If you’ll take a look at the main Big Head Press Website, you’ll see the news that we have signed comic-book legend Mike Baron, co-creator of Nexus, and of The Badger, and writer for numerous DC and Marvel books, on to do a project helping us launch our spiffy new website next year.
At this point, we also have a second project from Mike in the pipeline, and we’ll talk about that one when we finish signing all the contracts with Mike and his artist for that project.
Working with Mike is a real thrill for me and brings part of my cartooning career full-circle.
I had gone through college with the ambition of becoming an editorial cartoonist — short version of a long story is it didn’t work out. So I was back at the University of Texas studying “formal” art and looking for a direction to take my talents and dreams.
Whilst browsing through one of the campus bookstores, at the magazine rack I found something that may well have changed my life at that point, at least almost as much as discovering Ayn Rand and then other libertarian theorists. “It” was a comic-book unlike any I’d seen.
It’s difficult for me to relate exactly what was so special about this little pamphlet. The main character dressed in black-and-blue spandex, had superpowers, and lived in a technologically advanced future. “Nexus,” a.k.a. Horatio Hellpop, was an assassin of mass murderers, driven by an unknown, telepathic alien force which gave him nightmares in which his targets were identified, their crimes revealed, and their locations described.
Well, interesting, but not the most ground-breaking set-up we’ve heard, even 20 or so years ago.
But there was something in the way the energy in the art and the lyricism of the writing came together which made Nexus the coolest comic-book I’d ever read.
However, the life-changing aspect of this book, which I didn’t really pick up on until I’d seen the second issue, was that unlike every other comic-book fantasy I’d seen, this story was not a corporate-owned, work-for-hire commodity, but something personal created by two guys with a shared vision, and most importantly, owned by them.
The creators, not some board room full of suits, decided the path of the story and the fate of its characters. And if the story and characters proved popular, the creators would share in the financial rewards, and could not just be shuffled out the door whenever some editor decided he wanted to use different “talent.”
I had loved super-hero comics as a youngster but as I learned of the practices in that business I had turned away from even considering it. I can create a business logo or advertising graphic and send it away to its buyer, thinking little of it again. The money is good. But I feel differently, much more personally and possessively, about the graphic stories I create; and the pay in the comics business, for creators, has always been very poor, with cartoonists getting paid fees as freelancers, getting no health benefits, and usually not having anything saved for retirement.
But a new model was being created in this business. Mike Baron was only one of many vanguards of this revolution, but he was my window to it. And my idea of what was possible for me to do and achieve as a cartoonist was forever transformed.
As I got older I lost interest in “super-spandex” stories and characters, and lately my favorite graphic stories are written by people like Joe Sacco and Warren Ellis and Carla Speed McNeil and Alex Robinson, all of them telling very different kinds of stories. But I will always have a fondness for Nexus, and The Badger, and an appreciation for the role Mike Baron played in shaping my professional life.
And now I’m working with the guy! And going over to his house for dinner! Trading stories about our dogs! Arguing politics! My Inner Fanboy is completely blissed out.
And soemwhere down the road I fully hope and intend to create something new and wonderful with Mike, as an artist illuminating his writing.
Life is good.
Oh yeah, here’s the front cover art for The Architect, painted by Andie Tong: