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Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (19th Jul 14 at 11:43pm UTC)
Mike Baron Interview

By Alex Ness

Mike Baron is a writing talent who is somewhat without peer. Not only for his quality of writing, which is wonderful, but Baron is able to write well in many genres, science fiction, crime, humor, heroes, that it seems amazing that for one reason or another he does not have 5 ongoing comic books at a given time. I have been a fan of his writing for a couple decades, and was extraordinarily excited for this opportunity to talk with him...

An: Are you married? With children? pets? Where did you go to school, (university speaking) and what field did you get your degree in?

Mike Baron: Married, one wife, Madeline, no kids, two dogs, Bob and Lucy. Graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.A. in political science. You want fries with that?

AN: Yes I would like fries with that. ... You were famously a Wisconsinite throughout the 1980s and on Badger the story is based there. (For those not from Wisconsin or environs, Badger's pet pig was named Kasten, after a famously boobish Wisconsin senator to congress, I suspect.) How has that state and region affected your career, and where do you live now?

MB: It hasn't affected my career so much as my outlook. String cheese! Packers! Bratwursts and sauerkraut! Yah, dontcha know, hey. Wisconsin is a very green state. Very, very green. It is so green, it makes Ireland look olive drab. It is a cold and wet state which is why we now live in Colorado.

AN: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

MB: I knew when I was twelve years old, holding a copy of a Travis McGee novel by John D. MacDonald.

AN: Is writing for a newspaper, or journal completely different than fiction? What talents or areas of your craft do you use in both and which might be different?

MB: Yes. Journalism writing and fiction are very different, although they can complement each other. Journalism teaches you to take notes, listen to how people talk, get syntax accurately and do your homework. Some great journalists couldn't write fiction to save their souls.

AN: Who influenced your development as a writer? What comic writers did you read the most prior to entering the industry?

MB: Carl Barks and Philip Jose Farmer are the only ones I'll cop to.

In fact, I've only learned to write in the last couple of years or so. Everything before that--that was automatic writing.

AN: Why only them?

MB: 'Cause they're the only ones I consciously tried to emulate. Barks' coming timing and turn of phrase. Farmer's imagination and ability to look at all sides of an issue.

AN: Do you have favorite authors then? If there are only a couple authors who you regard as influences upon your work, what would you say to be a larger influence than other writers? Politics, World events, Fast food?

I have many favorite writers. I try not to let them influence me. Except for Hemingway, but that's a fool's game. I like Stephen Hunter, Robert R. McCammon, Ron Faust. Lately, the Western writer Peter Brandvold has been a huge influence on me. Read one of his books. It's like one hundred per cent lean meat. Politics, world events, fast food, these are the backdrops to our lives and necessarily pop up from time to time.

AN: Favorite type of cheese?

MB: Sharp cheddar.

AN: I have heard that you enjoy motorcycles, I am thinking you ride a Harley, right or wrong-o?

MB: A Shadow 750. I wouldn't mind a Harley V-Rod. Those weigh about 630 lbs. which is the very outside limit I would consider.

AN: What type of Martial arts do you practice and why did you take it up?

MB: These days this old fart hits the heavy bag, jumps rope, and climbs hills. I have a black belt in tae kwon do from Robert Giorgio's Sudbury School of Tae kwon-Do. In 1990 I broke my hip and after lying on my ass for four months, I began working out with the Madison Grappling Club taught by John Fehling, who has been dispensing wisdom and hard knocks for over fifteen years out of the basement of Neighborhood House in Madison. John, who studies with Dannie Inosanto, teaches mainly Filipino martial arts--stick fighting, joint lock, etc., but for the past five years has been obsessed with kick boxing. I don't know why.

AN: Have you always written? In no way or fashion am I suggesting I am as good or ever will be as good as you as a writer, but I remember that whenever I was asked to write, from as early as second grade getting high marks. Is it a talent, can you develop a talent that does not innately exist do you think?

MB: Both. I have always written, and I always thought I could write.

I was wrong. I have produced an appalling pile of rubbish. But I'm getting the hang of it and hope to produce something worthwhile soon.

AN: How do you write? Quietly solemnly with precision or with fits and spurts and manic energy? Are there routines you follow?

MB: Anywhere, any time. I usually start writing before six a.m. Write a little, get up, do laundry, write some more, etc. Take notes all day long.

AN: Upon first looking at your longtime partner Steve “The Dude” Rude's artwork what did you think?

MB: This guy's got it.

AN: Are the two of you simpatico regarding life outlooks or have the years of partnership just worked as steel sharpening steel, the two of you know exactly what the other would like?

MB: Dude and I share many values, but I can't be responsible for his taste in clothes.

AN: What was the first comic you remember reading and or buying and do you still have it?

MB: It was an Uncle Scrooge. "The Second Richest Duck." I have a copy.

AN: How soon from your meeting with Steve Rude to publication of Nexus was it?

MB: About five months.

AN: What went into the creation of Nexus, who I must say is as original of a character as there is? Was there a template you followed, either in myth or culture? Who is Nexus other than Horatio in a mask with power?

MB: I wanted an executioner. Death is dramatic. But I didn't want a soulless killing machine. A man conflicted--forced to carry out justice--knowing its the right thing to do, but reluctant nonetheless. Less reluctant as the years roll by. Who he is is encompassed in dozens of issues. As creator, I don't have to explain him. he explains himself.

AN: Your work made enormous use of Human/Earth cultures with the Sovs and all, but it did not seem a political allegory or politik morality tale. Is that one reason why it worked, that there was tangible real culture underpinning the mythic/tragic hero tale?

MB: Archetypes. The Sovs may have passed, but new dictatorships rise to take their place. Just as there's a natural human urge to be free, there's a natural human urge to control others. Tyrants will always be with us. I think that's the archetype. The real culture underpinning the tale is just human nature.

AN: Jalapeno poppers with Corona or Buffalo Wings with Ice Tea?

MB: The former.

AN: I argued a long time ago that Nexus story was in fact a religious journey, that his powers, however painful to him brought justice, and thereby he had to do it, whatever his own limitations. Was that religious aspect part of your intent?

MB: I don't know if that was my intent, but it is certainly the result.

AN: Are you letting Steve Rude run with the Nexus cartoon efforts or do you have creative input?

MB: Dude has grabbed that ball and run with it. Have you seen the new Nexus DVD? He's put together two minutes of full animation back to back with a tutorial. You can find it on his web site, Steve Rude Dot Com. And if you tell him I sent you, he'll throw in a free case of Pepsi. Not!

AN: What is the outlook for any TPBs collecting the Capital/First run of NEXUS?

MB: Dark Horse is going to do reprint everything, I believe. In great big huge Manhattan Phone Directory sized volumes.

AN: Who came up with the look of Nexus? I have heard that at one point you were both a writer and artist so it could be you, no?

MB: I am not an artist, although I play one on TV. It was my idea to have the lightning bolt on his chest and the ruby goggles. The rest is Dude.

AN: I think a lot of people are ignorant (unknowing rather than stupid) regarding the fact that while Badger was admittedly a humor book, Nexus was a serious epic, one that was somewhat ill suited towards humor beyond the team ups with Badger. Do you encounter amongst casual readers people who assume that Nexus is supposed to be funny or Badger is supposed to be serious based upon the one book and not yet reading the other?

MB: Not really. That's just the way characters defined themselves. Badger was frequently serious. In the new series, it's going to be very serious. But funny too. Many of the Badger stories were small--involving ducks or geese or whatever. But Nexus took place on a vast canvas and demanded seriousness and big themes.

AN: Of Badger and Nexus, what book resonated most for you? Why?

MB: What? Choose between my children? You must be mad. You are mad. What resonated was when I really nailed a story-=-when it clicked in every panel. Like the Nexus issue "The Experiment" where he tricked five mass murderers into killing each other, or the Badger story, "The Magic Word," where he just stepped out of reality into this Monty Python-esque universe.

AN: Yes I am mad. So what is the point?

MB: You should not be permitted to drive, drink alcohol, or own firearms.

AN: Describe the philosophy of Horatio Hellpop (Nexus)? Who is he?

MB: Hellpop is a Russian fatalist who believes in God. These two strains have always fought for the Russian soul--belief in the Almighty, and the futility of any human endeavor. What do you do if you believe in God but you also believe all human endeavor is doomed to end in defeat? Live as good a life as possible and hope for a better afterlife? Horatio is conflicted. On the other hand, an overwhelming force compels him to execute people. On the other, he wants to create. The sacred and the profane. The yin and the yang. Did he come to save the West--or destroy it? That's what every good story has. Built-in irony and dichotomy.

AN: Describe who Badger is at the core of his being please.

MB: At the core of his being, Badger is a crypto-biotic tartigrade. He's a weisenheimer. He's a low-down, belly-crawlin' snake. I beg the question. I beg the answer. I beg your pardon. The Badger's core is boring. His personalities are exciting.

AN: I wonder, if you ever got crap for using Multi Personality Disorder in the character of Badger? I know that almost any time writers even mention a "traditionally disadvantaged group" in jest or otherwise there seems to be a outraged response.

MB: Never a complaint, but much positive feedback from multiples and their therapists. I have played it for laughs at times, but they like that too. Throughout, the Badger is portrayed as a positive force, if not role model.

AN: I am still waiting for my corona and lime wedge, isn't this an inclusive cruise?

MB: Only if you bring your own geese.

AN: We mentioned your roots in Wisconsin how did those roots play into your developing the character of Norbert (Badger) Sykes? Did you know a lot of veterans and did you purposely play the card of Vietnam Vet bug out as a reference to the societal view of some of the vets that returned broken?

MB: Wisconsin is the badger state. It's badger this and badger that. Everywhere I looked I saw the word badger. Thus, Badger was thrust upon me, ready or not. There's a lot of regional flavor from the language ("UF-da!"), to the beer (Point,) to the food (bratwurst.) I shoveled voluminous photo ref to my artists over the years. Of course for Jeff Butler and Bill Reinhold, no problem. They lived in the Upper Midwest. I made him a deranged Vietnam veteran to turn convention on its ear. If you look at the stories, he never broods over injustices done to him by either the N. Vietnamese or the U.S. He doesn't think about Vietnam at all--except for a snippet in #8. Some of my best friends are veterans. None are lunatics, although they have their quirks.

AN: What was your favorite story arc of that series?

MB: I have so many. "Hot August Night," "The Magic Word," the Blutarsky story, "Foot Soldier..." Our mini novel, Badger Bedlam, another stealth book. "Cruisin' With the King," by the great Neil Hansen.

AN: Will there ever be reprints of the series available?

MB: Not yet, but soon.

AN: Someone in the industry told me they liked Badger but saw it as an eighties book. I can still reread the back issues and do not find the humor to be dated or so immersed in the popular lexicon. For instance in Badger Hexbreaker Badger is swimming in a jungle river and sees a giant croc he says "holy shit that's Clonezone's ugly cousin" or some such thing. I still laugh at that. (“its gold Jerry, gold!”) Do you think humor books suffer when looked at in retrospect?

AN: Good writing is good writing. You can date your humor with topical references. But you read a humor piece today by Booth Tarkington or Mark Twain, it's funny! Uncle Scrooge is funny. Good humor rises from characters and situations and is timeless. I think probably the humor books will hold up better in the long run than the so-called dramatic books.

AN: Considering all the various comics that were out contemporaneous to Badger, is there a comic character or series you would like to have badger team up with? at the very least I think the crossover you did within each book between Nexus and Badger were wonderful, but beyond that I enjoyed the Crossroads and Nexus/Magnus books. You really know how to write a team up.

MB: Thanks. Those were all windows of opportunity. Badger is horribly promiscuous. He'll team with anybody. He would certainly force Batman to reconsider his methods and demeanor. I could see Badger/Captain America. Badger could get Cap to loosen up a little bit. They might go bowling.

AN: How do you choreograph a fight scene? Doesn't it just come naturally to the artist?

MB: Hooooo-HAH! No, it does not come naturally to the artist. Unless you are Val Mayerik. Sometimes I use techniques I've learned. Sometimes I find a sequence in a self-defense magazine I like and I'll photocopy that and send it to the artist with notes. The important thing is to keep the action flowing in a clear, logical manner that the reader can understand, and that the techniques have a little flair to them.

AN: Your work at IMAGE on BADGER seemed somewhat Schizophrenic, almost like you had lost your mojo. It was still readable, but something was missing. What was it do you think?

MB: I had a different artist on every book. When you're flopping around looking for artists, it can disrupt your continuity. I like to write to an artist's strength, so that became an issue. Some of those stories were pretty bad. But some were pretty good. Like the second issue, that Mike Oeming drew, and the one that Joe Comstock drew.

AN: What artist got Badger best for you? Yes I know there were many great artists on the book, but unlike NEXUS where Steve Rude was the 800 pound Gorilla you had numerous artists on Badger.

MB: Bill Reinhold, Neal Hansen.

AN: How did you start writing Atari Force and what degree of freedom did you have on it as a licensed property written for a major?

MB: Urgh. Atari Force probably appeared before you were born...

AN: Sorry Charlie, DOB 10/01/1963.

MB: It was my first major gig. I was asked by the editor who then proceeded to dictate the theme, substance, and plot of every story. That's all right. I didn't know what I was doing.

AN: Have you ever tried your hand at writing for Mad? I think you'd be a fantastic addition to the gang.

MB: Thanks. I have not, although I like to write funny stuff. I'm about to embark on an Adventure in Stand Up! Not me, my fearless pal Jeremy. But I'm writing the material.

AN: How did you land the Punisher regular series gig? I think it was a cherry slot to write in and I do not think that you'd written at Marvel before?

MB: Carl Potts asked me to write the Punisher. He was an editor at Marvel at the time.

AN: Did you have to make Punisher more "heroic" as a regular, ongoing series? Did you ever consider that the character was mentally ill and paxil and therapy or something could take care of his issues? Do we celebrate insanity by celebrating Punisher's acts?

MB: The Punisher is obsessed. Obsession is always interesting. If he were at peace with himself, that wouldn't be much fun, would it? I looked at cues provided by Steve Grant and Mike Zeck and realized it had to be a straight crime comic. And it was, until Carl got kicked upstairs. The PUnisher was obsessed, and let his vengeance cloud his judgment, but he was basically a good guy. he'd go out of his way to save your cat.

AN: Who is Punisher from your take versus say Steven Grant or Garth Ennis's view of him?

MB: My Punisher was a logical extension of what Grant did. I haven't read Ennis' Punisher.

AN: Did you see the Punisher movie? if yeah what did you think about it?

MB: Saw it. Thought it was a piece of shit. Posted my review on

AN: Is Punisher as a character more limited than others because the type of story told is almost always going to be vengeance, kill the bad guys yadda yadda? And does a writer of Punisher stories have to change the logical ending of his story to have the crime boss or super villain escape death to create a future foe?

MB: Not necessarily. I did numerous single-issue stories that didn't hinge on vengeance, or if they did, had a surprising twist at the end. Like "Border Run," in which Punisher kidnaps a torture doctor from Mexico and delivers him to the widow of a US agent the doctor killed, only to have the widow tell Punisher to let him go. However, this type of story is supposed to deliver satisfaction--and you do that by punishing the wicked. There will always be a demand for vengeance stories. We say we get tired of them but we never do. As for never-dying villains, that's up to the writers and editors.

AN: If you were to write a story of Punisher going in to Afghanistan or Iraq or someplace similar could it be a story that could be accepted in this world's super sensitive PC climes? Because Frank would hunt down and kill the terrorists. Wouldn't he?

MB: Yes he would. And this type of story would appeal to half the comic reading public. The other half would think, bad idea. Not setting a good example for the children. We have become two countries--red state and blue state countries. The Punisher would vote for Bush.

AN: Punisher and Badger meet what happens?

MB: Chaos and hilarity! Maybe some broken bones.

AN: Nexus and Punisher meet, what happens?

MB: Could go any number of directions. One scenario: the Merk has fingered Punisher in Nexus' dreams. Nexus kills Punisher. Another scenario: Nexus recognizes Punisher as a kindred spirit. They team up to hunt the bad guys.

AN: Aren't both Nexus and Punisher mass killers?

MB: Well, yes, I a way, that is...can't we just call them "activists?"

AN: While I was a fan of Klaus Janson's art on his part of your run (#1-5) I knew many people who were anything but fans. Outside of Janson as friend or talented artist, did you see his work as being right in style for the title?

MB: Yes.

AN: Describe your ultimate level of satisfaction upon the Punisher run... Did you enjoy it? Was it a success in your eyes?

MB: I take satisfaction when a story clicks in every panel like a well-oiled machine. I was particularly proud of Intruder, the graphic novel I did with Bill Reinhold.

AN: How was working for Marvel versus, say, DC or First?

MB: I have no complaints with any of them. But you can't beat working on your own characters.

AN: How did you get writing assignment for the FLASH?

MB: Mike Gold asked me.

AN: Flash was not, as some called it, a reboot. It was a new Flash, but far more evolutionary than revolutionary. Was that difference a result of your decisions or was it editorial? Do you think it hurt the book? Were FLASH fans ready for Wally West as Flash or were they still pining for Barry Allen?

MB: The only guidance DC provided was that it be Wally West. All the rest was mine. I just applied physics to the situation. This guy was burning up an awful lot of energy. Where did he get it? Like a hummingbird. They have to eat all the time to maintain energy. I don't know if the fans were pining for Barry Allen.

AN: I was a fan of Butch Guice prior to his teaming with you on that title, and was not disappointed with his work on the book. What would you say were some of Guice's strengths as a penciler?

MB: A dynamic penciler. He's exciting--draws exciting characters. A terrific inker on his own stuff too.

AN: Vandal Savage is upfront and center from the beginning of your run, that is masterful as it provides a link from Flash Barry to Flash Wally. Again your choice or did it come from editorial?

MB: My choice.

AN: You utilized an interesting real world concept around Wally, in that he took assignments for pay, that is, he was a working hero. Did fans seem to appreciate that commercialization of a hero?

MB: They did. It injected a little realism into the story. The more real you can make your story, the more the readers will believe it.

AN: What would have happened over the last 5 issues of Sonic Disruptors and is there a chance it ever may come back?

MB: Sigh. I was making that up on the fly and didn't know what I was doing. I'm sure that if I were to try and resurrect it, DC would have no objections as it was one of the few limited series to be canceled mid-run. An incoherent mess. I could not write that stuff today, although I like the subject matter, and intend to return to it in comics. I like the title Sonic Disruptors, but I'm sure there are enough collectors and retailers out there who remember it not so fondly.

AN: Why Jademan? and what do you actually do on that title?

MB: Milton Griepp recommended me for that job. Jademan was having huge success in Hong Kong with their comics and thought they could sell them in America, with Americanized scripts. Their translators did the initial job, and I polished the stories, trying to make them seem American. It was a difficult job since their concepts of pacing, characterization, and storytelling are quite different than ours. Suffice it to say, it didn't work. American readers never got used to the never-ending soap-opera nature of the stories. Jademan never considered single issue stories.

AN: Did you create the character the Butcher?

MB: Guilty.

AN: So when you created Butcher what was your desire for the character and outlook upon it?

MB: Butcher is an Indian agent. A Native American (as opposed to the dot Indians) who brought his traditional hunting and tracking skills, and spirituality to espionage. He's conflicted, not happy with the way the government has treated his people, but committed to the American cause.

AN: You worked on DEADMAN in a number of prestige books and in the ACTION Weekly... Can DEADMAN be taken as hero without the horror because I thought your take was perfect, but almost no one in my mind previous or since has? How was working with Kelly Jones?

MB: Love Kelley. Love to work with him again. Originally, Deadman was a non-horror hero. Arnold Drake wrote him as a tragic ghost figure. Denny O'Neil continued that tradition, mixing in martial arts and international intrigue.

AN: I admit I missed most of the Valiant Comics experience. I know though that your ARCHER and ARMSTRONG run sold above 100K copies. What has changed in the last 10 years in the comics market and comics industry to take what was not the flagship title of the line from 100K copies sold, to flagship titles that struggle to reach half of those numbers?

MB: Those astronomic sales in the eighties and nineties were based on speculation, not actual readers. Today's numbers more accurately reflect actual readers. Of course we always need more readers.

AN: Describe your recent reentry into comics... did Mike Gold have a role?

MB: My re-=entry into comics came by way of Joe Casey who recommended me for Kiss after he moved on. Through Kiss, I met Mel Rubi. After Kiss ended, or kissed off, as we like to say, Mel and I did Faro Korbit for AP, which led to DETONATOR for Image. Mike Norton and I just placed another project with Image, a horror noir. Raymond Chandler meets H.P. Lovecraft. As for Mike Gold, he is a superb editor, a good friend, and a force for righteousness.

AN: Who is the Detonator? Tell us about your upcoming series.

MB: DETONATOR is Frank Grace, a mining engineer who got caught in an insurance scam. He survives a cave-in and uses his skills to bring down the corporation that did him dirt. A Triad owns the corporation. Frank destroys their HK HQ in a controlled blast that removes one floor of a skyscraper. The Triad retaliates with Manglebaum, another explosives expert and Frank's equal.

AN: We know the problems with the current comics industry, but what do you see as the strengths of this new comic market?

MB: Big opportunity to snag new readers. Why? Graphic novel growth--big hype in NYT and other traditional media. Dedicated manga and graphic novel sections in book stores like Barnes & Noble. Increased public awareness of graphic novels which are just big fat comic books.

AN: What comics do you currently read?

MB: Whatever my friends send me. I'm not following any series right now. Occasionally I grab a bunch and review them for All my reviews are there.

AN: And with that I am done, unless there is anything else you wish to have covered?

MB: World peace. I'm for it!

AN: There’s a shocker.


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Re: Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (20th Jul 14 at 3:01am UTC)
I know about his stuff, but of the material in the interview falls into a period where I was out of comics. I read his Archer & Armstrong, but he was writing under Bob Layton's rule which ran the company into the ground. Bob did an Apples & Oranges switch to the fans, so no matter how well Mike wrote, it wasn't what we were expecting to buy.

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Re: Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (20th Jul 14 at 3:04am UTC)
I appreciate his writing, and for a while followed it, but I am not reading comics really so this is about the past reading than anything.


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Re: Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (20th Jul 14 at 11:19am UTC)
I'm not reading much which is why the board is called "Life After Comics" It's the perfect place for an old interview.

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Re: Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (21st Jul 14 at 5:16am UTC)
Brother J
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Re: Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (31st Dec 16 at 2:52am UTC)
I skimmed the interview with Mike Baron above, was a little long-ish for me to read the whole thing. I'm currently reading my complete run of the Badger and had previously read just about every Nexus comic. I'm really enjoying the Badger, it's very off the wall most times and I like the Wisconsin references since I do get most of them after living there for eight years.


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Re: Writer Mike Baron from forever ago. (31st Dec 16 at 3:03am UTC)
Alex and I exchange messages on a social media site occasionally. His cancer seems to be beat or at least under control. He's sticking with his poetry.

I am more interested in badgers in general after seeing this video.

or going up against 6 lions..

This is interesting too.

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