LIMP DICK SUPERHEROICS
Nick Hanover: So, a running theme for us in these Butcher Baker reviews has been “Butcher Baker is sex” but I think we may need to change that after these last two issues. The prior issue found Butcher Baker going limp until some decidedly nonsexy super villains showed up and gave him a reason to beat the shit out of them. This issue finds him taking that ass kicking to its logical conclusion and then running into impotency issues once more during the after-party.
Danny Djeljosevic: To go back to the ever-present DNA of Watchmen that’s flecked all over this work, Butcher Baker is having a Nite-Owl moment.
Nick: Right, ol’ BB is having a difficult time readjusting to normal sexual escapades, or at least what would go for normal for a guy like that. So maybe the more appropriate theme is “Butcher Baker is sex… as long as sex means wanton death and destruction.”
Danny: Sex is almost always absent from superhero comics. I suppose the fighting and the lasers are supposed to be some kind of substitute for that.
Nick: So do you think Joe Casey is trying to comment on the fact that comic book masculinity is wrapped up in violence?
Danny: Most definitely. He’s fulfilling the titillation of the superhero fight scene, unshackled by any sort of corporate mandate to not depict some dude’s head exploding. We even get the full nine with a dead girlfriend to add “emotional resonance.” Yet Butcher’s lost his mojo as far as climaxing with the ladies. Guy needs to get his groove back.
Nick: I find it fascinating that all three villains more or less explode in this issue too. They have literally become ejaculations.
Danny: Another benefit of creator-owned work — you can explode your bad guys without someone telling you that that’s not what your protagonist does. But in the context of the story, he doesn’t have very much trouble getting rid of the supervillains. It’s only when it comes to his dick that he can’t get the job done. Um, so to speak.
THIS AIN’T YOUR FATHER’S DADDY ISSUES, OR “THAT ONE METALLICA SONG”
Nick: There’s also the added complication of his newfound psychic connection with Willard, who totally cock blocks him.
Danny: That’s my favorite part of this issue: “…Daddy issues… churning up. But they ain’t mine —“
Nick: That section was incredible, removed from context that line could be stolen from a Suicide track. Huddleston’s art in those scenes is some of my favorite of the series as well, a brilliant use of his extensive range of styles and textures complete with a truly cosmic color palette. And yet it never feels crowded or overdone. Psychedelic shit like this is always tough to pull off yet he makes it look easy.
Danny: It’s a structured bit of hallucinatory comics — all contained nicely within the confines of script and panels.
Nick: I’m curious to see what this psychedelic psychic connection will ultimately mean for BB and Willard too. Will there be a team-up in the near future? I hope so.We also got a glimpse of what is, to me at least, an even more important connection — the one between BB and Liberty Belle.
Danny: You mean the engine in BB’s chest?
Nick: Why yes, I do. Because what better way to power up your sex crazed All-American hero than with a gigantic block engine?
Danny: I figured that was metaphorical, but if it’s literal, that’s fucking amazing. And explains how he can fuck like clockwork and have a seven-minute refractory period.
Nick: I think it’s literal, based on hints that Casey has been dropping and the bizarre telepathic relationship BB and LB seem to have.
Danny: That adds a lot to the Butcher Baker/Arnie Willard divide. Since Willard’s a regular dude with a shitty life, and Butcher Baker is some kind of masculine dynamo.
Nick: It makes perfect sense too. BB has been more machine than man in a lot of ways, both from a powers perspective and from a general attitude perspective. The guy is a relentless force built for one thing — destroying whatever he’s set upon. Willard can sympathize with that, though, even if he’d never admit it. As much as BB has become his arch-nemesis, the two bonded extremely well the only time they met and they both have a singular passion that drives them above all other things. Some of those glimpses we got while they were mentally connected makes it seem as though ol’ Willard has some similar impotence issues
Danny: For me, the best moment (on a character development level) in the mental connection sequence is when we see Willard bludgeoning some Klansmen. So far I’ve been reading Willard as the villain, but I forgot that he’s a cop! He’s not necessarily a “bad guy.” In fact, Butcher Baker was the guy breaking the law in this scenario, which really speaks to the villainous and/or incompetent dimension law enforcement takes in a superhero comic.
Nick: I get the sense that Willard is just sick of people thinking they get to decide how the law should be implemented. People forget the KKK more or less began as an organized vigilante group.
Danny: They do wear costumes, after all — and it’s to scare people. Batman isn’t very far from the KKK, when you think about it.
Nick: Hilariously those costumes didn’t come along until the KKK got their own comic book movie in the form of Birth of a Nation
Nick: But you’re exactly right, BB is a lawbreaker. Unlike Willard, who is actually meant to act in the name of the law, BB seems to be straight mercenary, a guy who just likes smashing stuff and will do so for whoever is willing to pay. It’s not a coincidence that Casey chose to have BB work for two great contemporary American villains, by which I mean Jay Leno and Dick Cheney, who finally reappeared in this issue.
GODDAMN THESE VAMPIRES
Danny: I’m glad to see them back, because I was afraid they’d be a one-off joke.
Nick: Yeah, same here. I have a feeling we’re goi
ng to be seeing a whole hell of a lot more of them soon.
Danny: Is the fact that Dick Cheney is still working anything like the way Moore keeps Nixon around in Watchmen, or Miller Reagan in the Dark Knight Returns?
Nick: It’s funny you bring those examples up because Cheney was intimately involved in both of those presidencies.
Danny: Ha! I didn’t even think about that.
Nick: So you could make the case that he would have been involved in the dictatorships of their fictional counterparts, too. I’m not sure Casey was going for that kind of grand statement on American politics, but it’s not too much of a stretch to assume he knew that and thought Cheney would be an especially apt device rather than a convenient straw man. Especially in the case of Reagan, who was arguably much more of a figurehead than someone like Nixon, who really did like to get his hands dirty, which was of course the very thing that doomed him.
Danny: Mostly, I see the pair as the evils of absolute corruption (Cheney) and the evils of aggressive mediocrity (Leno).
Nick: I predict that we will soon witness a direct conflict between those pillars of corruption and mediocrity and our boys BB and Willard, themselves symbols of single minded devotion.
Danny: I can see that. Clearly, Butcher Baker isn’t cottoning to his “gun for hire” lifestyle anymore, so taking on the hand that feeds is surely the next logical step.
Nick: I just hope Willard is willing to settle and forgive before things get ugly. BB’s going to need the help against Jihad Jones anyway, I think.
Danny: Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker #6 is going to be INSANE.
Nick: Tru dat.
For more foul-mouthed pop comic zeitgeisting, check out our other Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker reviews:
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book writer, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter as @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, “Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men,” over at Champion City Comics.
When he’s not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for “Partytime” Lukash’s Panel Panopticon.