Mike Huddleston (“GEN13”, “THE COFFIN”), the artist behind “BUTCHER BAKER, THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER” talks about the world he has teamed up with writer Joe Casey (“UNCANNY X-MEN”, “ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN”) to create. Published by Image Comics, “BUTCHER BAKER, THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER” gives us a NEW superhero that stands out in a genre full of the ridiculously old and played out crime-fighters that should have hung up their capes long ago. You may be reading this wondering “Doesn’t Johnny_Trouble know that this is a horror website and this isn’t a horror comic?” I can assure you I know that, and this interview has nothing to do with horror, this has everything to do with awesome. Read on boys and girls, and see what I mean.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Following Interview Is Uncensored, Contains Strong Language, Some Story Telling, A Dash Of Insanity, And Two Guys Talking About Comics. Johnny_Trouble: “Mike, thank you for agreeing to this interview, now that you have bought the ticket, it’s time to take the ride. “BUTCHER BAKER, THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER” is a series that follows Butcher Baker, a superhero that loves his vices, and unapologetically busting skulls. I love the series, and that’s why you and I are here to discuss your Art. Yes, I am going by Joe Casey’s definition of Art, it’s the rules. Wait… fuck the rules. Let’s face it, you two have made something out of thin air. Call it Art, or call it art, I don’t care. But I wanted us to talk.
This series brings a wide variety of color schemes to the table, anything from black and white to full color depending on the panel, and these different schemes can change based on who is in the panel, the mood behind it, and whether or not it’s a memory. Can you explain the purposes behind this?”
Mike Huddleston: “Well, the idea at first is just to make something that is exciting to look at, and beyond that only about 50% of these decisions are something I could rationally explain. When I first read a script I see the scenes and usually there is a style attached to them already- so it’s immediately a kind of a mix-tape of influences. If there is a car chase I might see it the way it would look in The Fast and The Furious, but if there is a giant monster in a city of course that’s going to look like an old Godzilla movie. So much of it is just personal associations. Some of it’s subconscious. Already there have been a couple theories put forward about the art in reviews of Butcher that have made me go back to look at the book and ask “Was I actually doing that?” Maybe I was… who knows? The other side of these choices is the reality that this is a book for an independent publisher, which means little money and not much time- so the option of lavishly painting every page just isn’t there. A book like this has to be made with much more of a Grindhouse ethic where you are creating very quickly, putting up your big scenes where you can and finding creative solutions for everything else. It’s the old quote “art thrives under limitation”.
Johnny_Trouble: “Were there any sources of inspiration you drew from when creating the art for the series?”
Mike Huddleston: “Yeah, that’s a tough one. When you are creating something everything you are thinking and watching finds it’s way in to your work somehow. Some very specific influences so far in Butcher are old b/w manga, Chip Kidd’s “The Art of Charles M. Schulz”, Tex Avery cartoons, Wacky Races, and probably about 100 designers or artists. A more general influence weirdly was the film/doc “The September Issue”. The specific subject of the film wasn’t so important, but the big theme I liked was this look at the fashion industry as a business that relies on constant creative innovation. These designers have to have a new line of work every year, and it has to be different than what they did last year. They are looking for NEW things, which I think is a drastic contrast to the comic book industry. Most comic book readers aren’t crying out for change. The vast majority of readers want stories about characters who have been around for 50 years, and they want to see those stories presented in basically the same way they have been for the last 50 years….. okay, ranting aside, this is just a roundabout way of saying that this film put me in the mindset of shooting for an audience that would be excited to see something different. Hopefully those people are out there.
Another general influence is what is in my mind a school of artists that includes Dave Mckean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ashley Wood, etc. These guys already laid the groundwork for telling stories in this freewheeling manner letting different styles collide from page to page. For me, I think of this as almost a Rashomon art style, where you will see scenes and characters presented in different and contrasting ways. What I am curious to see, is if all these differing snapshots of the characters in Butcher will at the end add up to be a big picture for the reader, or if it will just be confusing.”
Johnny_Trouble: “What was the most difficult part of the artistic creation process that you have encountered while working on Butcher Baker?”
Mike Huddleston: “Working on Butcher has really been a blast through every part of the process; the only difficult part has been having to say “no” to ideas I would like to try because there just isn’t time. You are always having to send some pages out the door that you’re not 100% on and that’s always frustrating- but I think that’s a fact for everyone working in comics.”
Johnny_Trouble: “The villains in Butcher Baker come from a variety of backgrounds and ideologies; they aren’t a guild of similarly minded criminals. What was the creation process like for this band of bad guys visually speaking?”
Mike Huddleston: “I was so excited to work on these guys! I’ve done a bunch of creator owned books so far, but this was the first time I was creating superheroes/villains so I was stoked. Visually, Joe had pretty thorough descriptions of these guys: Angerhead’s clouds, that Abominable had some sort of cold engine, the Absolutely being well endowed, etc, etc. I’m guessing Joe must not be able to draw AT ALL because if he could I think he would happily push me away from the drawing table and just make this book himself! I tried to give each villain a look that you could tell what they were about without them saying a word. I sent Joe a few rounds of sketches and eventually we landed with our villains.”
Johnny_Trouble:”How much of the world of the visual world of Butcher Baker was your creation versus something that Joe might have conceptualized? (For example, the dick shaped door handle at Plato’s Retreat. Your idea, or Joe’s?)”
Mike Huddleston: “If there is something visual that is important to the story, let’s say a dick doorknob, you can bet Joe has it in the script, but if he hasn’t specifically described something then it gives me room to run- for example, I don’t think Joe envisioned the Crazy Keep looking so strange and circus-y. So, it’s a matter of capitalizing on the script’s strangeness and then piling on where I can.”
Johnny_Trouble:”When it came to all of the nudity in the comics, was there any concern about pushing the envelope with the series, or was there a line you guys knew not to cross?”
Mike Huddleston: “I had no concern. At all. I’ve upped the ante several times on the nudity and sex from what was in the script, but I feel like my job on this book is to turn everything up to 11. If there is an explosion: it’s nuclear, if there is a death: it’s gruesome, and if there is a sex scene: it’s an orgy! Butcher definitely isn’t a book about subtlety.”
Johnny_Trouble: “How did you end up teaming up with Joe to create the series, and how many more issues can we expect to see of this righteous goodness?”
Mike Huddleston: “Joe and I had both been on the professional arm wrestling circuit for several years and kind of knew each other from competitions. It just happened that we were both sidelined last year with injuries, so being out of competition for a season we had time to kill and started talking about other jobs we could have. I had heard you could get really rich making independent comics, so I convinced Joe to give writing a shot and the rest is history. Joe has had these characters in his head since he was like 6 years old, so I’m not sure how many issues he has planned. We’ll see if he can keep his schedule once he’s back in competition.”
Editor’s Note: The real answer to this question is in the back of “BUTCHER BAKER, THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER” Issue #1. Buy the comic and read Joe Casey’s backmatter.
Johnny_Trouble: “Are there any other comics that you have in the works that we can expect to see in the future?”
Mike Huddleston: “Yeah, I did a graphic novel last year with Rob Venditti (creator of The Surrogates), called “Homeland Directive” which will be out this month from Top Shelf. Also IDW is re-releasing deluxe hardcover versions of some of my older projects. Last winter we released “The Coffin”, this month will see the re-release of “Deep Sleeper” and this summer “Mnemovore” will be out.”
Johnny_Trouble: “Since it is Spring and the convention season upon us, where can fans of the comic expect to find you? Also, where can they keep up with news regarding you and the series online? (God, these are stalker questions.)”
Mike Huddleston: “I plan to be at the San Diego ComiCon as well as Paris ComiCon this Summer, but that’s probably it for my conventions this year. I hope to do more next year. (Hint, hint convention planners!) Ummm… to follow me online, I have a blog I haven’t posted to in about a year…other than that I’m on FaceBook. Yep, I’m a real genius at self-promotion.”
I would like to thank Macho Mike Huddleston for talking to us about BUTCHER BAKER, THE RIGHTEOUS MAKER. The third issue of this series comes out May 25th. Go check out this series, it is a much needed wakeup call to the superhero genre. (By wakeup call I really mean a kick to the junk.) That being said, this is Johnny_Trouble, and I’m signing off to go take advantage of FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!