"Space Opera" is an auspicious title for the first new Nexus comic in ten years, as quite literally every tale of Mike Baron and Steve Rude's enigmatic executioner is brimming over with the stuff of cosmic legend. Since his creation in 1981, the story of Nexus is one of the most complex and wildly entertaining superhero epics ever put to the comic book page. Questions of life and death, love and hate, sex and violence, freedom and tyranny, and good and evil were explored as sophisticatedly as they were fantastically in the lush and hugely imaginative illustrations by Steve "the Dude" Rude and in the poignant and often prophetic words of writer Mike Baron. CBR News spoke with Baron an Rude about their beloved character Nexus and his long-awaited return in this July's "Nexus: Space Opera."
I remember being on the Madison, Wisconsin campus, learning how to draw better and trying to figure girls out, Rude told CBR News, reflecting on the days of Nexus' creation. My inspiration was everything from my childhood and teenage years. I was really into Jack Kirby and Marvel's Master of Kung Fu book. Baron and I were both huge Bruce Lee fans.
"Dude and I went to a meeting with [Capitol City founders] Milton Griepp and John Davis and we showed them what we had, which was not superheroes," recalled Mike Baron. "'Give us a costumed superhero,' Milt said. The statement galvanized me, I don't know why. In retrospect it was obvious." Baron and Rude found their hero five hundred fictional years into the future, on a distant moon called Ylum. There lived Heratio Hellpop, the godlike figure known as Nexus the Executioner.
"I began to look for elements that would make the character dramatic," Baron explained. "Make him a killer. Every time he shows up, someone will die. Inbuilt drama. Now if only we could carry that drama convincingly...." The method by which Baron accomplished this has gone on to become one of the best loved premises in comics. Plagued by visions and nightmares of destruction and mass murder, Nexus is compelled to seek out the killers from his dreams and punish them for their brutal and tyrannical ways. Feared and loved in equal amounts by the people of Ylum and the galaxy at large, Horatio laments his role in the universe and wishes to live peacefully with his wife Sundra and their son, whose birth prompts the events of "Space Opera."
"When last we saw Nexus, Sundra was seven months pregnant," Baron said. "I wanted to begin the new story ten years later, with the baby already ten years old, but Dude convinced me we had to maintain continuity. The story picks up with the imminent birth of Nexus' son. Ylum's comity is being severely tested by the Elvonics, who wish to remake society in their own image." One of many cultures who coexist on Ylum, the Elvonics are a fanatical, largely anti-technology sect who believe Nexus' son to be a kind of anti-Christ.
Such a bunch of charmers, remarked Rude. I won't mention the name Baron came up for the little guy. It's too funny. The Elvonics' efforts to kill Nexus' child ignite a civil war on Ylum, which puts the pragmatic Nexus in the position of having to decide which peoples can remain on the moon and which peoples have got to go. Along these lines, Nexus stories have always been very dense, intellectually, keeping readers thinking, talking, and often debating. Hopefully, Nexus will be just as you remember it, said Rude. What's a decade in the scheme of things?
"'Nexus'' purpose is to entertain," Baron continued. "But within that mandate, 'Nexus' reflects humanity in all its squalor and glory. 'Space Opera' raises issues that will be immediately familiar to every reader. Not just about politics and the constant struggle of competing interest groups, but on a personal level as well. What does it mean to be a man, a father, a mother, or a friend? How far would we go to protect our loved ones? What gives someone the right to tell someone else what to do?"
Rude added, Baron and I just reflected the times in fictional, future circumstances. But I must admit, with the turmoil in Iraq the world seems even more bizarre than it did 10 years ago.
Steve Rude initiated the return of "Nexus" in a fever of creative inspiration. "He received an epiphany while meditating at Taliesin West," said Baron.
Starting 'Nexus' again, I was nervous at first, Rude confessed. I didn't want to let people down. My hands have thankfully steadied since then.
The new "Nexus" series launches with issue #99, continuing directly from the ten year old issue #98, and is published by Steve Rude's new endeavor, Rude Dude Productions, which will also produce new series of Rude's other creations including "The Moth" with "Nexus" inker Gary Martin.
Visiting Baron and Rude in the resurrected world of Nexus are a number of their peers and creative progeny. Novelist F. Paul Wilson (author of the "Repairman Jack" series of books) and comics journalist Heidi McDonald (PW Comics Week, the Beat) are contributing to the festivities of Nexus' return with stories appearing in "Amazing Dude Tales," a sixty-four page anthology illustrated completely by Rude to be released after "Space Opera" concludes. Additionally, "Nexus" #100 will feature an origin story written by Nexus superfan Joe Casey.
"The return of Baron and Rude and 'Nexus' is one of those events that gives me hope for the medium," said Casey in the "Space Opera" announcement. "I've been waiting for this for a long time and for me, personally, it means everything. I mean, how often does someone have a chance to say these words: My favorite comic book is back!"
Casey's remarks were echoed by many of comics' biggest names including Joe Quesada and Erik Larsen. "Powers" co-creator Mike Avon Oeming declared, "'Nexus' made me what I am today. Baron and Rude are the reasons I do creator owned comics. Without 'Nexus,' there would be no 'Powers,' and one less creator out there. 'Nexus' is easily one of the best comic series ever, I can't wait to see it return!
Neil Gaiman agreed, stating, "Learning that 'Nexus' is coming back is like hearing you're going home again after years in the wilderness.
However, Mike Baron joked, "The kind remarks are the result of my dragooning all my pals in the comic industry into saying something nice."
Few writers are lucky enough to have someone as gifted as Steve Rude draw their stories, and Rude's work is never better than when illustrating Baron's "Nexus" scripts. Despite the duo's tendency to clash publicly, Baron agrees that his and Rude's collaboration on "Nexus" brings out the best in their work. "Nexus is our baby," the writer said. "You always care more about your own children than someone else's.
'Fruitful collaboration?' Rude asked. Sometimes it's more like throwing fruit. Baron and I are brothers no matter what we go through together. At least we agree on politics! I'm afraid we're very much stuck with each other.
"Initially, getting back together was really rocky," Baron confessed. "Dude had his ideas and I had mine. As always, the result is a synthesis of both. The working relationship has become much closer now and our disagreements aren't so heated."
Forged in the fire of the two creators' often tense dynamism, "Nexus: Space Opera" continues the series' grand tradition of examining philosophical and political dilemmas through the prism of sci-fi superhero spectacle. Baron characterizes the story as the "most intense" thing he's ever written. "It reflects everything I've learned about story-telling in the past few years, which is a lot. It's sleeker, meaner, and funnier than before. There are no dead spots. It pulses with life and veers wildly from mood to mood. It is unfailingly entertaining."
"Nexus: Space Opera" #1 ships this July from Rude Dude Productions. The deluxe "Nexus Archives," compiling the original ground breaking Nexus stories, are available from Dark Horse Comics.
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