Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Steve Rude... Out of Comics?

Steve Rude? No longer in love with making comics?

From his official website biography:

Currently, Rude’s focus is on fine art paintings.

According to an announcement on his MySpace blog and linked to his Facebook feed, it looks like one of my artistic idols-- a giant among pencillers-- has called it quits with the comic book sequential stuff in favor of fine art and gallery shows. Steve Rude, perennial art student and questing soul evidently just wasn't finding the inspiration and love in comics that he once felt. I think it's common sense-- if something no longer moves you, you move on to what does. Here's what Rude himself wrote recently about this decision on his blog:

As we all know, comics have always been my first, second, and last love, so I couldn't help but wonder what was happening in recent months to my once seeming unconquerable creative spirit. Comics were the beloved field which launched me into the world of pros and gave me my greatest creative highs, from whose challenges I never tired.

Steve Rude has long been a favorite of mine-- part Captain James T. Kirk, part Bruce Lee-- so on one hand I'm a bit bummed by the news. On the other, it's not as if he's died or something tragic. He's simply evolving to a new, higher state of artistic being.

He feels today's comic book industry is too dark, not life-affirming enough:

Around the mid 90's is when I noticed the point of no return taking place. Comic books went from the fun, upbeat, virtuous, and dramatically wondrous periodicals that entertained me for a lifetime--to be displaced by dark, morose, and let's not forget..."adult" versions that we currently find. That's my take on things. I wish it were better.

And I have to agree to a certain extent. I rather like the dark and morose, the "adult" comics-- but only if I consider the material truly mature. You know, like Rude's and Mike Baron's Nexus series itself. From the beginning, Nexus dealt intelligently with complex issues of morality, ethics, religion, science and personal relationships. A truly adult-- and sometimes dark-- comic book for adults. What I could never get behind is the way mainstream companies mask themselves in this "mature" or "adult" approach but actually cynically pander to a kind of prurient, stunted, regressive, adolescent worldview based mainly on Saw-style gross-outs. For example, a canine character originating in a Saturday morning cartoon attacking and maiming another character from the cartoon show.

To me, that's about a step above viewing photos of traffic accident victims for kicks.

For some reason, pessimism, negativity and nihilism are considered more realistic than optimism, positivism and having an ethos. Superman's not cool and even arch-asshole Batman no longer thrills; as much of a crazed bastard as he became before they sent him out of the narrative in a massive publicity stunt, he just wasn't extreme enough. The kids are dressing like Heath Ledger's the Joker instead. That portrayal seems to speak to them in ways I wish I couldn't fathom as well as I do.

It's also a matter of economics. Rude simply lost a lot of money self-publishing. According to Jaynelle Rude:

Steve is then turning his focus to gallery paintings. Steve is a brilliant artist and we've been living hand to mouth for the past 3 years. Losing over $5,000 in the last 2 printings we have been unable to pay our mortgage have have no desire to lose our house.

The wonderful thing about this career shift is, it probably means we'll actually see even more Steve Rude artwork than we have in the past. Rude has long devoted himself to the study of art, producing non-comics paintings in his free time. Recently, he's had works accepted into juried exhibits at Sundust Gallery and won honorable mention for his watercolor piece, "Egyptian Queen" in MyArtSpace's Spring 2009 competition. And he's still accepting commissions.

What does this mean for fans of Rude's sequential artwork out there? With the publication of the Nexus Space Opera trade paperback this October, Nexus and Rude Dude Productions have come to conclusion, at least for now. Apparently, this leaves the next four issues of The Moth in limbo and a lot of characters put away sight unseen. I just wish we could've seen those and at least something of his and Mike Baron's character Origami.

As an ex-pat living in Japan, any kind of Western take on my adopted home intrigues me, and Rude's initial drawings for Origami are, of course, gorgeous to behold.

There are a few hints at Rude putting out a trade here or there, or maybe becoming so inspired he jumps back in again. In the meantime, I think the American comic book industry needs to take a long, hard look at itself and its future and reassess things if it means losing talents like Steve Rude. If a guy as brilliant as Steve Rude can't make a go of it, then something is seriously wrong here. But most importantly, I want to wish Steve Rude the best of luck in his gallery career. Follow that muse wherever it may lead, Dude!

And-- if by chance-- it's back to Nexus, The Moth or Origami, I'll be there!


Pete Mullins said...

Man, there is something F@###ed up with the world when a talented guy like Steve Rude is living 'hand to mouth'. Let's face it, we all knew he was better than most in the current crappy comic book ghetto. We were just lucky to have the guy hang around for as long as he did.

Joel Bryan said...

My feelings exactly. This really bummed me out all day yesterday. I mean, the guy is a giant in the field. Or was. Or could be again.

Joel Bryan said...

Also, I can't believe this isn't burning up the comic book blog-o-sphere. Steve Rude quits comics. That's news!

MilkManX said...

Dammit this sucks! I want more Moth!!

Joel Bryan said...

Me too! The Moth was everything I wanted from a fun superhero comic!