Image Month: Nate Simpson Returns To The Drawing Board

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Emerging in April of 2011, Nate Simpson entered the industry as one of the most promising new creators and cartoonists with Nonplayer issue #1 at Image.

The highly acclaimed first issue blended the lines between fantasy and sci-fi, gaining Simpson numerous awards and accolades across the industry, including an Eisner Award for ‘best newcomer’ (and a ‘Best Independent Artist’ nomination in Broken Frontier’s 2011 awards), but sadly Nonplayer failed to pick up steam as the year pressed on and issue #2 failed to materialise.

After a handful of setbacks, including a nasty bike accident, Nate is getting Nonplayer back underway. With a planned release date sometime in October, and a movie deal recently confirmed, we caught up with Nate as he returns to the drawing board.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Nonplayer has been plagued with setbacks since it debuted last year. Being your debut project, some delays were to be expected but readers are obviously desperate for more. What are your views on the whole situation?

If I'm being honest, I have to chalk up the delay to my own lack of professionalism. The buzz that followed ‘Nonplayer's’ debut was completely unexpected, and in my panic, I rushed the second issue. It was only after a good six months had passed that I realized the quality wasn't there, and that releasing on time would do me no good if the comic was terrible. So I ended up having to overhaul the book completely, which paradoxically set me back several months. If I've learned anything this year, it's the truth of the old maxim about going slow to go fast. A few more days of planning would have saved me months on the back end.

I'm well into the book now, and the quality is much improved, so it shouldn't be too long now. Hopefully the delay won't be a dealbreaker for too many readers. And with any luck, issue 3 should suffer from fewer unforced errors.

BF: You had a nasty accident at the tail end of 2011, and we are all glad to hear you have recovered well. While it must have set you back a good while, it must have also put things into a new perspective. How are you feeling about the project?

The bike crash definitely took me out of action for a couple of months, but if I'd been on schedule, it wouldn't have set things back too badly. As things stood, the comic would have been very late, regardless. But I did use the downtime to revisit and polish up dialogue, so hopefully my convalescence improved the overall quality a little.

BF: Your site is a treasure trove for any aspiring artist/creator. How important to you is it to document your creative process?

It's been crucial to my development on a lot of levels. Most simply, the blog attracted helpful tips from numerous knowledgeable onlookers. They've suggested all sorts of invaluable tools and techniques, many of which contributed to the final quality of the book. Also, forcing myself to sit down and articulate the problems with which I'm grappling sometimes helps to crystallize a plan of attack – after posting, I often feel as though I have a new sense of direction.

BF: Nonplayer #1 made a good showing in end of year lists as 2011 closed out. That’s got to be a pretty humbling experience?

It's strange – whenever somebody mentions ‘Nonplayer’ online these days, I feel exposed. As irrational as it sounds, I think there's a part of me that thinks that if nobody talks about my book, that the months leading up to the next issue will pass unnoticed. That when #2 finally arrives, people will say “oh yeah, I remember Nonplayer – what a pleasant surprise!” But instead, there seems to be a growing suspicion among readers that I'm a dilettante. Because ‘Nonplayer’ is perceived as an over-hyped book, when my name comes up in an article these days, it's pretty easy to predict how the comment thread will play out. I try not to think about the beating I'm going to take if the second issue sucks.

It feels great to have somebody say something nice about my work, but I'll be easier in my mind when I've created enough material that the praise feels justified.

BF: It emerged recently that Jane Goldman would be adapting ‘Nonplayer’ for Warner Bros. I imagine you can't say much on the project at this time, but I was curious as to whether or not they’ve spoken with you regarding the direction of the series?

I've provided Warner and Goldman with a detailed story document that covers the entire story arc, and they've been keeping me in the loop so far. It's still early days, though -- Jane has some other projects that she needs to finish before she jumps into ‘Nonplayer’. I think I'll get a better idea of my expected involvement once that process gets underway.

BF: How does it feel to know people are working to bring your creation to life in a different medium?

Pretty fantastic. I have a playlist of music that comprises my imaginary movie soundtrack, and whenever I listen to it, I fantasize about how the events of the book will look on the big screen. I'm definitely handling this in the least mature way possible.

BF: So issue #2? Now that you’re back on track, when can we expect it?

It's a little bit like building a castle by yourself – you walk back and forth from the quarry with a couple of stones under your arm every day, and every day, there is a small but perceptible increase the tower's height. At some point, the thing will be finished. And then on to number three, and number four... all the way to number seven. We may all be old and grey when the story's complete, but I don't intend to stop until it's done.

I'm very grateful to everyone who has continued to support the book despite my missteps. My greatest wish is to repay that generosity by making a few decent comic books.

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