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A collaboration with rockstar and comics writer extraordinare Gerard Way on Killjoys guaranteed that I’d read something written by Shaun Simon, but the stellar quality of his work is what keeps bringing me back. Neverboy, illustrated by Tyler Jenkins and published by Dark Horse, really wowed me. Simon’s follow-up to that is Art Ops, a supremely creative story brought to life by Mike and Laura Allred at the recently resuscitated Vertigo. I asked Simon some questions about his relatively new career path and his most recent project.

Killjoys
Art by Becky Cloonan and Dave Stewart.

Did having your first comic be based on someone else’s concepts pose an extra challenge?

Killjoys was the brainchild of Gerard and myself years before the MCR record came out. It was a strange road – the record was inspired by the comic, before there was a comic, and then the comic ended up being inspired by what MCR did with their record.

If we had written the comic first, it would have been a vastly different experience than what it turned out to be. It was more psychic and less sci-fi.

How did you and Gerard Way share writing and plotting duties on Killjoys?

There were characters he created, like the Girl and Korse, and characters I created, like Cherri Cola and Blue and Red. We threw all these people into the blender and came up with the story together. Writing the book was a great experience, not only did I learn a lot but we also had two heads working on one story.

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Art by Becky Cloonan and Dave Stewart.

Did your music career prepare you for comics in any ways?

Absolutely. Unless you’re writing, drawing, and editing it yourself, making comics is a collaboration, much like being in a band. The structure of music, of a song, is much like structuring a comic script. The ups and downs, the verse, chorus, verse…they are all related to the opening, middle, and ending of writing a script.

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Art by Tyler Jenkins and Kelly Fitzpatrick.

How did your work on Killjoys lead to Neverboy and your story in CMYK?

We had a fantastic editor on Killjoys, Sierra Hahn. I knew I wanted to work with her again so I pitched this story about a former imaginary friend who wanted to stay in the read world after the kid who created him died. That was how Neverboy came to be. Around the same time, I was in touch with Shelly Bond at Vertigo. We really hit it off from the first meeting. She was compiling stories for a new anthology Vertigo would be putting out and asked me to pitch her some ideas. One of the ideas was for an 8-page version of what turned out to be Art Ops. Shelly liked the idea so much that she wanted to turn it into an ongoing series.

As great as the other artists you’ve worked with are (and they are really great), Mike and Laura Allred are perhaps most suited for your somewhat psychedelic sensibilities. How has the collaboration with them been going so far?

Mike and Laura are fantastic! There’s never been anything I thought was too strange or that they wouldn’t understand. As soon as Mike signed on for the book, I felt a sigh of relief – I knew the book was in good hands. Something I didn’t want to do was to turn Art Ops purely into a monster of the week book. It is just as interesting to me to see the idea of art as a living thing, like we see in Reggie’s arm, as releasing famous works into the real world is. I think what we ended up with is a great mix of both. We have the “wow” moments when Mona Lisa walks out of her frame but then we have the daily struggle Reggie has with an abstract painting for an appendage. The idea of art controlling man or man controlling art is something that came to be a main theme in the book.

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Art by Mike and Laura Allred.

The ideas you display in your comics often seem hard to put into words. So, basically, how do you put them into words for the artists to interpret?

As simply as I can. I like to keep my scripts lean and only include necessary details. Getting what you see in your head down on paper can be one of the hardest things in scripting. I try and use situations that are relatable. For example, if the scene calls for a painting of a landscape leaving its frame, I might say something like, “It’s bubbling out of it’s frame like popping popcorn bursting out of a pot that’s too small to contain it.”

Both of your solo comic series are about the transcendence of art and stories. What keeps drawing you to that theme?

It interests me. For me, comics are strange and surreal. They’re full of things and ideas that don’t exist on the 10 O’Clock news. That’s what got me into comics in the first place – the idea that anything is possible and you’re only held down by your imagination. I like stories that make people think and that bring new ideas to the table – stories that can be taken at face value but can have a deeper meaning if you look for it.

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Art by Mike and Laura Allred.

How did you become familiar enough with fine art to authoritatively write Art Ops?

I am by no means an authority on fine art and I think that’s something that works in my favor. If I were, I’d probably have a hard time doing the questionable things Mike and I are doing to these pieces. In issue 4, we introduce a work that was created by da Vinci as Mona Lisa’s counterpart. It doesn’t exist in reality. I made it up. If you’re tied down by reality you’re going to stifle your creativity.

What’s surprised, dismayed and/or delighted you about the comics industry in the short time you’ve been a part of it?

I have been blow away by how nice everyone is. I haven’t met anyone in this industry that isn’t supportive, gracious, and helpful. The thing you realize pretty quickly is that there are so many book vying for readers attention. Years ago, if you wanted something besides your mainstream superhero books you went to Vertigo. Today there are so many publishers publishing such a wide variety of books that you really need to stand out.

Follow Shaun Simon on Twitter, and check out Art Ops for a great taste of the Vertigo Renaissance.

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MATT CHATS is a weekly interview series that goes live every Tuesday conducted between Matt O’Keefe and a creator and/or player in the comic book industry, diving into subjects not broached by other news outlets.

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