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Butch character guide

[By David Gerstein.]

This document is 1996 David Gerstein. (Earlier this document has carried another copyright notice, because of a misunderstanding.)

[This is written as a guide to the character Butch for writers at Egmont. This is a first version (from 1995) of this document, and might be edited by Egmont later.]

While working long ago on a farm owned by Minnie's family, Mickey found himself up against a gang of egg thieves led by the slimy Mr. Slicker. Second in command in that gang was Butch, a strong if overweight teen who'd grown up on the wrong side of the tracks. It was Mickey who convinced Butch to reform and help in Slicker's capture. Soon after, he helped Mickey win a crooked boxing match that had been rigged against him, and the two have been friends ever since.

Unfortunately, Butch still shows the results of his upbringing (or lack thereof). While basically intelligent in a streetwise kind of way, he doesn't have more than a few years of school under his belt, so his linguistic and writing skills are minimal, and he's more likely to think of solving problems with his fists than with his brains.

Butch doesn't think much about the future, but he knows food will always turn up; sometimes he'll play a mean game of poker to win his dinner. He loves to eat and will eat almost anything, chewing tobacco and smoking a corncob pipe (something we probably should not depict too often) between meals. For other income, he's always coming up with impossible schemes to make money which sometimes involve bald-faced swindles or deceptions. But none such silly plans succeed for long.

Butch shares Mickey's diligence and love of adventure. He admires Mickey deeply and is always excited to join whatever's happening. But Butch is just clumsy enough -- in a Stan Laurel-type way, often grinning like Laurel -- that sometimes Mickey wishes he weren't along. Butch knows this. Inside -- although it should only occasionally be revealed -- he recognizes and is ashamed of his backwardness and longs to reassure himself by getting people's attention or showing off. In a tense situation, he might feel called to prove himself once and for all, which he can do when he concentrates hard and puts his mind to something.

Butch combines Tom Sawyer's mischief with Huck Finn's laziness, old-fashioned habits, and love of the land. He doesn't live in Mickey's neighborhood, but in a wooden cabin he built himself in an abandoned field a mile or two away. The cabin's furnishings include an oil lamp and a rickety old wood-burning stove; there's a stream running by outside from which Butch gets water in pots and barrels. The cabin has a second floor with nothing but a crude ladder leading up to it.

In Butch's original appearances (some Floyd Gottfredson stories in 1930 and 1931), he spoke with a rough city kid dialect -- using d for th and oi for ur -- at a time when the rest of Mickey's gang were all rural characters (although to be perfectly frank, Butch was perhaps more rural than most!). A little of such dialect goes a long way, so in our new stories he only pronounces occasional words like that. Otherwise, he'll exclaim Cripes! or Soit'nly! (for certainly) like Curly of the Three Stooges.

Writers who want inspirations for Butch might find them in various fictional characters. Besides Twain's work there are such figures as Mr. Micawber, Soup Vinson (in the popular children's novels by Robert Newton Peck), Obelix (in the Goscinny/Uderzo Asterix series), and Albert the Alligator (in Walt Kelly's Pogo).

Written in July 1996. Last updated February 21, 1999.

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