Nexus: the Newspaper Strips, Vol. 1 - "The Coming of Gourmando
I haven't read this yet. But I've got so much to say about it that I wanted to get the other stuff off my chest first. In 2016, Baron & Rude launched a HUGE (think Marvel "MONSTER"-size) weekly "Sunday newspaper" version but I didn't subscribe for three reasons: 1) I didn't trust Rude to meet a weekly deadline, 2) I didn't trust my local P.O. to deliver it without damaging it, and 3) I preferred the inevitable collected edition. Two versions (a full-size HC and a regular-size tpb) were solicited for April 2020. that didn't happen (for obvious reasons), but the tpb was resolicited for late summer 2021 release. I don't know how frequently the newspaper edition was mailed, but finally, after some more delays (the entire Rude household contracted COVID-19), the tpb shipped this week.
Back to 2016, I decided not to subscribe, but Rude offered a free incentive pack available to retailers, and I asked mine if he was willing to consider carrying it. He agreed to order the sampler but decided not to stock the newspaper because it was required that it be ordered in some ridiculously high quantity, more than he knew he would be able to sell. But he did give the sampler to me, free of charge. I will say, the "newspaper" format it gorgeous: gorgeous colors printed on bright white, thick paper stock. The tpb reproduction really does not do the art justice.
The thing is, fully half of the tpb's 192 pages is filler. There is a reprint of Dark Horse's Nexus: The Origin one-shot. It is supposedly remastered, but the reproduction looks murkier than the original to me. the sundra solo story, "When She Was Young, part two," is represented for the fourth time. the first time it saw print, the colors were off, so they reprinted it the following issue (which "followed" none too quickly). the third time was in a Steve Rude art book, and this is the fourth.
There is a strip by another writer/artist that featured "The Dude" as a character; there is a three-page, black & white preview of The Moth (art) from volume two; there are several sketch pages and other text/phot features, including three pages "On Writing" by Mike Baron (actually pretty good), and three pages on The Moth (text) by Steve Rude. I don't know when Steve Rude (effectively) gained creative control over Nexus from Mike Baron, but with a 50/50 say, he exercises that control like two moderate senators controlling the Democratic party. If you've never read Rude's loopy, stream of consciousness writing style, he can go on for pages without saying anything. There is no word in all the extras about when, or even if, an over-size version may see print, but there are pictures of rude and his children posing with a copy, so at least a mock-up exists.
Okay, that's all I have to say about everything in the package except the story.
"The Coming of Gourmando" is essentially Baron & Rude's version of "The Coming of Galactus." It is also an example that comics should be reprinted at the size they were intended to be seen. I learned this lesson some 20 years ago when Dark Horse reprinted Lone Wolf & Cub in the smaller, Japanese manga-size format. First Comics had reprinted part of the saga in the '80s, but they blew the art up to the size of a traditional America comic, and the "tightness" of the art was lost.
When I was a kid, I liked those Marvel and DC "treasury editions" but, even then, I realized that bigger isn't always necessarily better. What I wanted to see was detailed art designed specifically for the larger format. (Yes, some of the treasury editions presented original material, but few of them took full advantage of the larger size.) It wasn't until Barry Windsor-Smith's Storyteller that I saw the potential of a larger format realized. Recently, Marvel released several Galactus stories in "Monster Size" hardcovers, and although they look great, they are merely bigger, not better.
Now we have a project by one of the best artists in the field, designed to be seen in large format (and originally solicited to be collected that way)... shrunk to standard comic book size. The difference really shows. So much of the detail is simply lost in the smaller size. the panels often appear cramped, which they wouldn't at the size intended.
The draw (as it turns out) of "newspaper" format is not they layout, but the sheer size. A true full-page Sunday newspaper comic has a certain look of its own. Nexus doesn't have that. What these pages really represent is standard comic book layout, but designed to take advantage of the large page size. Each page has a logo at the top and a "to be continued" blurb at the bottom, which really interrupts the flow of the story. Also, each installment features a philosophical quotation which also serves to interrupt the flow. These aspects probably wouldn't be as noticeable at the intended size, but they should have been edited out for reproduction at the smaller size.
So what's the story like? Pretty good for the most part. Some of it rehashes stories longtime fans already know, but some of it is original. Steve Rude is credited as "co-writer" throughout. I suspect "co-plotter" would have been a more accurate description but, just as when Neal Adams is credited as "co-writer" alongside Mark Waid, little bits of dialogue contributed by the artist in both cases stand out like sore thumbs. The story itself is 90 pages and breaks down like this...
1-4 - ORIGIN RECAP
5-14 - MISSION TO STOP GORMANDO
The mission fails, and Nexus is banished to the Netherzone (a.k.a. the realm of Unintended Consequences, which I prefer). Gormando has a herald called Gnosis. Gnosis is a silvery being who wears a helmet and a hard-sided tunic and rides atop a hoverboard.
15-26 - NETHERZONE
The Netherzone is a realm of battle and philosopy in which Nexus has no powers, very much like the "Bowl-Shaped World" longtime fans will remember (even the Badger shows up for four pages), but instead of being guided by Crocus, his guide is the Larp, who looks like a Bugle (the corn-based snack food).
27-34 - MORE ORIGIN RECAP
35-47 - BACK TO REALITY
Nexus escapes from the Netherzone and returns to Ylum (as in "asylum"), his home. Survivors of the planet Nexus failed to save earlier have relocated to there. The supporting cast as well as the Merk (from whom Nexus gets his powers) are introduced. Gnosis arrives to herald the appearance of Gormando and is captured by the Merk.
48-57 - ORIGIN OF GNOSIS
58-90 - NEXUS VS. GOURMANDO, ROUND TWO
This lengthy section reintroduces WEB reporter Nipsy Conniption and details Gnosis' betrayal of Gourmondo as well as Gourmando's final defeat and sets up the next story.
As I mentioned yesterday, the second half of the tpb is filler. Unless you have spent the last five years anxiously awaiting this collection (as I have), I would recommend waiting for the eventual (?) fill-size collection, unless you want to spend $30 for $15 worth of content.
Apparently there IS a hardcover. It weighs 10 lbs. Watch Steve Rude lift it.
STEVE RUDE ON THE FUTURE OF NEXUS:
"As many of you know, Baron and I have taken to our own separate versions and I, the humble Dude, am writing, penciling, lettering AND inking these mind blowing stories. If you have not yet picked up a copy of THE COMING OF GOURMANDO, you'll find an amazing story in an edition that [is] oversize in both page count and size. I am not [sic] working on BATTLE FOR THUNEWORLD. This massive 100-page story will take me approximately 6 months to write, pencil, letter and ink. We hope to send it off in 10-20 page segments to the colorist."
Speaking for myself, I did not know (for certain), that Baron and Rude "have taken to [their] own separate versions" of Nexus, but I could certainly see it coming. Every once in a while I get a whiff of a Mike Baron Nexus novel in the air, but I don't think one was ever published. I can find a cover (a mock-up, I assume) online, but no information on how to actually order one, nor have I ever seen it solicited in Previews (which I assume it would be) or reported in Comic Shop News. If anyone knows (or ever hears in the future) anything about a Mike Baron Nexus novel, I would appreciate it if you would post here.
If anyone knows (or ever hears in the future) anything about a Mike Baron Nexus novel, I would appreciate it if you would post here.
Duly noted. For me, I don't know how interested I am in Nexus without the Dude's art. I follow Steve's Facebook page and email list pretty closely.
"I don't know how interested I am in Nexus without the Dude's art."
Agreed. But similarly, I don't know how interested I am in Nexus without Baron's writing. Steve Rude is not a good writer. I remember a fanzine interview from the early days when Rude was asked if he had any interest in writing and, at the time, he did not. He knew his talent was art, not writing. Rude is also slow, and when Nexus was being published on a monthly basis, he regularly had to be spelled by other artists. When First Comics folded and Nexus moved to Dark Horse, Baron and Rude agreed never again to do Nexus without Baron writing and Rude drawing. Because of Rude's slowness, we saw a lot less Nexus after that. The first evidence of the schism between the two happened when months (a year or so, IIRC) occurred between issue #98 and #99, ostensibly because Rude objected to Baron's story. (Eventually #99-100 were 4released as a double-sized issue.)