there’s the appropriate amounts of confusion and outrage that you’d expect to see on the ‘net. Initially it was interesting to see which websites would play along. Some did, some didn’t, but I think it all worked out in the end. Those of us in the know had a lot of fun with it, and that’s kinda all that matters.”
Indeed, when asked if he could summarize the teaser process in one single point, Casey echoed that last comment: “I guess, for me, the point is that comic books are still a medium of personal expression. No matter how much Hollywood co-opts us, no matter how big and bloated the big publishers get, we’re still in an era where you can still be creative in how you build and market your work, if you’re willing to put in the effort. At this point, I couldn’t even say how successful we were in the amount of awareness we’ve achieved for the series, but it was a good laugh nonetheless. And it opens the door to other types of promotions on other books down the line. It’s not like we reinvented the wheel here, but it was somewhat ambitious and I feel like we pulled something off. That alone made it worth doing.”
In the end, as was the case with the teaser campaign, Casey’s central goal with “Butcher Baker” is to excite and entertain. “My opinion is that most superhero comic books are pretty goddam boring right now,” he said. “We’re mired in a very conservative period in terms of the creative chances being taken with the available material – in other words, they’re not being taken. I love superhero comics, but the majority of Marvel and DC’s output isn’t floating my boat, so I decided to try and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
“That’s where a book like ‘Butcher Baker’ fits in,” the writer continued. “We truly are the dangerous alternative to all those croaky, still-decompressed superhero comics you might’ve grown up reading, but maybe they aren’t scratching your itch anymore. There seems to be a lot of apathy out there for superhero comics, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Check back with CBR at 1PM Pacific for an exclusive preview of the series’ first issue. “Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker” #1, written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Mike Huddleston, kicks off in March 2011 courtesy of Image Comics.