Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nexus: The Origin, the book that hooked me on Nexus

Like many of you, I bought Dark Horse's Nexus:  The Origin way back in 1992, when it first came out.  Steve Rude has had it remastered since then, but even all those years ago it was a singular experience for a comic reader.  All the sweeping events making up the young Horatio "Nexus" Hellpop's biography collapsed into a single double-sized issue, from the tragic love affair between his parents (his dad was a conflicted commie general and his mother a sensitive painter) to his first encounter with future mate Sundra Peale.  Mike Baron works each vignette expertly for poignancy or playfulness and Steve Rude's art is simply gorgeous throughout.  Baron and Rude are two guys whose disparate personal views somehow mesh instead of clash.  In a text piece I read in some other book-- or maybe it was in this one-- Baron relates how Rude would phone him howling for Ursula X.X. Imada's blood for some outrage of hers, but together they produce something so beautiful if there are any seams showing they seem stitched right into the overall design.

And so it is with Nexus:  The Origin, which brought their much-lauded creation back for another go-around.  The new Nexus series-- actually broken up for some reason into smaller mini-series, each telling a complete story unto itself but also containing a shadow numbering related to the overall Nexus saga--  produced a number of memorable moments but didn't exactly top the sales charts.  At the end of the arrangement, Dark Horse reverted the character rights back to Baron and Rude, a class move if there ever was one.  A few years later, Rude started Rude Dude Productions, a self-publishing venture that sadly couldn't find a profitable niche in the then-current marketplace.  It was with Rude Dude this new version of Nexus:  The Origin came out, recolored and spiffed up-- although I was fine with the first one, which won the 1993 Eisner for Single Best Issue.

I'd say since I can't remember the specifics of any other single comic book I read that year and since this one made me a confirmed fan of its characters and overall series, then it's my Single Best Issue for 92-93 as well.  But it wasn't my first encounter with Nexus and his world.

Years before, when I was a junior high kid hooked on The New Mutants and Judge Dredd, I used to do pin-up artwork for a local comic shop, and the owners-- a gentle married couple who always treated me royally-- paid me with autographed posters.  One of these was a print of a painted Nexus cover.  While Rude's art impressed me a great deal-- I'd read a bit about him in Comics Scene and Amazing Heroes magazines so I knew who he was and all about his drawing capabilities-- Nexus looked too much like Cyclops from Uncanny X-Men and I just couldn't wrap my pea-brain around what I thought was a slick Marvel rip-off.  Not that I objected to anyone doing such a thing; I had notebooks full of derivative ideas of my own.  I just didn't want to participate in someone else doing the same.

Or so I thought then.  Later, I learned how wrong I was and if anyone's going to time travel and whup up on my skinny butt for being an idiot, it's me.  Still, I like to think then-me had some precociously refined taste even when he was too timid to sample.  As with A Distant Soil, something about Nexus stuck with me over the next eight or so years as I grew up into the weirdo who writes foolishness here.  Comic stores came and went and so did my interest in comics, but somehow I got hooked again in the early '90s and one of the hookers was Nexus:  The Origin.

I don't even know why I bought it after such a history not buying Nexus, but I distinctly remember the first time I read it (of many).  I was sitting on the toilet in the bathroom at my parents' house where I lived while I worked at a two-year college teaching developmental English.  I read it from cover to cover, just amazed at how perfectly, how skillfully Baron and Rude presented each moment, just slices in time.  It has everything you need to know about the character Nexus and his life, features the series' tonal variety and stands alone as a compelling story.  The overall sense of generational tragedy-- a recurring Nexus theme-- was probably my major emotional take away.

Well, that and falling in love with yet another comic book.  Oh, and yes, I washed my hands before I picked the book up off the very clean white tile floor where it lay.  In my mind, I haven't really put it down since.

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