Sporadic Sequential
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
On The Dude, Delays, and The Direct Market

More thoughts on Steve Rude's announcement that he plans to focus on painting rather than putting out comics:

In the comments here and at Robot 6, a common refrain is that delays hurt the book. I was wondering how delays impacted the book, but I couldn't remember details. Searching through my emails for old DudeNews newsletters, I found repeated references to delays with Nexus (many of those same announcements are also available on Rude's site, so I tried to link to those entries where I could). Just looking at Nexus #100, it looks like it suffered from several scheduling problems:
  1. As far as I can tell, Nexus #100 was originally solicited back in June 2007 for a September 2007 release.
  2. However, in September 2007, an update announced that Nexus #100 would be pushed back to a January 2008 date. (Ironically, the note also states: "And why the decision to resolicit? Because it’s going to buy us the time to send out all three issues without delay. Month after month, as originally intended.")
  3. In January of 2008, it was announced that the book was being further delayed until February due to "an increased page count beyond what was originally solicited [and] more extra features to make Nexus 100 a truly momentous event."
  4. Finally, in early February 2008, a notice was posted informing fans that the book was being delayed one last time until the end of the month due to an unacceptably muddly print job on the book.
So a near six-month delay in getting out issue #100, and that doesn't account for the gaps between #99 (July 2007) and #101/102 (due out in July 2009). As one commenter put it, "[that's] two years for four issues of what had been scheduled as a monthly book."

Digging through my emails, I also found this, which I couldn't find anywhere on Rude's site or blog, so I'll just reproduce it here:

April 2009 Dude News

For everyone who's stuck out the past year waiting for the Nexus series to finally be completed -- THANK YOU. It's been a rough few years.

To try and answer some questions that came up during the survey that we recently sent out...

Q: I wish Dude well with painting, I hope it does well for him. But it's frustrating to wait years between new Nexus stories. I get frustrated when I see so much attention and time being put into the painting, and (apparently) less so into Nexus, which is such a wonderful creation. Charge me ten bucks an issue if you need to, I'll gladly pay.

A: Steve has been concentrating on producing, unfortunately, he has been hit with some serious medical conditions over the past few years which have hampered his ability to work a normal work day. That was our main reason for deciding to combine the final 2 issues into 1 and also wait until both were completed until soliciting or giving a release date. We are thrilled to announce that Nexus 101/102 will be released mid-July.

Q: Ok, here's my honest opinion. Please, STOP working on paintings, sketchbooks, custom sketches, prints, etc - and make some COMICS! I love Steve's work, but I'm not wealthy, and what I can afford most are comics. But with only 2 issues of Nexus since the relaunch, I keep wondering WHY such effort goes into all this other stuff. Please, draw comics!

A: Steve has little to do with the prints and sketchbooks. He hasn't done any new paintings outside of covers and the custom sketches..well, without them we would currently be in foreclosure. He has limited the sketches to Monday and Tuesday only. His health is so uncertain that he produces what he can. I can say that we've seen dramatic improvement in the past few months and we can only pray that it continues.

I tried to be the main bread winner, but after 2 years of working 80+ hour weeks on top of taking care of Steve and the kids I was heading for a complete breakdown.

These canvas prints are a way to (hopefully) keep our mortgage paid and Steve concentrating on Nexus without any extra work. The company we hooked up with prints on demand, has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy, we order only what we have already sold, and they take care of framing/shipping.
Again, getting a glimpse into the life of a struggling comic artist breaks my heart. I'm reminded of all the stories about Golden Age and Silver Age greats who struggled to make ends meet later in life. Jaynelle Rude's patient updates also point out another issue that contributed to the delays with Nexus: Steve Rude's health issues. This email doesn't get into specifics, but in a comment on one of the delay update posts Jaynelle mentions that Rude "battles depression and oftentimes the medication leaves him too tired to work" and that "he’s been battling fatigue due to a thyroid medication he was put on." Rude himself stops by to add "[t]he reason for Nexus #100’s tardiness is due entirely to myself" explaining, "I have mental health issues that have all but sabotaged my once 'normal' state. I’ve dealt with this condition most of my adult life and can only hope that this state will repair itself in time."

So I understand that fans can lose interest in a series that comes out infrequently, but I hope that fans understand that many factors can interfere with a comic's publishing schedule. It would be one thing if Rude were drawing a steady paycheck from Marvel and DC and simply not turning in his work. But I think it's a very different situation when a creator is self-publishing a book as a labor of love. And it's even further removed when health issues enter the picture. When a creator has to choose between looking out for his health (not to mention his family's well-being) and getting a comic out on time, it's no contest.

I'm still wondering if self-publishing isn't part of the problem due to being shoved to the back of the Previews catalog where many retailers and fans may never venture. Again, I can understand how delays would hurt the momentum of a (supposedly monthly) serialized book. But Nexus: As it Happened Vol. 1 is a more stand-alone product and preorders for that were only 1,200. That puts it in the range of the latest Spider-Girl collection and an Iron Man & Power Pack book. Really? Only 1,200 people were interested in an affordable collection of early Baron and Rude Nexus? Heck, I have all these issues already but I'm eager to have them in a more convenient and readily available format. Is the problem promotion? Awareness? The overall Direct Market system? Or maybe (and I hate to consider this) that's all that's left of the fanbase for Nexus so many years later? Searching through ICv2's sales estimates, I only find one ranking for Dark Horse's Nexus Archives series, and that was for volume one back in December 2005. The estimated preorders for that book? 1,301. Are all of us Nexus fans simply buying the same material over and over again while hoping that others will somehow magically discover and fall in love with the series?

As much as I love Nexus, maybe it would be better off in the long run (for everyone involved) if Rude branched out to other material when he returns to comics in the "direct-to-trade" format in the future. Or maybe if Rude doesn't want to change the subject matter he could alter the format: I wonder if online serialization could work for Nexus? Maybe it would help Rude, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, to post work in smaller chunks for feedback. He could do it as his leisure while still doing his painting to make a living. And he could always clean up the serialized work for the eventual collection if he wanted to.

Anyway, who knows what would work best for Nexus? Rude and various publishers have tried different things over the years and nothing seems to have worked out 100%, so who am I to play armchair expert? Whatever path Rude decides to take in the future, I look forward to supporting him and his work. Best of luck to you and your family, Dude!

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