Nexus - Nightmare in Blue #4 (October 1997)
Dark Horse Comics
Rude Dude Productions
January 1981 - October 1982|
1983 - March 1991
|Number of issues||100+|
|Volume 1||ISBN 1-59307-398-4|
Nexus is an American comic book series created by writer Mike Baron and penciler Steve Rude in 1981. The series is a combination of the superhero and science fiction genres, set 500 years in the future.
The series debuted as a three-issue black-and-white limited series (the third of which featured a 33 RPM flexi disc with music and dialogue from the issue), followed by an eighty-issue ongoing full-color series. The black-and-white issues and the first six color issues were published by Capital Comics; after Capital's demise, First Comics took over publication.
On the creation of the series: Baron noted that they had originally pitched a series called Encyclopaedias to Capital Comics, but the company rejected this, saying they were looking for a superhero title. Over a drink at a restaurant, Baron outlined his ideas for Nexus to Rude.
Nexus was entirely Baron's idea. He even came up with the lightning bolt for the costume. All that we needed then was a name... a few weeks passed. Baron calls, and, without preamble, just says "Nexus." We finally had our name."
In addition to the ongoing series, First reprinted the original miniseries as a graphic novel and later reprinted the first two years of the ongoing title in the Nexus Legends series. The ongoing series was also supplemented by The Next Nexus, a four-issue miniseries that followed Nexus #52. Following the conclusion of the ongoing series with #80 (May 1991), seven miniseries and two one-shot comics were published by Dark Horse Comics. The last of these miniseries was printed in black and white as a cost-cutting measure; low sales led to the series being discontinued. Although each miniseries had its own issue numbering, Baron and Rude added a sequential number to each, as explained in the back of the first issue of Nexus: Executioner's Song:
The current issue number was figured by continuing First Publishing's numbering, which ended at volume 2, #80. Adding Nexus: The Origin, Nexus: Alien Justice #1-3, and Nexus: The Wages of Sin #1-4 brings it up to 88 — making "Dark Side of the Moon" #89.
Baron and Rude discussed plans to either revive the series or release a movie, possibly in animated form. (A brief animated test clip was shown at comics conventions). From July 2007 through July 2009 they published the miniseries Space Opera, which culminated in a double-size issue #101/102.
The creators' canonical publication list includes 105 issues:
- Volume 1 (Black and White) - #1 - 3
- Volume 2 - #1 - 80
- Nexus: The Origin (#81)
- Nexus: Alien Justice (#82 - #84)
- Nexus: Wages of Sin (#85 - #88)
- Nexus: Executioner's Song (#89 - #92)
- Nexus: God Con (#93 - #94)
- Nexus: Nightmare in Blue (#95 - #98)
- Nexus: Space Opera (#99 - #102)
The lead character, Horatio Valdemar Hellpop, received his Nexus powers from an alien entity called the Merk. As payment, the Merk required Nexus to seek out and kill a certain quantity of human mass murderers per "cycle". When the Merk selected a target, Nexus would receive strong headaches and maddeningly anguishing dreams (whose extremely intense episodes caused physical injuries to Hellpop's body that emulated the dream violence) of his target's victims until he did his duty. Horatio was reluctant to act as the Merk's tool, but continued seeking out mass murderers to maintain his power and his sanity so that he could defend his homeworld, a lunar refuge of Ylum (a shortening of the word "asylum," thus pronounced "eye-lum").
Horatio's father, Theodore, was a communist general and ruler of the planet Vradic. A religious uprising led by his brother-in-law threatened to overthrow the Sov government, which he had been ordered to uphold "at all costs." General Hellpop chose to detonate a bomb and destroy the planet, killing ten million people, then piloted an escape capsule with himself and his wife into a black hole. Surprisingly, it was a wormhole, which ejected them near Ylum, where Horatio was born.
As Horatio grew up, the Merk first influenced him through apparently imaginary friends named Alph and Beta. However, when Horatio's mother died (becoming lost in the tunnels of the planet), Horatio blamed them for her death and killed them in the first use of his power. Shortly afterward, Horatio began to dream about his father's crimes, causing himself inescapable torment. In this agony, Alph and Beta mysteriously appeared to reveal the duties of Nexus necessary to end the ordeal: the execution of his own father. With considerable personal agony (and unaware that his father was already on the verge of suicide), Horatio carried out the execution.
Left alone for two years, Horatio began to dream of the murderous oppressors of the Thunes, led by the Manager, and set out to deal with them in costume as Nexus for the first time. After the execution was carried out, Nexus agreed to take the Thune prisoners to Ylum to protect them from reprisals. Ylum thus became an asylum world, with the Thune prisoner, Dave, becoming both senior manager and Horatio's closest confidant.
Nexus would often find himself in the painful position of assassinating someone who had repented their former days of infamy, and desired only to be left alone with their guilt. Several of his targets were completely ignorant that their shortsighted actions had inadvertently caused the deaths of others. Fortunately, at least one such target was allowed to commit suicide when confronted by Nexus (death by suicide was punishment enough to the killer to end Nexus's relevant dreams). For the most part, however, his targets were unrepentant murderers, a number of whom had enslaved or otherwise exploited their victims before causing their deaths, thus allowing Nexus to execute them with a clear conscience.
Both Baron and Rude paid homage to Space Ghost in their work on Nexus, including use of the battle cry "This calls for hyperspeed!" and including Space Ghost characters Jan, Jayce, and Blip in several uncredited background cameos. Rude was later hired to create a Space Ghost comic for Comico Comics with writer Mark Evanier.
Steve Rude cited a number of influences on his clean, distinctive style, including Space Ghost character designs and other work by Alex Toth, and commercial illustrators of the 1940s and 1950s, particularly Andrew Loomis.
Baron's Nexus stories responded to the world he was writing in, with competing merchants overwhelming media channels (and telepathy) with Advertising. A great computerized library, perhaps presaging the Internet, controlled the universe's memory of history. However, some of his early 1980s references have become outdated, such as the menacing Sov empire.
The superpower of the Nexus universe, fusionkasting, psionically draws energy from the cores of stars (or other large sources on rare occasions). Many innate fusionkasters (the Merk and the Heads) can bestow their potential upon other individuals. This transference is said to fade over distance, but fusionkasters have been shown to be hundreds of light years from their sources with little decline in power. However, the link apparently cannot cross into other dimensions.
Most fusionkasters possess the abilities of flight, energy-beam projection that can be directionally controlled as desired, and force field creation (which can provide invulnerability to sufficiently powerful wielders). Super strength, telekinesis, and various degrees of telepathy are also common. Only Nexus and Plexus have demonstrated a substantially wider range of applications, including energy absorption, matter creation, transmutation, and teleportation.
The Nexus Universe
- The Merk are a race of titan-like First Ones who established an interstellar civilization thousands or millions of years ago, and created the role of Nexus. Many (or all) Merk possessed powerful fusionkasting. Most of them have departed our galaxy to points unknown; the few who remain (including Ylum's eponymous Merk) may or may not be typical of their race.
- Drizripool is the "original" Merk, the Ylum's eponymous Merk. Left in a slumbering state in Ylum's core, he made contact with Horatio, seemingly creating Alph and Beta from his subconscious mind, to teach and guide him the ways of the Merk, and granting humanity someone able to uphold the ideals of justice common to the Merk. Aside from bestowing his powers to Horatio and, later, to other selected individuals, Drizripool is responsible for keeping Ylum orbit stable and replenishing the healing tank used by Nexus, using a special fluid, who he calls The blood of Merk. Drizripool is also partly insane, his insanity growing with the distance from the Merk continuum.
- GQ, first foreshadowed in dialogues, is the second Merk of Ylum. Originally sent to bring Drizripool back to their people because of his insanity, he elects to stay behind, allowing Ylum and the Nexus to continue their roles in the universe. Despite being saner and more levelheaded than Drizripool, GQ is less powerful than his predecessor, who he calls "gifted", being able to feed Nexus only with the 20% of the energy Drizripool was able to grant him. Also, GQ confesses to Sundra that someday he may fall prey to the same insanity affecting Drizripool.
- Kimbo is a third Merk, apparently stationed on Earth, where he recruited Plexus to his cause. While Drizripool and GQ tasked their Nexus to find and kill criminals, Kimbo believes in rehabilitation and forgiveness, asking Plexus to bring the criminals to him for rehab. Noticeably, GQ and Kimbo refuse to acknowledge each other's existence, each believing the other an Insane superego of the Merk left behind by our people.
- Ylum is Horatio's home, a moon in a distant stellar system with a burgeoning population of immigrants. It has a substantial network of underground tunnels and Merk ruins.
- The Cohesive Web is the largest human government, some form of federation or republic with its capital on Earth. Many of the Web's agencies have used unethical means in their efforts to obtain new energy sources.
- Thunes are an intelligent ape-like race. The Thunes were formerly enslaved by a human dictator called The Manager, who became the target of Horatio's first public execution.
- Quatros are a brutal cyclopean race named for their four arms. They are superhumanly strong and quick. Very few Quatros are sufficiently civilized to live amongst other beings without bloodshed.
- Heads are decapitated sentients who gained limited telekinetic powers in the process. Slavers and unscrupulous governments have created perhaps millions of Heads for use as energy generators. Individual Heads are somewhat more powerful than most humanoid races, and tens of thousands of Heads linked together (voluntarily or otherwise) can reach power levels comparable to Nexus.
- Headworld is Ylum's formerly uninhabited twin, now home to the many Heads who have been freed by Nexus or Judah. It contains ruins almost identical to Ylum, but in a greater state of disrepair.
- The Sov empire is an oppressive communist regime based on the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union.
- The Gucci (etymology unknown but probably related to Gucci fashion) are a multiracial organization of assassins for hire with a strict code of conduct. Their homeworld has a space elevator and a damping field which blocks all forms of power, including fusionkasting.
- Alvinites are followers of a popular religion with rituals similar to those of mainstream Christianity. However, Alvinite tenets are left unspecified in the story.
- Elvonics are followers a neo-luddite religion which is not averse to stealing other people's technology for use in their holy missions. Alvin and Elvon were separate individuals who arose nearly simultaneously; each church believes that the other impugns its good name.
- Dave is a wise elderly Thune who convinced Nexus to open Ylum as a haven for political refugees.
- Judah Maccabee, alias The Hammer of God, is Dave's brash son, a skilled martial artist and freelance adjudicator. He receives fusionkasting from a group of Heads in exchange for his services, and has an indestructible sword which absorbs energy and amplifies his power.
- Sundra Peale was a human spy from Mars who became Horatio's lover.
- Ursula XX Imada was a high official in the Cohesive Web and the master spy who commanded Sundra, now ruler of Procyon. She is skilled in many fields of study and possesses partial mind control effective on most males. She seduced Horatio and bore twin daughters, Sheena and Scarlett, who are unskilled but powerful innate fusionkasters.
- Clausius is a dastardly slaver who commanded hundreds of thousands of beheadings. Nexus has battled him several times, although as a non-human he is not subject to the Merk's bane.
- Jacques Bravo, alias The Anvil, a rotund wrestler and poetaster who appears sporadically as a foil to Judah.
- Brother Lathe is Horatio's uncle and a high-ranking priest of Elvon. Lathe has caused great trouble for Horatio, who is loath to harm his only living relative.
- Kreed and Sinclair are Quatro Gucci assassins. They are masters of all forms of physical combat, undefeated in battle except against powerful fusionkasters (Nexus and Judah). They moved to Ylum and pledged allegiance to Nexus.
- Mezzrow is a young alien who came to Ylum and later started a band. He is a friend of Horatio and Sundra.
- Plexus is a brown-skinned anti-Nexus from Nexus: Executioner's Song #3. He is also a fusionkaster and has his own Merk sponsor. He represents mercy and rehabilitation.
- Clonezone is a comedian Lizigator who claims to have killed with a joke. He is a friend of Horatio and Judah.
- Tyrone is an early member of Horatio's refugees. He has risen to the highest elected office of Ylum, but he has a penchant for ruthlessly violent methods despite Horatio's disapproval.
- Honest Crocus is a small, flying robot merchant. Nexus first encounters Crocus in the bowl-shaped world where he meets the Badger. Later Crocus comes to Ylum and becomes a prominent resident and local merchant. Crocus will often offer to include a free dinette set with trades.
Dark Horse Comics Hardcover archive editions
- Nexus Archives, v1 (ISBN 1-59307-398-4, reprinted Nexus #1-3, v2 #1-4)
- Nexus Archives, v2 (ISBN 1-59307-455-7, reprinted Nexus v2 #5-11)
- Nexus Archives, v3 (ISBN 1-59307-495-6, reprinted Nexus v2 #12-18)
- Nexus Archives, v4 (ISBN 1-59307-583-9, reprinted Nexus v2 #19-25)
- Nexus Archives, v5 (ISBN 1-59307-584-7, reprinted Nexus v2 #26-32)
- Nexus Archives, v6 (ISBN 1-59307-791-2, reprinted Nexus v2 #33-39)
- Nexus Archives, v7 (ISBN 1-59307-877-3, reprinted Nexus v2 #40-46)
- Nexus Archives, v8 (ISBN 1-59582-236-4, reprinted Nexus v2 #47-52, Next Nexus #1)
- Nexus Archives, v9 (ISBN 1-59582-313-1, reprinted Nexus v2 #53-57, Next Nexus #2-4)
- Nexus Archives, v10 (ISBN 1-59582-438-3, reprinted Nexus v2 #58-65)
- Nexus Archives, v11 (ISBN 1-59582-496-0, reprinted Nexus v2 #66-73)
- Nexus Archives, v12 (ISBN 1-59582-636-X, reprinted Nexus v2 #74-80)
- Nexus: Space Opera (ISBN 0-9792311-3-2, reprinted Nexus #99-102)
- Nexus: As It Happened, v1 (ISBN 0-9792311-5-9, reprinted Nexus #1-3, v2 #1-4)
Dark Horse Comics Softcover omnibus editions
- Nexus Omnibus, v1 (ISBN 1-61655-034-1, reprinted Nexus v1 #1-3, Nexus v2 #1-11)
- Nexus Omnibus, v2 (ISBN 1-61655-035-X, reprinted Nexus v2 #12–25)
- Nexus Omnibus, v3 (ISBN 1-61655-036-8, reprinted Nexus v2 #26–39)
- Nexus Omnibus, v4 (ISBN 1-61655-037-6, reprinted Nexus v2 #40-52, Next Nexus #1)
- Nexus Omnibus, v5 (reprinted Nexus v2 #53-65, Next Nexus #2-4), to be published June 4, 2014
The series won a total of six Eisner Awards. In 1988, the series won an award for Best Artist/Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team. 1993's Nexus: Origin won awards for Best Single Issue/Single Story, Best Writer/Artist, and Best Artist/Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team. In 1997, Nexus: Executioner's Song won Best Artist/Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team. In 2008, Todd Klein won Best Letterer/Lettering for his work on Nexus.
The Nexus series produced several crossover issues, featuring characters from several other First series, including American Flagg!, Grimjack, Jon Sable: Freelance, Badger, Whisper and Dreadstar. An example of Nexus crossover issues is the series Crossroads, published in 1988. Following the switch in publishers from First to Dark Horse, Nexus crossed over with Madman (Nexus Meets Madman) and Magnus Robot Fighter (Magnus Robot Fighter/Nexus).
A 2-minute promo for an animated series was made in 2004.
- Nexus at the Comic Book DB