This coming March, writer Joe Casey and artist Mike Huddleston are hitching a ride with a super-hero super trucker in Butcher Baker, The Righteous Maker.
Teased with a series of increasingly strange ads over the course of November, the fully-revealed Butcher Baker promises to go off the comics reservation and into the realm of “super-exploitation” that mixes super-heroes, race cars, orgies and uber villains. Butcher is an All-American tough guy, cut from the same cloth as patriotic heroes like Captain America but left to his own devices. Now long in the tooth, he rides a 18-wheeler ensconced with the soul of his deceased wife Liberty Belle. After years hung out to dry, Butcher is brought back into the fold for one last mission – if he can live up to his legend.
For artist Mike Huddleston, it’s a chance to go back to the energy-heavy creator-owned comics where he got his start. For the past few years he’s bounced around the major companies working on other people’s inventions, so this collaboration with long-time friend Joe Casey is a chance for him to sit back and cut loose.
Newsarama: The title of this is a riff off the old rhyme, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”. Mike, how’d it go from a kids rhyme into what we’ve been seeing previewed over the past month?
Mike Huddleston: Actually Joe is writing a very sweet, all ages book retelling this classic tale, and I just thought "Hey, this would be SO MUCH BETTER with race cars, orgies and uber villains!!!" I think he's pretty upset about the whole thing... Really, I have no idea. When Joe and I began talking about the concept he already had the title.
Nrama: What made this the project you wanted to spend your days doing?
Huddleston: First, it was a chance to work with Joe. Also he and I conceived of this project as something made specifically for wide open experimentation. So, between that approach and Joe's scripts I was hooked.
Nrama: Who are the big characters in this book?
Huddleston: The main characters are Butcher of course, and his surviving enemies: The Absolutely (which is my favorite), White Lightning, Angerhead, El Sushi, the Abominable Snowman, and Butcher's arch-nemesis Jihad Jones....also Butcher's big rig truck, "The Liberty Belle".
Nrama: What can you tell us about Butcher and Liberty Belle?
Huddleston: Belle was Butcher's first wife. When she was killed by a band of time traveling aliens Butcher forced an evil wizard to preserve her soul in the body of his 18 wheeler. They've been an inseparable team ever since, but their love life has......suffered. True story!
Nrama: Don’t I know it…
Huddleston: Seriously, depicting the Liberty Belle was a particular challenge though - How do you capture this metaphor of American power and virility? Strangely, with an homage to Japanese manga...hopefully that will make sense when people have the book in their hands.
Nrama: In Image’s press release for the series, they call it a “surreal homage to uber violence”. If that’s the case, how did you get in the right mindset to go down this road?
Huddleston: Uh, ya know, the usual: I start my morning with a six pack of Four Lokos (I stocked up!), followed by a freezing cold shower. After that in my studio I work to a non-stop loop of Ultimate Fighting's greatest hits mixed with the sound of rabid dogs barking. If that doesn't get me in the mood I have a German midget come in and throw sand in my eyes yelling at me that I "will NEVER have 'ZEE EYE OF ZEE TIGER!!!'."
Nrama: In the artwork we've seen you're really stretching your legs in terms of style. What can you tell us about the lines you're laying down in this? Are you coloring your own work too here?
Huddleston: I've always experimented with different styles, usually switching techniques from project to project, but Joe's scripts have such extremes in them: over the top drama, sleezy sex scenes, frenetic highway chases, supervillain smackdowns, etc; that it's forced me to pull out every tool I have for this one book.
And yes, I'm doing it all on this one: inks, colors, covers, the works.
Nrama: How did you two cross paths to end up doing this comic together?
Huddleston: Joe and I have known each other for a few years and every time we got together we would talk about someday working on a project. We finally shut up about it and got to work!
Nrama: You’ve been quoted as saying you’ve never had this much fun working on the book before. Is that hyperbole, or can you point to specific things that really fired you up for this project?
Huddleston: No hyperbole at all! I laugh out loud reading these scripts. Joe is going so over the top here that there is a real challenge for me to keep up, or even surpass his craziness, and that is incredibly fun. Also, the chance to design this entire world has been great. This is the type of thing I got into comics to do.
Nrama: Is this a one-shot, miniseries, ongoing – what?
Huddleston: think the series runs until everybody is dead....
Nrama: Runnin’ until the wheels fall off, okay.
You’re coming into this about doing a long run of company-owned work at DC; what led you to get back into the creator-owned world and try something this risqué?
Huddleston: Well I started my career with a creator-owned book, illustrating The Coffin before I moved on to more mainstream titles, but as much as I enjoy working for the bigger companies, creator owned work is where my heart is. On a project like Butcher Baker you aren't constrained with a character that's also a billion dollar movie property, or has years of continuity and a cranky audience to deal with. Joe and I are set free to invent without any limits and that ability to be risque, to push the envelope, to do projects whose audience isn't already defined....that's what keeps me coming back.You ready for some craziness?