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DF Interview: Mike Baron brings Badger back to comics
By Byron Brewer
Fans have been waiting for it, and in February Badger returns by creator Mike Baron with art by Jim Fern. The main aim is to bring the venerable character up to date.
To explore this further, Dynamic Forces sat down with Baron. This is what we found out.
Dynamic Forces: Mike, your creation, Badger, first burst onto the comic book scene in 1983, as I recall. Can you tell us about his creation as a character?
Mike Baron: After Capital accepted Nexus, I asked if we could start another title. Capital said sure, but it had to be a costumed crime fighter. I asked myself, why would anybody put on a costume and fight crime? They’d have to be crazy. I’d been reading Daniel Keyes’ The Minds of Billy Milligan and was impressed how the fractured lad could switch from personality to personality depending on the situation. Of course the truth about multiples is that they almost always result from some horrendous childhood experience, usually sexual molestation. So Badger’s fictional origin was very dark. In Madison, it’s Badger Liquors, Badger Sports, Badger Posters and so it hit me. The Badger. Jeff Butler and I had already completed a 12 page story about a 6th century druid kicked out of his own country. So I told Jeff my idea and he said, “Well, I’m not trashing these pages!” And so Ham and Badger were shoehorned together as a happy accident.
DF: Badger as a comic book has made the rounds from Capital Comics to First Comics and then Dark Horse, Image and IDW. Now it’s back to the new Devil’s Due/1First Comics brand. Tell us how this revival came about.
Mike Baron: When we went to Dark Horse, Mike Richardson agreed to give Badger a shot. The failure of Badger at first is entirely my fault as I made bad choices both in story and in art. I did the Image comics entirely on my own with some notable pick-up artists, including Mike Oeming and Mike Norton, but I was in a dark place in my life at the time and the stories sometimes veered off into rants and silliness. I’m still proud of some of them, particularly “Beefalo Don’t Like Fences,” illustrated by Mike Oeming. I’m very pleased with the writing on the IDW series, but once again I made a bad choice in art. Kevin Caron won’t mind me saying this because he has never made a secret of the fact that he is firmly in the underground/alternative camp. I thought the art was swell but fans hated it and Kevin couldn’t keep up. IDW brought in the Gulacy-like Alberto Dose, who masterfully illustrated the last two issues. This storyline is available as TPB under the title, Badger Saves the World.
DF: Norbert Sykes: Who was he, and who will he be in Badger #1 coming in February?
Mike Baron: Sykes was a farm kid whose mother married a creep who abused them. We covered this in The Shattered Mirror for Dark Horse. When First approached me about reviving the character we went round and round until we decided it was time to reintroduce him to a new generation. Thus the Badger is now an Afghani veteran. I have never actually told the story of his wartime conversion so that’s what we did here. It is very dark. This doesn’t examine the roots of his trauma, but how his wartime experiences shaped him into the Badger. The first issue is grim and will strike you like an iron skillet to the face. However, once he meets Ham, the tone shifts from Braddock: Missing in Action to Duck Soup as Ham, Daisy, Badger and Mavis become involved in a world-wide cult of gourmet elitists bidding on mastodon steaks in a Russian Palace. Vladimir Putin is the antagonist, but let’s not overlook Putin’s demons. Oh yes! Did I mention Putin is a wizard and summons demons and that Baba Yaga is on his payroll? Val Mayerik does the last three issues which involve a lot of martial arts. Our martial arts scenes are like no other in comics, in that they involve real techniques presented in a clear and dynamic manner so that each move flows smoothly and logically into the next. We’re both sticklers for bringing the kind of action you see in a Donnie Yen movie to the page.
DF: What can you tell us non-spoilery about the storyline?
Mike Baron: Mastodon steaks! Pussy Riot! A demon named Tungsten!
DF: And the big-bad? Will we be seeing a familiar face or someone new? Any details?
Mike Baron: Yak and Yeti return as well as Dr. Buick Riviera.
DF: How has it been working with artist Jim Fern on this first issue?
Mike Baron: Jim is a very meticulous artist whose work is ideally suited to the origin. It’s gritty and extremely realistic. Because the tone of the series shifts so radically from the first issue to the second, we went with Tony Akins on the second. I’ve done this before—used different artists to reflect different tones, and I hope that if the launch proves successful we can do an ongoing series with each story tailored to each artist’s particular strengths. Many great artists want to draw the Badger. I’m working on a story for dinosaur artist extraordinaire Mark Nelson. It’s called “Reptile Dysfunction.” Jeff Butler has a story called “Cryptid.”
DF: Mike, any other projects coming from you now or the near future you’d like to discuss?
Mike Baron: I’m adapting my novel Biker for Comicmix with the artist Chris-Cross. Nobody has ever seen anything like this. This story is going to explode like a thermonuclear bomb. I’m adapting my novel Helmet Head for Atomic Horizon with the artist Elias Martins. Steve Rude and I will launch an entirely new Nexus in January, which will be available to subscribers Sunday supplement size. Each page will be printed in color on 11 X 22 inch paper and shipped in a cardboard tube. And Wordfire Press will be publishing my novel Banshees, about a satanic rock band that returns from the dead, this winter.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Mike Baron for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Badger #1 hits stores in February 2016!
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