None of this year’s Russ Manning Award nominees created a bigger splash than Nate Simpson with the debut of his comic NON-PLAYER. With its gorgeous, fully imagined artwork it was the toast of the internet for a few weeks and sold out right away.
LIke may recent Manning nominees, Simpson works in video game design — not only artwork but character and story concepts; his resume includes Demigod, Space Siege, Supreme Commander 2, GoPets. the Starfleet Command series and dozens more.
NON-PLAYER’s concept is described thusly:
Mid-21st century America doesn’t have much to offer Dana Stevens, but there’s plenty for her to live for inside Warriors of Jarvath, the world’s most popular full-immersion online game. In the real world, she’s a tamale delivery girl who still lives with her mom, but inside the game she’s an elite assassin. When she gets the drop on King Heremoth, a celebrity non-player character, she thinks she’s finally got a shot at fame. But when she slays Queen Fendra, the King’s reaction is disconcertingly realistic. Something’s amiss in Jarvath, and the effects may reverberate well beyond the boundaries of the game.
In an interview with Comics Alliance Simpson talked about the genesis of the project:
[T]he choice of medium was pretty simple — I’ve been trying to make comics since I got my first copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Somewhere in a garage somewhere, there are huge piles of my failed attempts. I came close to making an issue happen about five years ago with Gordon and the Stareater, but I fell prey to my own inability to think in terms of story rather than cool-looking scenes. It sort of lacked a reason for being, so it ran out of steam half-way through. If Nonplayer is different from those other attempts, it’s because I’ve tried to start out with a coherent story arc and emotionally distinct characters. The action sequences have grown from interactions between characters, rather than the other way around.
On his blog, Simpson talks about how he tried to break into Marvel as a 20-year-old. It’s a painful story, but he got some lessons from it:
I also learned an important lesson. Now, when I look at someone’s artwork, I try to keep in mind that people grow. Technical skill is a learned thing, like driving or using chopsticks. It’s worth trying to see through the quality of execution to find the thing that illuminates the work. If a person is excited enough about their art to show it to me, then there must be something there for me to be excited about, too. If a 16-year-old Mignola-to-be comes up to me at a convention and I dismiss him because his anatomy isn’t quite there yet, I’ve not only done the kid a huge disservice, I’ve robbed the world of a great creator (and plus, my anatomy isn’t quite there yet, either).