They’re the underrated, under-loved staple of genre fiction, superhero comics in particular. They exist almost solely to make supervillains appear like titans whose steps make the earth quake, to show the superheroes as unstoppable, godlike beings. And yet, they have to be people too, underneath their matching uniforms. We are talking about, of course, henchmen. “Henchmen” is a new comic by writer and stand-up comic Jamison Raymond, artist Ryan Howe, and publisher Brian Wyrick that focuses on these little guys of genre fiction, often given even less attention than the equally nameless civilians who at least get to show up as talking heads in news interviews. As, for example, hit television show The Venture Brothers has shown us, there is a lot of storytelling potential to these rank-and-file members of villainy, and the “Henchmen” team aims to tap into that.
Ever since superhero comics entered their “realism” phase, the same question has been asked of both hero and villain: what exactly motivates someone to put on a colorful costume and fight/cause. At the core of the genre, though, an even more difficult question exists: who would ever follow the kind of weirdo who dresses like a clown and robs banks? The answer might be more normal than you might think — especially in the trying times of today’s economy. Gary, the protagonist of “Henchmen” is just another guy down on his luck; in the same week, he loses both his job and his wife, and doesn’t know where to go. That is, until he answers a mysterious classified ad and soon finds himself dressed in a bowling pin costume, working with a few other men in similar attire and a loon in a… slightly nicer bowling pin suit. Is it ridiculous? Sure. Is it so ridiculous that the suspension of disbelief? I don’t think so. People put up with so much under the mantra “It’s just a job,” especially when jobs are no longer so freely available. Is it really such a stretch to believe that someone would be willing to wear some silly uniform and load and unload vans with stolen goods, risking the occasional socking from a heroic brute, for a steady salary and health insurance? Well, okay, maybe it’s a little bit of a stretch, but only a little.
While it’s clear that Raymond, Howe, and Wyrick are at least partially playing this up for laughs — Striker, the resident superhero, got his powers “in a radioactive meth lab explosion” — this definitely seems like one of those stories that could go either way. On the one, it could be a humorous view of that one guy who has worked for nearly every supervillain in the business, always narrowly avoiding capture despite never exactly being a natural at this job. On the other, this could be a Breaking Bad take on superhero comics, with more spandex and (only slightly) less meth. Imagine, if you will, this Gary as he slowly gets in too deep; “henching,” to borrow a term from the previously mentioned Venture Bros., may just be a job, but sooner or later it’s going to require you to do something unquestionably wrong. Will Gary cross that line, and slowly become more and more comfortable with his flexible morality until he’s the one wearing the fancier bowling pin suit? While the concept art and descriptions of the characters make it sound like the comic will lean more toward the lighter side, it would be interesting to see it strike a middle ground, a darkly comic tale that sometimes makes the reader uncomfortable with their protagonist. Either way, though, this concept has much storytelling potential that I’d love to check it out whichever direction the team takes it.
The project, which is solely for printing the first issue, has a final goal $5,000, and consequently has a slightly thinner, but still nice, spread of incentives. As usual, there’s a “base” goal, that equates to buying the product: $3.00 gets a .pdf of the first issue, and if you upgrade your donation to $10.00 and you’ll get the print copy once it’s out. There’s also a pretty sweet retailer incentive of $20.00 for ten copies of the issue, though if you’re so excited about this project that you want to buy it in bulk and hand it out to friends, don’t let me stop you. Beyond that, we have some staples — signed copies, posters, a name in the special thanks section — until we reach the $100.00 mark, where you get drawn into the comic. There’s a difference between this and the $250.00 incentive, though, which specifically earns your likeness as one of the henchmen — repeat appearances, anyone — and $500.00, which gives that same privelege to both you and a friend. The final, $1,000.00 incentive is a combination of all that came before, plus the chance to “tag along with [the creators] to one of the comic cons [they] are attending.” Note, however, that this reward says “Travel not included,” so it might be worth inquiring what exactly is included before laying down that kind of money.Continued below
To use a marketing phrase that is bandied about a lot with 100% earnestness, “Henchmen” appears to be a fresh take on a medium-old concept, and with a mark of only $5,000.00, truly every $3.00 donation counts. Sure, its success depends entirely on the strength of the writing and illustration (the latter of which looks pretty damn good in the preview pages), but let’s at least give the team a chance to impress. Still, it wouldn’t hurt if perhaps a fully lettered page or two showed up prior to the deadline (hint hint).