Live. Die. Repeat. Not just the tagline to a movie starring Emily Blunt and a famous Scientologist, it is also the crux of Jason Shiga‘s series DEMON. The story follows Jimmy, a man who discovers that he cannot die, and Agent Hunter, a shadowy government operative on Jimmy’s tail.
We’ve been huge fans of Jason Shiga at The Beat for a long time. His comics—Meanwhile, Fleep, Bookhunter—play with time, space and panel layouts to set mind-boggling locked room mysteries that you think can’t be solved. But Shiga, who studied pure math in college, always has an logical answer. His more sensitive side was shown in Empire State – A Love Story (or Not), about a man who goes on a cross country bus trip for a romance that may or may not exist.
For the last few years, Shiga has been publishing DEMON as a webcomic on his site. It’s already 608 pages in and it’s an cat and mouse story filled with puzzles and mysteries. For those who want it all in one place, October 4th 2016, First Second will publish the first volume in a planned four-book physical collection of the series.
Comics Beat Editor-in-chief Heidi MacDonald recently had the opportunity to discuss the series with Shiga and exclusively reveal the cover to the new collection!
The Beat: Normally I hate asking creators where they get their ideas, but yours are so original and distinctive. What was the inspiration for DEMON?
Jason Shiga: Without giving too much away, I’ve always been drawn to the theme of immortality. When I was younger, I was terrified of death. But as I get older, I can’t help but think of it as a sweet escape from the existential dread, meaninglessness and boredom that is life.
Also Quantum Leap reruns.
The Beat: The story starts out as one of your “puzzle” stories but then expands quite a bit. Did you have the entire story worked out ahead of time?
Shiga: I penciled all 750 pages of it before inking the first panel. I know this sounds completely overboard but once you read “Demon” you’ll understand why. There’s no other way it could have been constructed! It’s basically a 3 player chess match that pivots into a series of 7 concentric escape puzzles, briefly turns into a meditation on existence before pivoting back to the chess match which itself is contained in 2 more layers of puzzles.
MacDonald: How long do you see it going? Will the First Second edition be the entire story?
Shiga: The story in its entirety will be 4 volumes and the book coming out this fall is just the first. First Second is planning to release a new volume every 4 months thereafter over the course of a year. The story was designed to be read serially so I’m pretty happy First Second is taking a chance and releasing it this way.
MacDonald: How did you end up being published by First Second?
Shiga: I initially released Demon as a series of mini-comics. I feel that having got my start doing minis, it’s something I always feel comfortable returning to even after working on larger published books like Meanwhile.
I never thought Demon would be publishable in the way that Meanwhile was. I only printed 400 of each issue so you could say it was an extremely limited print run. The booklets ran concurrently with a webcomic version which were released a few months behind. But it was the webcomic that gained enough steam for me such that I was eventually able to pitch it to First Second as a series.
MacDonald: Your two main characters, Jimmy Yee and Agent Hunter are a classic “hunter and hunted” duo. Can you talk a little about their relationship?
Shiga: I guess if you want to break it down politically, Hunter leans totalitarian and Jimmy leans libertarian. I tried not to make it about good vs. evil but rather a clash of philosophies. Death Note was a big inspiration for me. I really like the setup of 2 brilliant minds trying to outmaneuver each other for hundreds of pages. 750 in my case.
MacDonald: Is Jimmy the same one from Jimmy’s Lamp and Meanwhile? Is there a Shiga-verse?
Shiga: Yes! I’m a big fan of the Tezuka star system. And in the Shiga-verse Jimmy Yee would be my George Clooney.
Here’s the publisher’s logline for the series:
Jimmy cannot die.
When his body is killed, Jimmy simply takes over the body of the person in closest proximity to him. Simple, right? Not once Jimmy gets started. His mind is sharp and highly analytical, and he cares about nothing but his own survival and the survival of his adorable daughter. To avoid the shadowy government agency on his tail, Jimmy will do anything, even if it means tearing the world down around him.
From the brilliant and profane mind of Jason Shiga, known for his high-concept comics, comes a magnum opus: a four-volume mystery adventure about the shocking chaos (and astronomical body count) one highly rational and utterly unscrupulous man can create in the world, given a single simple supernatural power.
Jason Shiga was born and raised in Oakland, California. He is the author of Meanwhile, Empire State, Fleep, Boohunter and over 20 other comic books and graphic novels. He is also the creator of the world’s second largest interactive comic. His comics have a geeky side, and often feature exciting uses of mathematics and unusual structural forms. Demon is his most ambitious project to date. shigabooks.com