Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mike Baron's Coked-Up Heyday

From TwoMorrow's The Flash Companion, edited by Keith Dallas:
KEITH DALLAS: The late 1980s were a particular heyday for you. At the time you started writing Flash in 1987, you were also writing Nexus, Badger, Robotech Masters, and Marvel had you on The Punisher.

MIKE BARON: I was a busy boy.

DALLAS: [chuckles] Can you describe your career at that point? What was it like writing all those titles?

BARON: Well, there was a lot of confusion.

DALLAS: How so?

BARON: [pauses] Keith, at the time I was making a lot of money, and I was doing a lot of cocaine.

DALLAS: Really?

BARON: As a result, my work was not the best that I could have done. I have gone through a lot of changes since then and I look back at that period with mixed feelings.

The cocaine definitely contributed to my "over-writing." I don't think I was taking my writing subjects as seriously as I do now. However, I took Flash very seriously and that's the reason I stopped writing the series [after issue #14] because I just ran out of ideas and I couldn't vamp it.

DALLAS: It was around this time that you were nominated three years in a row for an Eisner Award for your writing on Nexus.

BARON: My work on Nexus has never suffered.

When you do cocaine, you think you can do any damn thing. Often, I just would grab a sheet of paper and start telling a story and make it up as I went along, panel by panel. But you can't do that really. You need a real solid idea and solid characters to build a story around.

For the record Baron's work on that Flash overlapped with Nexus #33-46 and The Punisher #1-9. I think his work on those two runs, and on Flash were actually the BEST work of his career. Maybe because he was "over-writing" instead of "over-thinking." Much of his later work seems to suffer from being worked to death and drained of all improvisation.

Drugs are bad, kids. But am I wrong in thinking that Baron's self-proclaimed cocaine phase was also the time when he did his best work?


Anonymous said...

You are not wrong in thinking this. Baron's Flash work is absolutely his best, with The Badger a close second, and also my favorite Flash run.

As someone who's been there, I can attest to the fact that "doing lots of coke" can make one better at doing many things, especially writing. It also totally effs-up your personal life, which really isn't worth the trade off (unless you don't really have a personal life, in which case go for it).

Rob Pugh said...

"Drugs" aren't bad... but some people do some bad things on some drugs.

And some people do some amazingly creative things on some drugs... and everything in between.

Digression over...

And yeah, Baron's "drug period" was more entertaining that a lot of his other work.

So... comics creators and drugs... we've got Baron, Morrison's extensive use of psychedelics and Ellis mention of "stimulants" and pills in his early days. Though to be fair, Ellis may have been taking the piss/developing his online persona... who else cops to using?

Unknown said...

As I've said elsewhere, I LOVE Baron's Flash... his early Punisher was good too, so you're absolutely right.

I'm always disappointed that he didn't produce more stuff that was of the caliber of what you've identified as his heyday.

I'm waiting for people to start denouncing him, as they sometimes do Morrison, for being irrelevant because he wrote while on drugs...

Anonymous said...

IIRC, Ellis spoke of his drug issues as occurring before he became a full time writer.

I wouldn't say his Punisher work back then was his best, but it was pretty good, and more than a little weird (witness the Punisher just dropping off Micro's dead son in a bodybag and walking away with barely an apology).

Vanja said...

Well, I think that you're all reading a bit too much into what he said.

Now, I'm not the expert on Mike Baron, but I think that you all have fond memories of Marvel and DC work he did at the time because it was perhaps the one time when he was most exposed to the industry.

His Punisher I don't want to go into, it just seems very primal and intuitive, yet not much more than that.

As for Flash, it was kinda grim'n'gritty and silly at the same time, with most of the new villains being speedsters themselves. He also introduced Chunk and had Flash win a lottery, which were silly, very Silver Age ideas.

All in all, ordinary runs, that perhaps you're all looking a bit too much into because of the statement he juts made.

Timothy Callahan said...

Oh, I don't think his work during that time was brilliant -- though I think quite highly of his Nexus from that period -- but it seems to me like it was his BEST overall work. Has he done anything better since?

marcwrz said...

Not at all in thinking this, without cocaine, classic rock would quite honestly suck.

Yeah I said it. lol

Anonymous said...

There was also Dave Sim, who took a massive amount of acid, had a nervous breakdown/schizoid incident and decided to write 300 issues of Cerebus, then did. Some of it was crap, some of it was brilliant, but it's the most massive and successful independent comic of all time.

Also, without methamphetamine, there would be no Motorhead, which would be an enormous loss.