To Neal Adams, STEVE RUDE Was the One Who Got Away

A NEAL ADAMS CHRONICLES birthday tribute to the Dude, who was born 67 years ago, on Dec. 31, 1956…


Steve Rude is one of the most talented artists working in comics today. He’s created a ton of exceptional comics pages, many based on the work of Alex, Toth, Jack Kirby, Doug Wildey, Andrew Loomis, Russ Manning, John Romita or Steve Ditko.

Then there’s Nexus.

I first found Nexus in a terrible road-side comics store in Londonderry, New Hampshire, that had an amazing collection of independent comics. I have no idea where this guy was getting his comics, but he was obviously hooked into the direct sales market. He had portfolios like Dreadstar and the Marshall Rogers/Lynn Varley Batman set. I remember buying the first issue with that great cover of Nexus firing his energy upward while he holds the beautiful Sundra Peale. Turns out that the first issue’s cover was by Paul Gulacy, but I was entranced. The interiors were rough compared to the later issues, but Rude got so much better so fast.

Sure, I loved all the Marvel and DC Comics I was supposed to love, but Nexus became something wonderful outside the usual fare. It was science fiction but also grounded solidly in humanity. Nexus was Horatio Hellpop, a human given vast powers by a mysterious being named the Merk. Nexus only killed intergalactic criminals after the Merk had tortured him with dreams and physical pain. When it became too much, Nexus would track down the bad guy and eliminate him.

There were beautiful women, some alien and some human. Nexus was a strikingly handsome man who was the target of manipulation by many of these women. Rude handled the dramatic sequences and the quiet ones with equal skill. Along the way, he drew some other stories. One of them was a Jonny Quest story that he sent to Alex Toth as he progressed his way through the pencils.

Toth, a genius by all accounts, ripped his way through the pencils. Steve Rude, at this point, was a spectacular artist. I remember seeing his pencils and the comments made by Toth and being devastated. Alex Toth was a god of comics, a brilliant artist who had drawn many wonderful, memorable stories. What was he seeing that the rest of us were missing? He seemed to hate Rude’s work. I studied those pages and Toth’s comments, searching for what I didn’t understand. I wasn’t an artist, so in the end I guess I gave in to the fact that these two artists knew way more than I did. I still loved Steve Rude’s art, just like Neal Adams did. We would talk about Rude and his abilities and how much we both wanted to work with him. No matter what Alex Toth said, we knew that Steve was potentially one of the greats.

So, I bought the Steve Rude issue of Jonny Quest and enjoyed it immensely. I even bought one for Neal Adams, my father-in-law, so he could read it and study it in his bathroom… where he did a tremendous amount of reading.

Rude drew a World’s Finest series for DC Comics, featuring a brilliant dichotomy between the beautiful light of Superman and the dark, feral essence of Batman. The Fleischer nature of his Superman was inspirational. His Batman harkened back to Bob Kane and Bill Finger. His Joker was wonderful but not terrifying. His Lex Luthor was powerful and intelligent. Every one of the three 48-page issues of that series, written by Dave Gibbons, was a joy. Lois was beautiful and sexy. Jimmy Olsen was spunky and youthful. It was an absolute masterpiece of the characters.

He went on to work at Marvel, doing homages to Jack Kirby’s Thor, John Romita’s Spidey and Kirby’s X-Men. For others, he drew Magnus, Robot-Fighter and Space Ghost.

Neal wanted to get Steve Rude badly. He was a great artist who could draw soooo well. Neal told me he wanted to ink Steve Rude to give him a bit more “edge.” Steve is a great penciller and a damn good inker. He was just not a huge Neal Adams fan. Neal and I talked about putting Steve on Ms. Mystic because his women were sexy and beautiful. We had Adam Hughes do a Ms. Mystic trading card and it was great! Why wouldn’t you want another great artist who could illustrate gorgeous women?

Steve Rude was just like Neal. He believed in himself and his work, but he was also a fan of the work that inspired him as a kid. So that was the artistic direction he always went in.

Then an editor at DC Comics asked if Neal wanted to draw an issue of their big 2017 Kamandi Challenge series. The premise was to hire 12 writers and 12 artists. At the end of every issue there would be a cliffhanger that the next writer had to get Kamandi out of. Neal drew his issue with his usual intensity, but he wasn’t a huge fan of the character or the situations. (We all knew Jack Kirby had changed his Planet of the Apes concept into Kamandi for licensing reasons.) It was one of the better issues in that 12-issue run.

Then Steve Rude’s Issue #8 came out. Channeling Jack Kirby’s primal, yet futuristic work, Steve turned in (in my and Neal’s opinion) the best issue of the entire series. Ryan Sook did a great job as well, but Steve’s pages were so sincere and perfect for the project. The splash pages were terrific, and the storytelling was wonderful. Even Neal admitted Steve put more effort into his issue than Neal did. Steve was worshiping Jack while Neal was just drawing a comic book. That, Neal told me, was the magic of Steve Rude. He cared more than anyone else. His sincerity is unparalleled.

These days, Steve Rude and Mike Baron are doing their own separate versions of Nexus, but Steve has become a pretty great writer. He uses Kickstarter to raise the funds to finance his Nexus stories, which I make sure I get. He offers great incentives and the stories are wonderful. They are solid, interesting and unique. Does he still harken back to the artists he loves? Of course, he does, but don’t we all? Gourmando is Galactus, but I love his work so much that it works. His sketchbooks are great. His Wonder Woman prints are wonderful.

Steve Rude’s storytelling is exquisite. His understanding of anatomy and movement is amazing. His style is so pleasant and attractive that I’m desperate to see more and more of it. Neal felt the same way. He would always talk to Steve when they were at the same convention, hoping that Steve might be willing to draw something for Neal. It never worked out, but Steve continues to do excellent work. Let’s hope he continues for a few more decades. He is a comics industry treasure.


— 13 GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS: A STEVE RUDE Birthday Celebration — 2022 Edition. Click here.

— 13 GREAT ILLUSTRATIONS: A STEVE RUDE Birthday Celebration: 2021 Edition. Click here.

Peter Stone is a writer and son-in-law of the late Neal Adams. Be sure to check out the family’s twice-weekly online Facebook auctions, as well as the, and their Burbank, California, comics shop Crusty Bunkers Comics and Toys.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Peter,I absolutely agree. Steve’s talent is a classic style for sure. I missed out on the Nexus run originally but the DC and Marvel work was a joy to discover. I’ve since picked up his Kickstarter work. I love that his art is all old school in its production.

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  2. Love Steve Rude. My fist Nexus comic was issue 19. That cover grabbed me and I’ve been a fan ever since. Happy birthday to Mr Rude !

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  3. There is an interesting story about Steve Rudes early attempts to get work at Marvel, on Jim Shooters blog. Steve is a guy who will not take “no” for an answer! I especially enjoy his work on Batman or Superman.

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  4. The first issue of Nexus I had was #6. My 14 year-old brain was blown away. Ever since I have bought any comic that Steve Rude drew. If he had never developed past that early work he would still be a favorite of mine. Yet the guy still pushes himself to improve, and it shows.

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  5. He’s just such an amazing artist. My 13-year-old daughter has loved my old, dog-eared copy of the Comico SPACE GHOST one-shot since she was 4. I had a large canvas print of her favorite panel made from a scan as a birthday present this past year.

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