Out of anyone on the “Prophet” team, perhaps no one’s star has risen more this year than Simon Roy. The creator of such gems as “Jan’s Atomic Heart,” Roy hasn’t just illustrated the most issues of “Prophet” (including its initial stunner of an arc), but he also has been involved from the writing and creative standpoint on that end. He’s been an important cog in the great machine that is this book, and has been as important as anyone, save perhaps Brandon Graham.
Today on Artist August, we talk to Simon about his role on the team, what it’s like to be involved with such a great list of artists, dinosaurs and Slavic culture, and much, much more. Thanks to Simon for chatting with us, and look for an interview with the main “Prophet” man himself, Brandon Graham, tomorrow. Make sure to check the bottom of this post for a rad process piece from issue #22 of Prophet by Roy.
Can you look back on your life and recall the single moment or work that made you want to work in comics? Or was it more of a natural progression that led you here?
Simon Roy: Well, I’ve been a longtime reader of comics since childhood (Asterix, Tintin, and, of course, Archie) and a frequent dabbler. I do remember, however, reading Gipi’s “Notes for a war story” and realizing that good comics could be made without a single clean line. Seeing art that was loose, expressive, but still really communicative went a long way in helping me relax and just draw stories.
Who or what has influenced the development of your art the most? Please say Guy Davis, because I got a crazy Guy Davis vibe from your “Delta” work.
SR: I get that a lot, but I’ve probably got more to thank Bill Watterson for then Guy Davis. When I was a kid, I had a period where I was convinced I could be a strip cartoonist, and a high intake of Calvin and Hobbes helped cultivate that. Between his beautiful, minimal, naturalistic landscapes and the amazingly convincing mind-scapes of Calvin’s daydreams, he might be the artist who I still want to emulate the most.
Prophet has, undoubtedly, been one of the breakout hits of the year. The team on the book, leading off with Brandon Graham but including yourself, Giannis Milonogiannis, Farel Dalrymple, Richard Ballermann and others, is astoundingly gifted at crafting comics and just great art. What appealed to you about the project from the get go?
SR: The most attractive part of the whole thing was the idea of having a space to do solid, pulpy, fun sci-fi in with minimal editorial restrictions. Of course, getting a chance to collaborate with Brandon and Richard and do work with greater visibility (via the Liefeld name) were both extremely appealing as well…
Now that you’re about a year in — as far as work goes — on Prophet, how pleased would you say you’ve been with both the response and result?
SR: Quite pleased. The response has been surprisingly positive. Looking back on those first issues, I’m still pretty happy with the art, but it’s been long enough now that I’m starting to see where we might have improved things.
While you’re part of a rotating team of artists on the book, your role has expanded it seems, as you co-plotted your arc on the book and have recently been working on plotting the next wave of stories with Brandon. Was that something the two of you planned from the beginning, or did something just click with the two of you once you started putting this project together?
SR: Well, the plan has generally been to take a more collaborative approach between the various players on the book, with Brandon trying to gear the stories towards what the artist wants to draw. Beyond that, it was established fairly early on that I’d be sticking around to help with story duties and editing for some of the subsequent issues just to help keep some sort of continuity. My tastes go more in the grounded, hard sci-fi direction then Brandon’s, so we play off each other well.
When you’re working on a designing and creating ideas for this new world of Prophet, what do you look to for inspiration?Continued below
SR: For the alien life, almost entirely to nature. Through some of my personal projects, like designing speculative post-cretaceous dinosaurs and researching the various ages of life on earth, I think that the idea of “convergent evolution” – where very distantly related animals, faced with similar environmental challenges, evolve into amazingly similar forms – is an ever-present one. Earth is full of excellent answers to anatomical and environmental problems, so designing alien life forms becomes more of a matter of combining these familiar elements into something new but believable.
But for the story and sci-fi ideas? Mainly through reading lots, not just of science fiction but of all sorts of stuff.
I know the cover of issue #28 is a homage to the cover to issue #1 of the series, but I’m curious: what elements do you still see in this series from the original run? Is there anything you and Brandon have consciously tried to maintain?
SR: Well, we started out aiming pretty far away from the original run. But, said original run is pretty weird and eclectic, and the whole extreme world as a whole is rich with funky cheeseball sci-fi weirdness – fertile ground to dig for ideas in. However, instead of trying to just resuscitate old ideas, I think Brandon’s been trying to take ideas from the old extreme world and beat them up until they fit this into new “Prophet” universe.
One thing I thought was interesting was, at least in your first issue, you had this one sequence where Prophet recounted his inventory and it was brought to life in a way that was very reminiscent of how Brandon has done such a thing previously. That said, Brandon shared he didn’t guide you to that. How did you decide to make a choice like that? Was it a homage, or just the best way to tell the story?
SR: Well, working with Brandon, I think I was unconsciously trying to bring emulate bits of his style. Something that Brandon (among other artists) does well is integrate denser diagrammatic stuff into a story, which is something I’ve been drawn to for a while. Seeing as my own style of storytelling is more straightforward and cinematic, I was hoping to slow it down a bit with more of that density.
Who are your favorite artists working in comics today?
SR: I think right now James Harren is my all-time favourite. He’s got an amazing sense of action and pacing that makes me envious – not to mention his creature design!
Looking through your blog, it becomes quickly apparent that even with Prophet running full swing, you have a constant flow of ideas for stories pouring out of you, and that you’re eager to bring them to life. Do you have any other solo material in the works at all, or is it mostly Prophet going forward?
SR: Well, though I’ll be back on for more Prophet very soon (including an issue I’m writing and drawing on my own), my next biggest project is a series of Dark Horse Presents stories that’ll be in print next year.. It’ll be a three-part story, based off of an ice-age shamanic character that I’ve been developing for a while. This current story was co-written with (and will be colored by) my friend Jason Wordie. It’s exciting to be finally making the comic itself now, since Jason and I spent the better part of this past six months planning, writing, and tweaking it. Seeing it inked, colored, and in print will be very satisfying indeed.
I’m also working on a big sci-fi story with a longtime collaborator of mine, Memo Koseman, that’s still in a more embryonic stage. We’ve worked on another project together in the past that’s still sitting half-finished on our hard drives (in Victoria and Istanbul, respectively) , though, so hopefully this one will survive the busy schedules we keep. Richard Ballermann, the colorist of the first three Prophet issues and an amazing designer/illustrator, is helping us with some starship and infographic designs for the project, so there’s a good chance we’ll have some awesome stuff to show for it in the next year or so.
Perhaps more importantly, when do we finally get a book from you that creates the middle ground in the Venn diagram of your interest in Slavic culture and dinosaurs?Continued below
SR: Well, hopefully sooner rather then later. I’ve just got to figure out how to make a story in there!