by Ryan Balkam
Steve Rude is one of the most celebrated artists in the industry. He's an Eisner, Harvey, Kirby, and Russ Manning Award winner. He first blew on to the scene when he and writer Mike Baron introduced the world to their creation, NEXUS, in 1981.
Over the course of the next few years, while continuing NEXUS, Steve worked on books at Marvel and DC. On titles such as INCREDIBLE HULK vs. SUPERMAN, X-MEN:CHILDREN OF THE ATOM, SPIDER-MAN: LIFELINE, THOR: GODSTORM, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: WHAT PRICE GLORY.
In 2006 he launched Rude Dude Productions, where he continued to draw the adventures of NEXUS. He returned to DC a few years back where he drew BEFORE WATCHMEN: DOLLAR BILL and a Superman story for DC's ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN.
Last year he also drew the 1930's cover for ACTION COMICS #1000. With the promise of more NEXUS coming out in the future, this is an exciting time to be a Steve Rude fan.
Comic Lounge: What was your first experience with comic books?
Steve Rude: My first experience with comics was when I was around 9 yrs. old in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. A friend of mine who lived down the street was always collecting them. When we would hang out I would grab the latest issues and pour over them. Comics were cool and I loved looking at the fantastic drawings. My friend’s collection always contained a generous run of mid-60’s Marvel comics, many of such
were the Romita-drawn issues of Spider-Man. To this day, those Stan/Romita issues are unequalled in their solid and believable stamp of storytelling—a look that almost appears lost in the hyper-dense intricacies of today’s
artist’s work, as well as the accompanying computer-coloring process that virtually smothers the once simple
readability of the art.
To give a context on old vs. new, one needs to look back to a time before empty sales ploys began routinely replacing the simple, solid writing and art of earlier years and you’ll see why Marvel, DC, and everyone else continues to endlessly republish these stories in every imaginable format. Just because things move forward, doesn’t mean they become better.
Comic Lounge: Were than specific book or creators that inspired you to be a comic book creator?
Rude: My greatest influences were anything from Jack Kirby’s 1960’s period at Marvel. After leaving Marvel due to an endless score of broken promises from publisher Martin Goodman about meager pay raises or profit sharing, Jack moved on to produce his most personal works during the early 1970’s at competing company, DC Comics. Exciting things were also emerging from Marvel at that time—the most brilliant of which was Moench and Gulacy’s MASTER OF KUNG FU. The field of storytelling has never transcended what they did together during those days in the early 1970’s.
Comic Lounge: The book you're best know for is probably NEXUS. Where did the idea for that character come from?
Rude: The idea of NEXUS came from the fertile mind of--Mike Baron! I just happened to be a young guy in the right place and time to hitch a ride with Baron’s great idea. After meeting each other for the first time on the Madison U. campus, we became partners and began producing NEXUS. I’ve always been a superhero fan from start to finish and there’s still no place that holds more fascination for me!
Comic Lounge: Are there any plans to return to the character?
Rude: You bet! Just see what’s upcoming from Baron and I. It’s pretty exciting!
Comic Lounge: You've done work for Marvel and DC in the past. Do you have any desire to work on any of their characters besides cover work?
Rude: I haven’t been contacted by Marvel in ages, but I can tell you that due to editorial disagreements I’ve had with DC, it’s prohibited me from doing further work for them. These disagreements involve policies that don’t allow anything remotely copyrightable from being drawn in one’s artwork, no matter how small or innocent it might be. A pair of glasses on some characters face might be removed by editors because they have some kind of copyright attached to them. Literally everything appears to be fair game to them. Lawyers and their short-sighted compliant editors have officially managed to take all the fun out of drawing comics. Otherwise I’d most likely be illustrating ACTION COMICS with Superman, or as later offered, the SUPERGIRL book, which I would’ve loved doing.
Comic Lounge: Paul Levitz once said that your work plays on Norman Rockwell"s Americana. How did you develop your style?
Rude: I suppose any artist’s style is an outgrowth of their core personality. Most of my ideology came from my upbringing as a kid and reading the still unequaled work of Stan, Jack, and John R. during the 1960’s, where they showed me, issue after issue, how the intrepid heroes of the comics never failed to captivate or inspire me.
Comic Lounge: Are there any projects you're currently working on that you can talk about?
Rude: Here’s what going on currently; Look for the continuing adventures of NEXUS in the groundbreaking newspaper format originally launched on the Rude Dude label a few years back. We’re going to begin by collecting all 70 NEXUS strips and eventually expand it to a 180 pg. volume. Hopefully, Dark Horse will now be taking over the publishing part of these books, so I can concentrate on what I prefer doing most—drawing the pages.
Comic Lounge: Do you have any advice for young artists?
Rude: My advice to all future comic book artists is all based on simple common sense; If you can learn how to construct something, you can learn how to draw it. “Construction” is the secret behind every good drawing; be it loose or highly detailed. A horse, an apple, a building, a plane, the inside of a rocket ship, or a guy flying through space can all learned through construction. If you can learn construction to the point of becoming second nature, you’ll start to free yourself from guesswork and begin having less stress and more fun with inventing those interesting poses that make your characters actually seem alive. This learning process is perpetual and ongoing, no matter where you stand in years or ability. It’s something we continue honing throughout our lifetime. That’s part of the fun!
Comic Lounge: What have been some of the most memorable moments of your career?
Rude: My most memorable moments in comics came during the wonderful decade of the 1980’s. Baron and I were the hot new team in town and defied the odds by not emerging from the usual stables of DC or Marvel. We were relishing the attention our work on NEXUS was getting, and receiving invitations from the conventions was all new and exciting to us. Now that we’ve been around a while, Baron and I, like anyone else in the field, like to keep proving ourselves to both new and old generations of fans hungry and expectant of good material. That’s another part of the fun of comics—always having to stay on your toes!