Henchmen: Who are they? Where do they come from? Are they evil, or just out for a payday? Why are there so many of them? And how do supervillains inspire them to join in their crusade of rampaging?
We caught up with former Joker henchman Buster* on a small farm outside the town of Smallville in Kansas, to dwell deeper into the psyche of the hired mercenary.
“Ma Ma and Da passed away a few years back and left me the family farm. These days I work the fields, corn and wheat and such.”
We sit on the porch outside the modest farmhouse, as his wife serves us some ice-cold lemonade. This idyllic country living is far removed from a life of crime in Gotham. How did he end up joining an armed gang of mercenaries?
“I’ve always been different, since I was a little boy. Crime was a part of me. It started small, when I was two or three. Ma Ma would take me to the store and I’d put my sticky little fingers into the Pick-and-Mix. When I was five I’d steal regularly from our neighbours. I used to bike my tricycle over the fields and ask to borrow a cup of milk or sugar. I’d never return it.”
They don’t sound very criminal.
“Every theft is a crime! No matter how small… By the time I was 7, it had escalated. Ma Ma and Da didn’t have much money. Every harvest season we struggled. We couldn’t afford the best milking cows, and my criminal DNA guided me to take action. In the dead of night, I would lead one of our cows out of the barn and trek over the fields to a neighbouring farm. There I would swap the cow for a better one. I kept doing this until one day all of our cows were stolen cows. One night, when I was 10, my Da caught me emptying the salt shaker on another farm’s field. He told me he knew I was different and that he loved me, but I couldn’t stay with them. It wasn’t safe. My Da ‘Harry and the Hendersons’ed’ me. He told me to scram and threw corn at my head. I ran and ran until I reached town. I noticed an address in my flannel shirt pocket - my Da had slipped it in - for my aunt’s house in Gotham. When I arrived, that’s when my life really began.”
What happened next?
“My Aunt told me I had to pay my own way in Gotham. When I arrived I started working as a gun runner for a small crime family. The pay was bad, but the experience was invaluable. At 14, I was promoted to head of security and headhunted by Penguin. Before I knew it, I was known as an OG, ‘Original Gangster’. Criminals were impressed that I hadn’t died yet. The mortality rate for a criminal in Gotham is very high. Bosses tend to kill their own to make points very often. It’s a tough business.”
How did you end up working for the Joker?
“I went freelance after a stint with the Riddler. Joker offered me a contract. He was an amazing boss. I’ve never been happier then when I worked for him. He accepted me for the criminal that I am. We’d spend hours together, drinking and plotting funny ways to kill The Batman, or torture his allies. I liked his vision of the future. He was a boss I could really get behind. He tried to kill me a couple of times, but water under the bridge, yah know? After a while he subcontracted me to Harley Quinn. Things went south from there. Now I’m retired. I’m back on the farm; I have a wife, children.”
How did you meet your wife?
“It’s a sweet story actually. She was working for Two-Face, I was working for the Joker, and we both turned up to rob the same bank one night. I put a bullet through her leg, she put two in my stomach and we ended up in beds next to each other at Gotham General hospital. The rest is history as they say.”
So now you’re on the straight and narrow?
“Yes, my time is over, 32 is too old for a Gotham Henchman. But I’ve had a good career. So far none of my kids have shown my criminal spark yet, but we’ll keep trying. One day I’ll have a worthy heir.”
*Real names have been withheld to protect the identity of people involved.