Written by: Mike Baron
Art by: Jim Fern
Published by: Devil’s Due/1First Comics
If you were a comic book fan in the mid-1980s then you know it was an interesting time for the industry. There were more publishers putting out comics in this period than at any time since the height of the Golden Age. Large independent publishers like Eclipse, First, Comico, Pacific, and a few others competed not only with Marvel and CD, but also with dozens of garage operations like Mirage Studios who produced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turltes.
One company that popped up in the early 1980s was Wisconsin-based Capital Comics which was the in-house imprint of Capital City, one of the early comic book direct distributors. Capital, like many of these 1980s publishers, only lasted a few years but was notable for a couple of creations that are still around today. One of those is Nexus by writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude. The other is The Badger, also by Baron. Only a handful of issues were produced before Capital went under but Badger gained new life when the title was picked up by First Comics in 1985. It was one of the company’s most popular titles running for 70 issues along with a couple of mini-series’ and graphic novels. Through the years The Badger popped up periodically at other publishers such as Dark Horse and IDW. And after an absence of several years the Badger is back in a brand spanking new mini-series from the revived 1First Comics and Devils Due, with whom it merged in 2015.
First a bit of background on The Badger (which I admit was one of my favorite indy titles back in the 1980s). The Badger is Norbert Sykes, a Vietnam War vet who has multiple personalities. Sykes is a vigilante…an expert combatant and martial artist that can talk to animals and who has a habit of referring to everyone as “Larry”. Sykes is joined by Ham (don’t ask me to pronounce the full name) a fifth-century Druid who awakes from a centuries long slumber. Ham’s powers and lust for greed land him in trouble which results in the Badger having to save him. The series was notable for its blend of action, humor, and Baron’s razor-sharp dialogue.
Baron retcons the Badger’s origin from the Vietnam era to the present day conflict in Afghanistan. Norbert Sykes is a young army recruit. His ability to relate to animals leads him to training dogs to locate bombs. When a mission goes awry, Sykes is captured by enemy forces and tortured. The experience leads to something short-circuiting in Norbert’s head leading to fits of rage and the birth of The Badger.
Whether you are a longtime fan of the Badger or have never read a single issue, this issue presents the perfect jumping off point. New readers don’t have to worry about the previous thirty plus years of history and continuity and veterans will enjoy reading Baron’s new vision of his character. It’s like meeting old friends for the first time. While I will always be partial to the art of early series artists Jeff Buttler and Bill Reinhold, the art by Jim Fern is solid and an excellent accompaniment to Baron’s wit. He has a similar angular style to Reinhold’s. Issue # 2 will feature art by Tony Akins and issues #3-#5 will have art by veteran Val Mayerik, one of my personal favorites.
The Badger is back! Make sure you are on board!