‘Nonplayer’ by Nate Simpson: The Next Image Comics Classic [Preview]
Nonplayer has a good chance of becoming the next big Image Comics debut, something in the mode of The Nightly News, the neo-classic graphic novel that introduced us to Jonathan Hickman, earned widespread acclaim and raised the standard of comic book artwork and storytelling absurdly high. Created by Nate Simpson, Nonplayer is a splendidly illustrated science fiction/fantasy story about a brilliant young woman who chooses to spend every free moment in a luscious video game fantasy world that may be more than meets the eye. While Nonplayer doesn’t go on sale until April, the book has already earned praise from such comics luminaries as Geoff Darrow, Frank Quitely, Warren Ellis, Frank Cho, and the master himself, Moebius.
The “is it real or isn’t it?” path to science fiction stories, where characters find themselves running up against an increasingly permeable wall between reality and fantasy, has been well traveled in comics. But Nonplayer distinguishes itself from all that’s come before with its wholly immersive artwork and storytelling. Like Brandon Graham with King City and Geoff Darrow with Hard Boiled, Simpson fully utilizes the comic book page to depict spectacular worlds with such detail and authenticity that it’s almost like reading a lettered printout of a Miyazaki film. In the case of Nonplayer #1, there are at least three unique environments into which Simpson inserts his heroine, whom herself has two distinctly different appearances. Whoever coined the old adage “comic books are movies with unlimited budgets” anticipated the arrival of Nonplayer, and to read it is to become an inhabit of its world(s).
It is no surprise, then, that Nonplayer has been endorsed by comic book creators whose work reflects that larger-than-life vision of the medium. The aforementioned Brandon Graham contributes a lovely pin-up to issue #1, as does another hero of this art school, Moritat. A third pin-up by Ben Templesmith is also included.
Most auspiciously, Simpson was able to solicit approval from the man whose work is the primary artistic influence of Nonplayer, Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius. The legendary French artist was approached by Joe Keatinge (editor of PopGun, writer of the upcoming Brutal with Frank Cho, among other works) at the world famous Angouleme Festival outside of Paris to see what the master thought of his latest American progeny. “Very cool! Beautiful!” was what Moebius had to say, and he asked to keep the copy of Nonplayer for himself.
While Simpson’s superlative artwork will be the first thing readers notice about Nonplayer, what they will also take away from it is an affection for the main character, Dana Stevens. Like the video game fantasy world of Jarvath, Dana herself is a bit of a twist on what she might immediately appear to be. The plucky female fantasy hero is a beloved and established archetype in this genre, particularly in the works of Miyazaki, but Dana seems to be a modern, sophisticated take on the convention. More like dedicated gamers we probably know in our own lives, Dana comes off as a bit of a misanthropic slacker — except when she’s online, of course — and it will be interesting to see how her character develops as the story progresses.
Although Nonplayer won’t be available until April 6, it’s important that we tell you about it now because what’s known in the comics industry as FOC – final order cutoff — is on Monday, which means that is the deadline for comics stores to order copies of books shipping that week in April. Most local comics stores offer customers the option of “pre-ordering” a book to insure that you will get a copy when it goes on sale, and that is often as easy as simply calling the shop and asking them to buy an extra copy for you. Alternatively, you can pre-order from online retailers like Things From Another World. While an inconvenience, it’s extremely helpful to comics creators and publishers to make your wishes known to retailers in advance, and it also makes a greater quantity of books available for other readers who may wish to purchase them on a whim.
Being great admirers of this kind of European-style graphic artwork, we would have been eager to support Nonplayer based on the visuals alone. But after reading an advance copy of the first issue, we think it’s especially important to support Simpson and his work with pre-ordering. It’s our hope that after reading this beautiful nine-page preview, you will agree and ask your comics store to order a copy before the deadline on Monday.
For more information about Nonplayer, including staggeringly in-depth documentation about its development and creation, make sure to visit Nate Simpson’s website, Project Waldo (a must-read for aspiring indie creators).
Image Comics carries on its tradition of introducing the best new talent with an all-new title from rising star Nate Simpson. Combining references to massively multi-player online roleplaying games and science fiction/fantasy mainstays with exquisite illustration, Simpson’s NONPLAYER is planned as a six-issue miniseries, with the first installment out in April.
NONPLAYER is the story of Dana Stevens, a young woman who retreats from the dismal workaday world of the future into the digital fantasy realm of Jarvath, where she’s a fearless warrior. Dana is not alone in her pursuits, however, and before long her adventures begin to cat-and-mouse back and forth between the two worlds.
Prior to NONPLAYER, Simpson made video games come to life for their players in his previous job as a concept artist. After taking a year off to “learn how to make comics,” though, he is quickly establishing himself as not only as a gifted illustrator, but as a storyteller with a wonderfully unique voice as well.
“A comic book is just about the most elaborate thing a person can create without assistance, which sounds like heaven to somebody who’s spent fourteen years in video game development,” Simpson explained. “I’ve had a lot of fun putting all the nuts and bolts of this story together and figuring out how best to approach everything in terms of production, and I can’t wait to share this story with people.”
Added Image Publisher Eric Stephenson, “It’s always a pleasure to link up with a creator as well-rounded and imaginative as Nate. Every aspect of NONPLAYER is so well-considered, it’s like working with an old pro. As first timers go, Nate is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen.”
Indeed, Simpson has built a panoramic world through sequential art, with each interior page more lovingly executed than the last. The dual worlds of NONPLAYER are depicted with detailed rendering, whether in Dana’s real world or in the lavishly real game world. The overall effect is not dissimilar to the lush artwork found in some of Europe’s best and most loved comics, but with a distinct flavor all Simpson’s own.
NONPLAYER, a 32-page full-color science fiction and fantasy comic will be in stores April 6, 2011, for $2.99. For more information, visit www.nonplayercomic.com.