What might bring a comic-book neophyte into cozy Capital City Comics on a cold winter day? There's a new superhero in town. Again.
Badger is a comic book character and series created by writer Mike Baron in 1982, with artwork done by a succession of illustrators. It was originally published by Capital Comics, but when Capital went under, the series was picked up by First Comics. Then Badger faded away in the late '90s.
But all was not lost. IDW Publishing started up the series again this past December. The relaunch consists of a reprint series of old issues and a new mini-series, Badger Saves the World, and a new one-shot, Badger: Bull.
Even for Madisonians who haven't flipped through a comic book in a while, these books might warrant a trip to Capital City Comics at 1910 Monroe Street, where for $3.99, you can pick up one of the jazzed-up, glossy new stories set mostly in Madison and other Midwestern locales. In issue 2 of Badger Saves the World, for example, we catch glimpses of the Kohl Center and a frozen Lake Mendota, complete with ice shanties.
Badger, a martial arts master, is adept at kicking the butts of evildoers: bombers, thugs, cow tippers. That's right. Badger: Bull starts off with Badger kicking the asses of some dude-bros who seem to have strayed a bit too far from their beer-soaked fraternity into darkened pastures to tip cows. Did I mention that Badger says "Uff-da!" as he fights bad guys?
Protector of sleeping cows and defeater of criminals, just who is this Badger and where does he come from?
Badger creator and former Madisonian Mike Baron doesn't have a definitive answer. Badger was born over 25 years ago in response to Capital Comics' request for a new title, specifically a "costumed crimefighter." Walking down State Street, Baron mulled the notion of a character who would willingly don a costume and fight evil. "They'd have to be crazy," he said to himself.
With that thought, a new character was born. Well, half-born. As Baron continued toward campus he started to see red. Badger red. As Baron puts it, "the second half hit like a gong. He would call himself Badger."
Badger -- à la Superman -- changes from superhero to average Joe and back again. One moment he is regular guy Norbert Sykes and the next, he's Badger, his wild blond hair flowing from beneath a tight red mask. But it doesn't stop there. In a flash, Badger can go from fighting crime to being a little girl to being a dog to being a Frenchman.
Badger suffers from multiple personality disorder. It's important to note that while a constant dark humor underlies this series, Badger's condition is not treated lightly. Baron has consulted people who suffer from multiple personality disorder and he strives to portray this illness realistically and with a sense of dignity.
Still, Badger's chameleonic nature makes great fodder for storylines. "I created a character who could assume any identity, a tabula rasa on whom I could hang any conceit," says Baron. "I call this the 'zen pop funny animal' aspect -- anything can happen."
Of course, adds Baron, "When Badger is Badger, you have the greatest opportunity for mayhem."