Armagideon Time

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.

Related posts:

  1. Nobody Else’s Favorites: Jump, jive, and wail
  2. Nobody’s Favorites: Cowboy ugh
  3. Nobody’s Favorites: Whose swill be done?

9 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: Slaughterhouse jive”

  1. Jeremy Henderson

    My god…is he…is he wearing a dreamcatcher around his neck?

  2. damanoid

    Code of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc. (1971 revision):

    GENERAL STANDARDS–PART C (DIALOGUE)

    4. Any use of the phrase “moist and heavy” is strictly forbidden.

  3. Frank

    I always wondered about that guy. I read the first issue of that awful Brave and the Bold revival, and that was as far as I got. I might even have a looseleaf Who’s Who page about him, but I never bothered to read it. I don’t think anybody cares enough to kill the Butcher, and they kill New Bloods these days.

  4. Lawrence Fechtenberger

    I was never able to get past this character’s name–which, besides being deeply unpleasant (Why would you want to call yourself that?), was also doubly derivative, there having been at least previous Butchers. There was a series of “men’s adventure” paperbacks, written by Michael Avallone under a house name; and Warren’s EERIE had a brief, Richard Corben-drawn series about a priest-turned-vigilante (who kept a sawed-off shotgun in his confessional booth).

  5. Steven E. McDonald

    I read that entire Brave & Bold mini…incoherent is being *nice* about it.

  6. Scott Rowland

    OK, the only good thing I can say about this character is . . .

    I got nothing.

  7. Matthew Murray

    I have thankfully only read like two issues of that Brave and the Bold miniseries. It is incredibly terrible. My roommates at the time (I hauled it out of a quater bit while on a DC kick like five years ago), had to put up with me ranting about how bad it was.

  8. Jim Kosmicki

    The Butcher broke me of my Mike Baron fanboy-ness, but I’ll gladly defend Sonic Disruptors. Yes, Baron was most likely not sober while writing it, and yes, he had no overall plot in mind at all, but that’s what makes it work. It is an imagination at work. It’s free-form storytelling that keeps trying to pull itself back to a coherent plot. I even think the lack of a conclusion works; after all, how many dreams or children’s rambling stories ever really have an ending???

  9. bitterandrew

    I keep meaning to write about Sonic Disruptors, along with Steeltown Rockers one of these days.

    And not as Nobody’s Favorites.

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