Long ago in time, before the advent of the anti-hero as hero figure, before Forrest Gump, before there was any conception of a self knowing Deadpool or a Squirrel Girl, there was Howard...
No, no let us start again.
If attempting to explain the magic and appeal of The Badger to one unfamiliar with his background and uniquely quirky outlook on the world around us it is important to start the informing by pointing out that the character is essentially an empty one. The Badger is a man who is several, but because of this is none. The true purpose of this character is to be there to deliver the irony in a given (usually everyday) situation and by virtue of his reaction to said situation deliver us a subtly played but clear satirical comment on that point at hand.
Whether it be confronting Bullies, rescuing dogs, Obstructing people who shoot Geese, or delivering lightning justice on people who hold up the que in the Supermarket line, it is The Badger's duty to be not a character, but a commentary. Your host to take you through 22 pages of satire and ironic observation on a crazy chaotic world.
First appearing in 1983 and stumbling through differing smallpress publishers The Badger was one of those few who somehow managed to cling to life through those days of bankrupting publishers and backroom printing presses. While the likes of Ms Mystic and Megaton have remained dissapointingly in limbo our man Norbert Sykes refused to lie, and clung stubbornly on. Yet despite the rise of the Independent sector over the last 20 years Mike Baron's The Badger has been noticably low key, rarely making an appearance. The good fortune of those who remember him fondly, and of publisher Devils Due/First Comics, is that finally creator & writer Mike Baron has shrugged off his lethargy towards the character and has returned for what turned out to be something well worth the wait...
What is a first page for? What should be the purpose of the first page of any new book? To intrigue. To catch the attention of the reader.
While the cover to the 1st issue of new Badger is an utterly generic and nondescript action pose shot of the title character this unimpressive front is ill serving the considerably more impressive interiors from Baron and artist Jim Fern. Right from the first panel of the first page Baron takes it all back to reassuring basics and proves The Badger is still that uniquely droll and acutely observant satire that it was in the day. This in itself is a remarkable enough thing as remakes of old formats and concepts are a very tricky buisiness indeed, case in point - who besides Steve Gerber has managed to write and recapture a convincing and topical Howard the Duck? Is there a writer working in todays comics industry who has the required touch and fearlessness to follow a writer as idiosyncratic as Gerber was? Luckily Mike Baron is still active, and still has the touch.
Do not let me try to explain the appeal of The Badger to you however, explaining is futile, to understand what the magic is about the character is it has to be experienced. Get youself a copy therefore and not only absorb the sublimeness of it but lay back and enjoy the quirky view of the world Norbert Sykes reflects to us. Appreciate the finely observed composition and fully realised art of Jim Fern, marvel at the richness of detail and wry humour within. But remember, this first book is just the introductory chapter, it gets even better from hereon out.
The First page, and showing a fine grasp of the mechanics of writing for an audience Mike Baron engages the readers attention right from the very first panel by posing a very direct question. The directness of the question then forces the reader to follow on for the response, That this is a seemingly ordinary and earthly job application in progress is juxtaposition with a most esoteric and unusual individual responding in what must be the perfect answer to any job interview session is precisely what The Badger is all about. Satirising the humourless. Finding the absurdity in the everyday we have come to accept for granted. The means by which Mike Baron does it however is to play the central figure of Norbert Sykes as merely the instrument that trigers and highlights the absurdity, what follows is down to the readers own degree of recognition of that absurdist element. Just as Satire should be.
I loved the original series when it started, and was clearly about Ham the Weather Wizard, with the Badger there only to supply costumed relief (so to speak).
The more the various series have focused on the Badger himself, the less interesting they become to me.