Nexus Rude Newspaper Feature Interviews 

The Dude Speaks! Steve Rude on Kickstarting Nexus and The Moth’s New Adventures [Interview]

By | July 27th, 2015
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

Nexus/Moth Kickstarter

This month, Steve Rude is running a Kickstarter campaign to bring his two best-known creations, Nexus and The Moth, back to readers in a way they’ve never seen before: as newspaper adventure strips!

Comic strips, you think. Are we talking three-panel comics like “Garfield” or “Boondocks”?

Nope! Before what’s left of the newspaper comics section was given over to humor strips, there was a proud tradition of running adventure comics in the Sunday comics section. Properties like “The Spirit”, “Flash Gordon”, “Prince Valiant”, and more would thrill and delight children (and adults) of all ages with their oversized bombast and widescreen action. And if you think that type of presentation has no place in the modern world, you clearly haven’t ready “Wednesday Comics”. But more on that book and how it plays into things a little later.

With the help of his wife Jaynelle Rude, Steve and his Rude Dude Productions is committed to this venture giving old fans and new readers that same thrill. From the Kickstarter announcement:

We’re excited to bring something rare and unique to the comic book industry. A weekly newspaper strip with a mailed subscription! Our goal is to engage readers with superlative story and art from two of the most lauded practitioners currently working in comics, and to also give subscribers a unique experience from the moment the package arrives in the mail.

We will launch this project with a brand-new story from the award-winning comic Nexus, which will be chronicled in 35 individual strips, released one strip per week. When our Nexus storyline is completed, it will be followed one week later with a brand new and equally long-running story featuring the Moth!

The Kickstarter campaign runs until this Friday, July 31st. I had a chance to chat with The Dude himself about the campaign, working with Mike Baron again on their signature creation, and more, including another “Nexus”-related release later this year. And as usual, The Dude pulled no punches.

Nexus by The Dude

The phrase “As you’ve never seen before” gets bandied around a lot, but this Kickstarter campaign, if successful, will give us a Nexus story literally unlike any we’ve seen the character and his world in before. What prompted the switch to a newspaper/broadsheet format?

Steve Rude: There’s a couple of reasons.

It began at San Diego about five years ago when I was approached by Mark Chiarello from DC Comics about something he was going to do called “Wednesday Comics”; taking DC characters and putting them in a comic-strip format rather than what we already know about, which is the comic book format. I was very intrigued by the idea.

I remember having a get-together later that night that included some comic pros like Neal Adams and Jim Steranko. I was so excited by the idea that I gave them a few clues and asked them to try and guess what my next great idea was going to be. I didn’t know this at the time, but the “Wednesday Comics” deal that I was going to be a part of fell through, and the “Wednesday Comics” (follow-up) never ended up happening. But the idea stayed in my head. But back at that table, talking to these two gentlemen, I asked, “What would be the greatest direction comic books could go in right now?”

They looked at me and they started coming up with these ideas about the future and technology and its usage in comics, but they never once talked about the past. I never ended up telling them what my idea was that night because they could never guess. I ended up talking to Jim Steranko a couple of years ago and he asked, “By the way, what was that idea you were talking about years ago? You never told us what it was going to be.”

I said, “Well, you guys kept thinking to the future, but I kept thinking to the past. When was the last time you saw the revival of the great American adventure strip in the Sunday newspaper?” And he loved the idea, just like everyone does.

Continued below

I’m not the first one to think this up; there are a lot of guys migrating to the world of comic strips because they couldn’t find work in the comic book world because that world was setting certain parameters and barriers. The problem, however, with the comic-strip field is the syndicates. The syndicates do not care about the adventure strip; either it doesn’t make enough money or whatever. They also promote things poorly. This was all relayed to me by friends of mine who are currently working on prominent comic strips for the syndicates.

So I despise the syndicates for letting these things die on the vine in the first place. They don’t treat their people well, and as far as I know the money isn’t that good in the first place. So I wondered, why am I waiting around for anyone to give me a yes on this “Nexus” comic strip idea? There’s nothing holding me back, so I just started it.

Another thing I wanted to explore was to try and get a larger online audience. I’m computer-illiterate; just ask my wife Jaynelle. That’s why we’re partners in this. I draw the strips and she’ll disseminate them on the web. It was my idea to bring them back as a physical newspaper because I’m a paper guy and that’s what I like; that’s what I grew up with.

So that’s why I decided to dive into this, my dream job of bringing our characters, Nexus and The Moth, back in a different format to get people excited over it again and to get back to the thing that begot comic books in the first place: the comic strips. That’s exciting to me. And bypassing the syndicates is even more exciting to me because we don’t need them anymore.

Nexus Strip, Page 1
In addition to the mailed versions that will end up being full newspaper size, you’re also releasing digital versions of these pages. Since you’re having these strips appear in two completely different mediums (newsprint versus pixel), there has to be a real challenge in making sure each one shows up exactly as you would like it to. What kind of communication do you have with Glenn Whitmore in terms of using colors that work in both places?

SR: Well, Glenn’s a good guy who I’ve worked with a lot. Finding that balance of the right the right colors is something we’re working on and making adjustments for as we move forward on this. Readability is very important, as is color choices, which is what coloring is all about. He may make occasional choices that may not emphasize the dramatics as much as they could be, so I just tell him to push things more. Because it’s digitally colored, I might even go in there myself, with my limited Photoshop knowledge, and try to suggest improvements.

How long have you two been working together?

SR: For at least the last ten years or so. Since 2005, I think?

Oh, so you’ve probably developed a pretty good combined taste of what you’re both going for on the page?

SR: Yeah. Basically, it just has to be good. (chuckles) That’s my attitude about everything. Whose taste would it be according to? To my own taste.

You know, putting these Kickstarters thing together is a lot of Jaynelle’s work. She’s the one who handles the posting, the added bonuses, and all that stuff that’s her domain. My domain is strictly the creating of the comic; the art, the color, and the writing has to come together right. It has to be up to certain standards, and that’s my job.

Nexus #1 from 1981 (Art by Paul Gulacy)
Moving over to the writing, you’re back doing these new strips with your “Nexus” co-creator Mike Baron. You’d last worked together on those stories in “Dark Horse Presents” within the last couple of years. As you were finishing those up, did you or he know that you had this next story or set of stories to tell?

SR: The truth is that Baron and I have been in slight disagreement about story direction and what’s going to happen with this character. His writing style, to me, has changed greatly since the early 80’s and into the 90’s. At one point, we were even planning on ending “Nexus” permanently based on our differing views of that story direction, so that was a very unfortunate thing to come up.

Continued below

Baron is still one of my closest friends. I’ll always regard him as my partner, no matter whatever else happens between us. I’ve known him for over 35 years and I just think the world of this guy. He’s also been wanting to expand his parameters into writing novels and moving into that field. And I was content with that, so I told him that if we were having these problems with the “Nexus” story direction, then he should be doing what he wants to be doing, which is novels.

Then he came up to me after we finished the Clayborn saga [the last “Dark Horse Presents” story] and asked if I wanted to do more stories together, because he knew that “Nexus” was always the number one thing in my life. I told him I didn’t want to continue with the same format in comics but rather do it as a comic strip to shake things up a bit. The response we got from doing the Clayborn stories in “Dark Horse Presents” was pretty minimal.

And having a bit of showmanship instincts, I feel that if you keep giving people something in the same way over and over again, they tend to get numbed to it. I was actually going to do this newspaper idea as “The Moth” first, but I had to slide that back and go with “Nexus” because I wanted to work with Baron again, despite of our disagreements. I ended up telling him that all he had to do was do what he always did: come up with a great story and that I had to like it. So the next day at the convention we were at, we met for breakfast, he came up with a good idea, and I said, “OK, let’s go for it.”

The writing process right now is really a 50/50 collaboration between me and Baron, which is how it seems to have worked out given our different viewpoints.

Baron & The Dude are already 20 pages in!

So the workload hadn’t been split that evenly before this point?

SR: Not at all. The writing of Baron I preferred came from the 80’s and 90’s. His writing back then was so perfect, there’s nothing I could have added or done with it. I’m not a writer but I think I’ve developed some storytelling instincts that I’m trying to apply here with Baron to come up with a happy medium in the writing and dialogue.

Does that new happy medium feel like a strong enough working relationship to lead to more “Nexus” stories after this Kickstarted one?

SR: I hope so. The more we work together, the more we find that we’re getting further apart in terms of our personal taste about what “Nexus” is. But I want more stories that trail back to our original roots. As long as we can keep getting that, my preference would be to keep doing “Nexus” stories until I can’t hold a pencil anymore. And I’d like to keep doing it in comic-strip form because it feels new enough and untried enough that it can still throw people off-guard. “Nexus” was created back in 1981, but doing it in strip form can help people think of it as something new again. The quality of the work should never change, but the way it’s presented, the format can be fluid.

Rude & Martin's The Moth
Nexus is your most-known property, but after that story is told in this format, you’re going to go into a story with The Moth, which isn’t nearly as well-known. You describe him as “a circus daredevil who supplements his act to score extra cash as a freelance bounty hunter.” Can you give us a little bit more about who that character is?

SR: The beginning of The Moth, to me, was trying to justify the reason a guy would wear a costume in the real world. And I thought that if this guy came from the circus, where they actually wear costumes there, that would make more sense for him to wear one day-to-day.

The other thing was to make him a scientist so he could invent things, like how his costume would work and how he’d be able to fly in the first place. So I began to come up with this gimmickry like this lighter-than-air canister that would give him this boost to allow him to, not necessarily fly but make himself into something like a flying squirrel with those membranes where he might not be able to fly like having a military jetpack, but he could at least get from building to building a lot faster than a car. And he could attack from the sky that way, too.

Continued below

When those things came together I knew I had the foundation of what the series would be about: a guy in the circus who can actually justify wearing this costume. And the craziness that takes place in a circus environment; these people are all misfits and eccentric personalities bonded together by this one thing: the circus. And it’s common to all people who work in carnies or circuses to have this sense of community where they would defend each other and took care of things together. When you think about all the personalities you see at the circus: the fat lady, the tall guy, the strong man, what-have-you…you have the makings of a group that could be incredibly interesting to read about.

Half the appeal of The Moth, to me, is the goofy antics that happen after the main nightly show is done. And that became very entertaining to me, because these characters quickly became as real to me as any characters I’ve ever drawn in the comic book medium before. It’s uncanny that these people you draw as lines on paper could do that, but as any author knows, the process of inventing characters makes them become real after a while, if not immediately.

If they’re not real to you, then they aren’t going to be real to your readers.

Rude & Martin's The Moth
SR: Exactly. It’s a process that defies rational explanation to me in a lot of ways, but it’s very much part of the excitement of the process.

Speaking of process, how does Gary Martin fit into that process?

SR: Gary Martin is someone taking the writing process off my hands. He’s got just the right touch and the odd, offbeat way of making these characters speak and feel right.

I don’t like to write. I like to draw, ink and letter. I like the challenge of coming up with plots and ideas and things. And the perfect relationship for me is to give Gary the spirit of a plot and have him work it up into something professional, dynamic, and exciting with cliffhanger endings. Given that we’re working with in a strip format, it has to a recap at the beginning, have exciting forward motion, and an exciting “what’s going to happen next issue” cliffhanger for people to follow into the next strip, and so on.

Has there been any thought in collecting these “Nexus” and “The Moth” strips once they’ve been published?

SR: The idea has always been to eventually collect these strips into a single book. That’s a no-brainer; everyone waits for the trade paperback version of things these days. So we’ll eventually assemble these things in the way they were always meant to be: in a big, physical book.

Someone you’ve worked with in the past to put together big, physical books is John Fleskes and Flesk Publishing. The artbook “Steve Rude: Artist in Motion” is a wonderful compilation of some of your sketches, linework, paintings, and interview material. But I’ve noticed something called “The Nexus Chronicles” listed on the Flesk blog for 2015. I can’t let this interview end without asking for more information about that because the blog is frustratingly vague.

Next from Rude & Flesk Publications

SR: I was actually the first guy to work with John with the release of “Artist in Motion”, which was his first venture in publishing. With “The Nexus Chronicles” I wanted to go with John because I love what he does and I know what he puts out is going to be top quality. So my expectations are very hopeful with all these exciting endeavors.


Greg Matiasevich

Greg Matiasevich has read enough author bios that he should be better at coming up with one for himself, yet surprisingly isn't. However, the years of comic reading his parents said would never pay off obviously have, so we'll cut him some slack on that. He lives in Baltimore, co-hosts (with Mike Romeo) the Robots From Tomorrow podcast, writes Multiversity's monthly Shelf Bound column dedicated to comics binding, and can be followed on Twitter at @GregMatiasevich.