-Joe Casey, from “the back matter” to Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker #3
Why did I pick that quote? Well, in part it’s to give a little bit of press to Joe, who was nice enough to include an ad for GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES in his new book. I’d probably pimp his book anyway, because Butcher Baker The Righteous Maker is one of the freshest, most enjoyable comics on the stands.
Butcher Baker is starts with superhero called out of retirement from Plato’s Retreat by Jay Leno and Dick Cheney in order to blow up a prison full of super-villains. I don’t know how it ends, but so far it’s playing out my favorite staple of 70’s movies like Cannonball Run - a hick highway patrolman in a high speed chase with an arrogant trucker across America. How has this never been in a comic before?
But the plot, even if I could do it justice, is not what makes this book special. Butcher Baker isn’t a failed movie pitch or the work of some self-hating writer who’d rather be doing crime or sci-fi but is stuck writing superheros. What makes Butcher Baker great is that it’s unabashedly a comic book. It’s not afraid to embrace the form or the genre and stick up it’s middle finger to anyone who has a problem with that.
And that is pure Joe Casey. When I first heard of Joe Casey, I didn’t like him. He did a column on Newsarama where he bragged about how he was different from other comic book creators, because he was good looking and in a band.
When I first met Joe Casey, I also didn’t like him. It wasn’t just the fact he wore sunglasses indoors, all the time, for no apparent reason. Or that he would swagger into Meltdown Comics in LA with Grant Morrison, literally pointing out all the crap books on the shelves (loud enough for creators to hear). And, when I introduced myself, and mentioned that I’d written my first book (GROUNDED), he said…oh yeah, that had great art. To a writer, that’s the equivalent of being told you have a nice personality.
It wasn’t long before I realized that all that was just Joe Casey being something most people in LA are not - real. That there’s virtually no one who has a deeper love for the medium than he does. And that in fact if you do earned his respect, he can be deeply generous to you as a creator.
(If you haven’t already, I highly urge you not only pick up his books, but check out The Basement Tapes, a back and forth he and fellow comic book genius Matt Fraction did on Comic Book Resources about the comics industry. I dare you to find a more honest dialogue about what it’s like to write comics in the modern era).
Okay, so big deal - Joe’s a nice guy underneath his sunglasses and he writes both cool comics and comic commentary. What does the above quote mean?
What I took it to mean is that, on the surface, it appears to be a pretty shitty time to be in comic books, whether as a creator, a reader a critic - whatever. Sales are down, and big empty crossovers are fighting over what scraps are left.
But (and Joe goes into greater detail in the back of Butcher Baker about this), whenever the industry is in a downturn, that’s when people take risks, and that’s when good work gets done. Just think of what dire straights Marvel was in before Joe Quesada et al took over, for example.
But with The Big Two now both wholly owned subsidiaries of multinational corporations, it’s now up to those of us doing indie books to take the risks. I’d like to think I’m doing that with GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES - Afghanistan isn’t as easy a sell as a planet where guys with green rings get to recite poetry.
Regardless of the merits of my work, I’m in good company at Image Comics. It’s not just Butcher Baker. It’s The Walking Dead. It’s Chew. It’s Echoes, NonPlayer, Shinku, Undying Love, Screamland, Blue Estate and at least another half-dozen books I can name. Books that are not only good, but books that are selling well.
It’s an exciting time to be in comics, and in particular it’s an exciting time to be doing the kind of comics that Joe does and I hope Paul Azaceta and I are doing. I hope you’ll come along for the ride. In the meantime…
ISSUE FOUR OF BUTCHER BAKER IS OUT TODAY. PICK IT THE FUCK UP!