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AICN COMICS Q&@: Mad Mercutio catches up with NEXUS’ Mike Baron on his upcoming projects!

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Q’s by Mad Mercutio!

@’s by Mike Baron!!!

Mad Mercutio here. Mike Baron has been a professional in the comic book business for years. He has written for the big two with his PUNISHER and FLASH stories, as well as creating two of the more notable indie comic creations, THE BADGER and NEXUS. He has been nominated for several awards and won two Eisners for his work on Nexus.

MAD MERCUTIO (MM): Charles Saunders said that your style is “hard-boiled, hard-edged, and hard-core.” Having read a couple of your books, I can attest to this. How did you develop this hard- nosed style of prose?

MIKE BARON (MB): I had to purge my love of words for their own sake. I try to tell the story in the most direct and effective manner. John D. MacDonald, Dashiell Hammett and Peter Brandvold influenced me. It has to do with how they sound. I often speak passages aloud for their rhythmic effect as well as their meaning. Two guys tell the same joke. One guy'll talk and it lays there like roadkill. The other guy nails it with language, voice and timing. It's the narrative voice that pulls the reader through the action, and that often depends on your protagonists' personalities. If readers don't care about the characters they won't care about the story, so I try to keep a very close point of view, as Pete puts it. Show, don't tell is the Prime Directive. Show, don't tell. I always keep that in mind. What does the character see, hear, smell, taste and feel?

MM: From what I’ve seen, the subject matter of your books can be pretty wide and varied. Instead of writing a series, it seems your subject matter is all over the map. How do you decide on the subject matter for your books?

MB: You could corral them under thrillers. Most of these stories have been with me for years. I have struggled to turn them into novels for years. Some began as comic book pitches and each time I revisited the story I made more detailed notes and the story became more fully realized. I don't choose these stories, they choose me. I must have written BIKER four times but it wasn't until a couple of years ago I actually learned how to write novels. Same for WHACK JOB. Tried to write it for ten years. Had the idea for thirty. I don't mean to be all over the map. I am concentrating on horror and hard-boiled crime. Josh Pratt, the protagonist of BIKER, will return in RIVER TOWN. I think as a series he has the greatest potential but I also intend to bring back Otto White from WHACK JOB.

MM: Which one do you prefer: writing comics or prose, and why?

MB: I love them both. It's as easy as falling out of bed for me to write comics, but it took decades to learn how to write novels. It's the difference between water skiing and skiing down Mt. Everest. Now that I know what I'm doing, I look forward to writing prose with the same alacrity as comics.

MM: How do you like releasing your books in the electronic format?

MB: Were it not for self-publishing on Amazon I would not be published. Naturally, I prefer paper books. I don't even have an e-reader and am unable to read books in that format.

MM: In this day and age of the comic movie, what are your thoughts on turning one of your properties (NEXUS, THE BADGER, or even one of your novels) into the next big budget blockbuster?

MB: Every writer dreams of seeing his creations up on the big screen. Ain't writin' for my health. Writing to get rich. "No man but a blockhead writes for any reason other than money." --Samuel Johnson. That said, writers are people who have to write. If movies didn't exist I would still write comics and novels. I've written screenplays that have nothing to do with comics just because I wanted to. But I also think they're highly commercial or I wouldn't have written them.

MM: There have been rumblings about a return of First Comics. Can you give us an update about what to expect in the next year? What is your role in it?

MB: I have written six new BADGER issues and it is the best Badger yet. Alex Wald kept sending me back to the archives, analyzing and rediscovering. We analyzed the comic the same way Daisy Fields analyzes Norbert Sykes. I left room for the spontaneity and craziness that are Badger's trademarks. There are no dead spots. I used to write these comics by ingesting a shitload of blow and drinking vodka and then writing whatever the hell came into my head. I gave that up long ago or I wouldn't be here, but I can still find that crazy place in my head. The artist is Jim Fern. He's amazing. We hope to have the first issue out in September.

MM: What is your current project that you are working on now?

MB: I am 2/3 through the first draft of SKORPIO, a horror novel about a ghost who only appears under a blazing sun. It's a monster. The book, I mean. I will probably self-publish this, but you never know--other publishers are interested. Airship 27 released BIKER and Garcia Publishing will release BANSHEES, my novel about a satanic rock band that returns from the dead, in October. Tim Bradstreet is doing the cover. I'm also working on a couple comic projects including DEAD BANG, a martial arts/espionage series set in North Korea with art by Jeff Palmer. Jeff's art is just incredible--we've been posting it our our Facebook pages. He reminds a lot of people of Gulacy, some of Geoff Darrow. I'm outlining a haunted house story that will drive people insane. And of course NEXUS is ongoing in Dark Horse Presents.

MM: As a professional who has been in the business for a while, you have seen a lot of change. Where do you see the comics industry heading?

MB: There's a whole new generation of comic readers that don't revere the printed page and are happy to access comics via download. This blows my mind because I'm a collector. I have to fight my collector instincts lest we end up on HOARDERS: BURIED ALIVE. Another big change is the format of printed books. The internet is more suited to landscape style layouts than the traditional vertical page, so now we are seeing coffee-table style books like BATTLEPUG (Dark Horse) appearing in stores. The printed comic won't disappear because of collectors. I understand that downloadable comics are hurting brick and mortar stores--I don't know what the answer is except to diversify into games and toys, which many are doing. The only constant is change. Who would have dreamed we'd see the end of newspapers? Not just dailies, but the so-called "alternative weeklies?" They can't survive online. They can't get the ad revenue. But there will always be printed comics.

MM: You can currently find Mike Baron’s NEXUS in Dark Horse Presents, and his comic DEAD BANG should be out soon. He has also released books electronically including HELMET, WHACK JOB, and the Airship 27 published BIKER. Soon to be released electronic books include SKORPIO and Garcia Publishing’s BANSHEES.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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