Comics often seems a pretty straightforward medium. There’s pages full of various pictures and those pictures, together, tell a story of some sort. It’s when a creator does interesting, unexpected things with the medium that the versatility of comics is truly shown. One such creator is Jason Shiga. Shiga has, in the past, created “Meanwhile,” a choose-your-own-adventure story with nearly 4000 story possiblities, full of puzzles and problems and inventive storytelling. He’s continued that inventive approach with “Demon,” his webcomic/self-published comic that’s now seeing collected editions put out through First Second. It tells the story of a man who’s immortal and what he does with that ability, while also utilizing math, puzzles, and more. There’s also a knife made out of semen.
Read on as we have a brief chat with Shiga about “Demon,” immortality, webcomics, and his next project.
“Demon” is a story that deals with some interesting moral issues, while also being pretty funny the whole way. How do you pitch it to people who are interested, but don’t know the story?
Jason Shiga: That’s a tough one. I don’t want to give away the premise because that’s a pretty big reveal 100 pages in or so. I usually just tell folks that it’s about an ordinary man who discovers he’s immortal and then uses that power to gain complete world domination.
The aspect of immortality presented in “Demon” is really interesting and also a little complicated. What was it about immortality that made you want to use it as a central part of the story? Why this particular kind of immortality also, with the possession aspect?
JS: This will sound a little pretentious for a book that involves weaponized semen but I feel stories about immortality can really cut to what it is that gives life meaning. You have all your basic necessities taken care of, you’ve conquered the world, you have the life you want, you’ve had sex with a camel, then what? As for the possession angle, that’s probably the influence of my favorite tv show, Quantum Leap.
This second volume of “Demon” marks the halfway point of the collected editions. When bringing over “Demon” to First Second from the webcomic and your self published run, were there aspects of the story that were changed or things you tried to make better?
JS: There were small corrections but aside from that, the story was mostly unchanged. The biggest change was the format. Instead of 21 pamphlets, First Second split the story into 4 volumes. Luckily, the story very naturally cleaves into 4 parts so it worked out perfectly even though I was pushing for one giant 720 page tome (I just wanted to have the biggest).
As someone who’s gone from webcomics to print, how do you see the relationship between the two growing? It seems that webcomics are increasingly becoming seen as a more legitimate medium in many people’s eyes.
JS: When I was getting started in comics, minis and zines were the most common entry point. Almost all my peers in comics from Raina Telgameyer to Gene Yang got their start by going to Kinko’s and running off 100 copies of their comic. Today it seems like webcomics have taken that role, which is really exciting. I love the idea of some kid from the middle of nowhere suddenly finding herself with an audience of dedicated readers and community of other creators.
Most of your books have been full of puzzles and math and other complicated things. How do you go about planning all of it out? What is the process like there?
JS: I usually have to start from the ending and work backwards. It sounds counterintuitive but I feel that’s really the only way to knock out a 700 page story. You’d get completely lost and fizzle out otherwise. It’s like trying to prove a theorem. You start off with where you want to get, work out some intermediary steps and then get going on those.
I’ve seen talk of your next project in a couple of places, a book that will have stored states and branching paths. What more can you tell us?Continued below
JS: I’m currently laying out all the puzzles and maps and should be finished with the thumbnails in a few weeks. I will say it’s going to be different from almost any comic in existence, equal parts video game and book. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s similar to Legend of Zelda with one giant over world and then lots of smaller challenges that give you tools to navigate the over world. It’s about 600 pages and like you said, interactive with a rudimentary but automatic save state system.
“Demon” Vol. 2 was released earlier this month via First Second.