The co-creator of '80s indie sensation Nexus and the illustrator of Superman/Batman: World's Finest, Steve Rude is arguably one of the greatest comic book artists living today. Rude is active in the collectors market, where he continues to create one beautiful commission after another for us to enjoy. Ranging from what Rude laughably calls "marker sketches" that are practically cover-quality pieces to fully painted works on canvas, the artist's Facebook timeline is an all but endless stream of some of the best superhero and good-girl pin-up art you'll ever see.

Like many illustrators, Rude publishes an annual sketchbook compiling his favorite material of the year. The advent of crowd-funding has opened the door for Rude to use Kickstarter to plan something more befitting his work than the relatively low-fi sketchbooks of the past. For one, and despite the book's name, this is no sketchbook. Should Rude meet his $10,000 fundraising goal, the artist will produce a full-color, professionally designed book with backer rewards including exclusive art prints, apparel, digital prizes, your own variant cover, art lessons and more.

WHAT IS IT: Steve Rude's 2013 Sketchbook is a 72+ page, full-color, softcover book (8.5" x 11") compiling pages from Rude's sketchbook, commissions for collectors and personal work in the realm of fine arts. Rude will sell the finished book in his online store, at conventions and other outlets, but of course will also offer the book as a reward to backers, including a hardcover as a pre-sale exclusive.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST: Rude's fundraising goal is $10,000 to cover the cost of design, printing and shipping. Excess funds will go towards creating different art prints to offer with purchase, a deluxe portfolio of prints to offer with purchase, and from there just adding more and more pages to the book. Rude has produced numerous sketchbooks in the past as well as a formal, deluxe hardcover volume documenting his whole career, so he has a good deal of experience in this area, and we believe backers should feel confident in how the finances are meant to work with this project with respect to production and shipping.

WHAT YOU WILL GET: A $20 pledge gets you the standard book as well as lower-tier rewards such as postcards, previous sketchbooks in print and digital formats, art prints and a bookmark. This is an eminently reasonable price for the book and the extra material, very close to what you'd expect to pay in a retail store.

Naturally, higher tiers offer more attractive rewards: $50 gets you all that plus an alternate cover of your choice, Supergirl or Wonder Girl; $75 gets you all that plus a copy of Artist in Motion, the Steve Rude career retrospective; and another $75 option lets you choose your own sketchbook cover from 19 Rude images; $125 gets you a hardcover edition of the sketchbook; $500 gets you a Skype session with Rude or a dinner at one of his convention stops; $1,000 gets you a weekend art lesson with Rude at his home studio in Arizona; $3,000 gets you the original painting of the last Nexus trade paperback; $5,000 gets you an original watercolor painting of a subject of your choice; $10,000 gets you an original oil-on-canvas work.

WHEN WILL YOU GET IT: June 2013. Easy.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE: As I said, Rude is among the great living masters. ComicsAlliance contributor Tim Callahan recently extolled the groundbreaking virtues of Rude and Mike Baron's earliest Nexus work (and it only got better from there), and the artist's forays into the mainstream, including the beloved Superman/Batman: World's Finest with Dave Gibbons and Karl Kesel and the out-of-print Marvel Comics one-shot Incredible Hulk/Superman with Roger Stern, are some of the best drawn superhero comics you can find in any decade. This is going to be a great art book that illustration fans will be able to support for a modest price, and for cool rewards.

But as we've learned too painfully in recent years, it's also critically important to support veteran comic book creators, particularly those who choose the independent route as Rude almost always has. The vast majority of his 30-year career has been on the fridges of the comics industry, primarily within the pages of his and writer Mike Baron's philosophical indie sci-fi opus, Nexus and of course in the art collectors' market. There's little doubt that Steve Rude could have illustrated a long run on a Marvel or DC book like Superman or Avengers, but the artist is the first to admit -- which he does in Rude Dude, a forthcoming documentary about his life -- that he is a deeply idiosyncratic fellow and is devoted to his muse. Consequently, Rude and his family have courted financial disaster before, but his fans, friends and stupendous talent have always pulled him through in the form of art sales, auctions, buying the new editions of Dark Horse's Nexus reprints and supporting Rude's recent return to comics with new installments of Nexus in Dark Horse Presents.

In a way, Rude is the perfect Kickstarter comics artist. The platform offers great talents a tool to engage directly with their audience and produce work that's essentially too special to find a home anywhere else, and that's what Steve Rude's been doing for his whole career.

The following are backers' selections of alternate covers for the 2013 "sketchbook." Most of them were not created this year, so don't worry about spoilers. There'll be plenty of great stuff in the book when it comes out in June.

Learn more about Steve Rude's Kickstarter book and its various rewards by visiting the official project page.

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