“That’s maybe the only one, because it was derived from the Shuster version.”
– Steve Rude, on influences to his animation art style
Steve Rude is truly an artist’s artist. His simple, streamlined and highly emotive style was huge when he caught on in the indie comics scene of the 80s, and has propelled him through a career that is still going to the present day. His art is a combination of equal parts Jack Kirby, Russ Manning and Dr. Seuss, along with some Alex Toth, Doug Wildey and John Romita peppered in for good measure. He hasn’t drawn Superman too often in published work (unless you count the many brilliant commissions one finds on the internet), but when he does, it is an absolute treat, as I’ve said in the past.
I cannot for the life of me understand why he isn’t a bigger superstar than he is- any book he draws is an event for me- or why he has never been assigned an ongoing Superman book, as he seems a perfect fit for it. Alas, I am not an editor (otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation), but I am a fan, and I can gush a little bit about how much I love his work, in particular on the Man of Steel.
Easily Rude the Dude’s most well-known Superman work is World’s Finest, the 1990 miniseries churned out by him and writer Dave Gibbons (who himself has a great deal of pedigree with the Man of Steel). It was the first ever “team-up” book with the Big Two post-Crisis, and Rude was given the assignment, part of the many indie creators folded into DC in the late 80s. Although the book takes place in the then-present day, the look and feel of the characters and their surroundings has a foot firmly in the Fleischer cartoons of the Golden Age. Dude’s Superman, to me, seems mostly inspired by the Fleischers and Joe Shuster himself, and I love the look for Supes. His Clark Kent is always fashionable, with a suit and fedora, and Metropolis looks like the World of Tomorrow, today. It’s all just beautiful, and I could look at it all day.
Oh yeah, and the story’s not bad either.
Outside of WF, Dude has done short stories for anthologies and covers galore. His most recent work on Superman came two years ago on a backup story in Bendis’ Man of Steel mini, and in 2009 on the wonderful Adventures of Superman digital first series (come to think of it, I should do an article about that series some day). Both stories had outstanding interiors by Steve.
Recently, I came across a feature article on the Dude in Comic Book Creator, in which Steve talked about his career, among other things, and how at one point DC was was preparing to offer him a Superman book! That would have been a dream come true!! Unfortunately, Rude wanted to draw in a Golden Age style, and DC ultimately said no.
Their colossal mistake.
“[DC] had me signed up for Superman, and I said “Well [the Shuster style] is the one I’m going to do,” and they said, “We don’t like it.” I told them I wasn’t interested.”
Crazy to think of what might have been.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to satiate myself with the knowledge that I will order a commission from him one day to adorn my collection room. And who knows? Perhaps cooler heads will prevail, and someone at DC will let him do Superman interiors again one day. One thing’s for sure though, despite Steve Rude’s limited output, he has made an impression on fans like me as an artist who gets and truly loves the Man of Steel.