The Man

So why exactly DOES Bruce Campbell rock so hard?
June 05, 2008
The other day in the middle of a department store, I came upon two college guys verbally duking it out in the middle of the magazine aisle. One wore a t-shirt with a Chuck Norris fact emblazoned across it (if you don't know what those are, you've obviously never been on Barrens Chat OR the internet), the other wore an Evil Dead shirt.

What were they arguing about?

"Bruce Campbell could kick Chuck Norris' ass!"

Ah, the age old 'vs.' debate. A staple in fanboy culture and as old as time itself--or, at least as old as comic book crossovers.

As far as I know, in the history of words, there have never been any that garner the same sort of reaction that 'Bruce Campbell' do. There are two and only two ways one can react to hearing The Chin's name.

One: The confused dog head tilt with a quizzical, "Huh?"

Two: A triumphant fistpump and a shouted, "HAIL TO THE KING!"

It's a funny thing. You either love him so much that your affection borders on the fanatical or you've never heard of him before...and be forewarned: if you've never heard of him before, there's probably a geek waiting in the wings ready to pounce on you and educate you ASAP.

So, what makes him the only guy other than Stan Lee worthy of the title 'The Man'? Could he actually kick Chuck Norris' ass? In short: why does Bruce Campbell deserve such devotion from geekdom?

Let's examine, shall we?

Bruce Campbell is to most fanboys what James Bond is to the rest of the male population. They want to be him. In fact you, dear reader, probably want to be him on some level.

No, no, don't deny it, I know you do. It's okay, you can admit it. Acceptance is the first step to recovery. Trust me, I'm a devout worshipper in the Church of Bruce. I know these things.

To explain just how freaking awesome Bruce Campbell is, one must understand why he's such an integral part of the geek subculture in the first place. That brings us to...

If you've never heard of a little film series by the name of the Evil Dead Trilogy, you may want to hit your local DVD outlet and get your hands on the flicks. Go on, go get them. You watch. I can wait.




Ready? Okay!

In the mid-nineteen-seventies, a group of young aspiring filmmakers from Michigan decided to throw together an independant horror movie. The visionary director behind the project (only nineteen years old at the time!) created what is considered to be--by horror film geek standards--one of the greatest scary movies of all time. This young man's name? Sam Raimi.

He's more commonly known nowadays as Sam "Spider-Man Trilogy" Raimi, but Evil Dead was his brainchild and first 'real' feature film.

The plot of Evil Dead is simple: a group of college students head out to an abandoned cabin in the woods. The owner of the cabin, Professor Knowby, was translating pages from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis (the Sumarian book of the dead--loosely based on the Necronomicon of H.P. Lovecraft fame) and when a tape of him reading resurrection passages aloud is played, it awakens an evil in the woods which terrorizes our poor little protagonists.

See? Simple.

Though Evil Dead was clearly meant to be ensemble production, the character of Ash J. Williams (played by Campbell) is really at the center of everything.He's the only one to be present in all three movies and, in my opinion, the evolution of his character from flick to flick is one of the best parts of the mythos. You see, in Evil Dead, Ash is a little bit of a wimp.

I'm a big enough person to say it: Ash was a wimp in Evil Dead.

(That really hurt me inside, you have no idea how much.)

But that all started to change with the second entry in the series...

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn is a somewhat odd 're-telling' of the events in Evil Dead (made even odder in the theatrical release version; it makes way more sense if you can find the special edition).

Instead of a group of college students going to the Knowby cabin, Ash and his girlfriend, Linda, are the ones who wind up there. This is probably part of why some people find the Evil Dead series confusing. Dead by Dawn is a sequel, but yet not quite. Rather than picking up directly where ED left off, it rewinds events and focuses on Ash's reactions to them. About halfway through the movie is where 'new' events start happening that weren't already covered in the previous film in some fashion.

There are three things about Dead by Dawn which up Bruce Campbell's awesome score.

One: He carries the film virtually all by himself. A great deal of the movie is just him and the absolutely insane things going on around him. As if acting weren't hard enough, imagine having no one to play off of in some very emotional scenes. Just you and the camera.

Two: Ash Williams starts showing some of his true heroic colors, albeit reluctantly. He's pushed into a crazy situation like a man shoved into quicksand and has to make it work.

Three: His right hand becomes posessed by evil, he lops it off at the wrist and attaches a chainsaw to the bloody stump. Now I ask there anything more awesome than a chainsaw attached to a bloody stump?

Well, okay...maybe one thing.

An evil posessed hand with personality.

Dead by Dawn is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best installment in the series, but it's not my favorite. Instead, the movie that follows it is.

I think the best way to describe the series is that with Evil Dead, the production team was out to make a truly horrific film. With Evil Dead 2, they seem to have realized that they couldn't play it completely straight and let some splatstick slip in there. Sam Raimi obviously threw up his hands said "Screw it, we're doing straight comedy!" with the last in the series--and my personal favorite--Army of Darkness.

Army of Darkness is truly the perfect end for Ash. ED saw him as a wimp; ED2 saw him as a madman forced into heroics; AoD turns him into the Goddamn Ashman.

(To the four people that got that reference: I salute you.)

Debonair, charming, smarmy and with dialogue that makes quoting this movie practically a Geek Aspirant Requirement, Ash finally comes into his own as the Big Damn Hero (TM) in Army. The movie is a splatstick delight, made better only by Campbell's sometimes manic, sometimes deadpan delivery of some of the best lines in cinematic history.

"All right you primitive screwheads, listen up. my BOOMSTICK!"

"Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun."

"Hail to the king, baby."

If the DNA of Han Solo and Captain Kirk was ever combined to create a sentient lifeform, Ash Williams would probably be the end result. He's a ladies man, a badass and not too terribly bright but he more than makes up for it in charisma and derring do. With this in mind, it's easy to see why Ash is such a popular character.

Though Ash is Campbell's most recognizable role (to the point that he's started referring to himself as 'Bruce 'don't call me Ash' Campbell'), it's not the only thing that makes him cool.

In the early ninties, Fox television released a show by the name of The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., a short lived--but rather good--western with elements of science fiction woven throughout.

Centering on a bounty hunter out to capture the men responsible for his father's death, Brisco County Jr. was far ahead of its time as far as TV shows go. A new twist on an old formula.

Sadly, the western/sci-fi genre that County fit into--which resembles shows like Firefly and Cowboy BeBop thematically--wasn't yet considered to be bankable, so the show was cancelled after one season. Due to high demand on the internet, though, it was released on DVD recently to the cheers of BC fanboys everywhere. I recommend it, but then again, if you've made it this far into the article, you've probably figured out I'm just the teensiest bit biased.

After Brisco County, a couple little shows that Campbell had a recurring role on hit the airwaves. Maybe you've heard of them, yes?

Oh, yeah. Hercules and Xena. Remember the days when they were THE shows?

Campbell's character on Hercules and Xena was Autolycus, King of Theives and because of his portrayal of this character, I'm still convinced that Bruce Campbell in the mid nineties would have made the perfect live action Arsene Lupin III.

Another Ash-esque character (charming, check, debonair, check, a bit of a jerk, check), but with a lot more heart, Autolycus stole the show in every episode he was in. The fangirls that weren't panting after Hercules were mostly panting after Auto.

I have indeed conducted a poll to verify this and for those of you keeping track, that's a bunch more cool points for our boy Bruce. Guys want to be him, girls want him. He really IS James Bond.

After Xena & Hercules, another short lived TV show (also helmed by Sam Raimi's production company) was in the cards: Jack of All Trades.

It...well, okay. It was my first experience with Bruce Campbell, so it makes me happy, but looking at it objectively, it did kinda...suck. Epically. However, if one takes the show as being ridicuously over the top silliness in the vein of the old Batman TV show from the sixties, it's still enjoyable.

Jack Stiles, an American spy with a dual identity in 1801, is assigned to the tiny island of Palau Palau to keep an eye on what Napoleon is up to in the area.

No, your eyes did not go crazy for a second there. I said Napoleon.

And I wondered why it got cancelled...sigh.

Skipping ahead to the next bit of awesomeness, there are three more points to award: one for each of Bruce's cameos in the Spider-Man trilogy.

As the ring announcer, he named Spider-Man.

As the snooty usher, he defeated Spider-Man.

And as the 'French' head waiter, he teamed up with--...oh screw it. The reason this cameo deserves a cool point is because it made the rest of the movie bearable for having been there.

(I'm sorry, Mister Raimi, I do love you dearly for what you've done for the comic book movie genre, but if it weren't for Bruce, I would have tracked you down and demanded my money back.)

These days, Campbell has a regular role on a great little show called Burn Notice as Hawaiian shirt wearing, mojito drinking ex-Navy SEAL Sam Axe (which, I'm sure, is somebody's idea of a big 'inside' joke--Sam=Sam Raimi. Axe=Ash.), which airs on the USA network and was a surprise summer hit in 2007.

A ratings smash right out of the gate, it's a pretty fair assumption that a lot of the pilot episode's audience was made up of Bruce Campbell fans who were only in it because their God was making an appearance and then stuck around because the show is really stellar. It's the first program that Campbell has been a part of in almost a decade that has been picked up for a second season and I know an entire demographic that noisily rejoiced because of it.

Honest to God. I know these people. I should probably find new friends...

I digress.

Though Bruce Campbell is hardly a household name, the cult classic status of the projects mentioned above make him very, very high on the B-List. He may never be Tom Cruise (thankfully), but to a large portion of geeks everywhere, he's a superstar.

Now that all this information has been crammed into your brain and you know why he's awesome, let's get back to the original debate that spawned this article:

Could Bruce Campbell really kick Chuck Norris' ass?

Well, I won't try to answer that definitively. It would end badly for everyone involved if I did, really. The argument will most likely rage just as long as the Kirk vs. Solo debate has.

As for me personally, you can keep Chuck Norris, his cowboy hat and his silly facts. I'm voting Campbell all the way.

Then again, I always was a sucker for a man with powertools...

BiteMeTechie is a professional freelance writer, published poet, minor fanfiction celebrity and Big Damn Fan of Bruce Campbell. When not writing articles for places like RetroJunk, she writes comic books, loiters in comic/toy shops and checks Bruce's official website on a semi-regular basis, waiting for updates about the long anticipated horror/comedy 'My Name is Bruce'. She suggests you do the same. Also, you needent remind her that she skipped mentioning Bubba Ho-Tep. Bruce Campbell as Elvis would have been too much awesome for this article to handle.
More Articles From BiteMeTechie
An unhandled error has occurred. Reload Dismiss