There are few lines — apart from “it’s malignant” and “is there anyone here who knows how to land an airplane” — capable of evoking as much primordial dread as “DC Comics’ first new super-hero for the 1990′s,” and for good reason…
Though billed as a hero for 1990s, The Butcher was very much rooted in the trends and fads of the previous decade, when direct market distribution made it possible for comics publishers to explore “mature” (not to be confused with actual maturity) themes.
Y’know, stuff like cuss words, boob shots, and — most importantly — graphic depictions of violence. Having found a viable end-run around the restrictions of the Comics Code Authority, a slew of faceshooting, gutstabbing badasses emerged to capitalize on the raw, unfiltered stuff of adolescent power fantasies. Taken in that context, the Butcher was more of a late arrival than a harbinger.
After agents of the eeeeevil Namdorph Corportation (don’t ask) blew up his family’s gas ‘n’ gulp, killing his parents and maiming his little sister in the process, Native American martial artist/Special Forces vet/ex-CIA agent John Butcher embarked on a one-man crusade for vengeance. (It’s handy John’s surname lent itself so well to his vigilante career, unlike his peers “The Weiner,” “The Glasscock,” and “The Doodlesack.”)
The only real twist to the bog-standard tale of bloody-minded revenge was Butcher’s ancestry, which gave writer Mike Baron (in more of a Sonic Disruptors mode than a Nexus one here) the opportunity to mix in some half-assed depictions of Native American warrior mysticism alongside the requisite East Asian variety. Two reductive cultural characterizations for the price of one – that’s the sort of value added you don’t get in today’s new-fangled comics.
The miniseries also threw in an inexplicable guest appearance by the “grim and gritty” post-Longbow Hunters Green Arrow as well as the true sensational character find of 1990…
…the Korean underworld’s answer to Bobby Brown. Don’t underestimate the power of his New Jack Fu.
Following the conclusion of his solo miniseries, the Butcher went on to appear as one of the principal characters (alongside Green Arrow and the Question) in the utterly incoherent 1992 Brave and the Bold revival before vanishing down the memory hole.
As a character that reflects the worst aspects of two eras of comics history — not to mention a period when miniseries were used as vectors for flinging shit against fandom’s wall — the Butcher has more than earned his place in the roster of Nobody’s Favorites.