Nate Simpson on 'Nonplayer' and the art of creative perseverance
Nate Simpson's "Nonplayer" comic book won immediate praise for his artwork. He's also a video game concept artist.
June 20th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Nate Simpson on 'Nonplayer' and the art of creative perseverance

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor and the co-creator of the comics blog Girls-Gone-Geek.com.

In spring 2011, “Nonplayer #1” (Image Comics) generated the kind of excitement that independent comics creators dream of.

Written and illustrated by video game concept artist Nate Simpson, the series introduced readers to Dana Stevens, a tamale delivery girl who escapes her mundane reality through the full-immersion online game “Warriors of  Jarvath.” The praise for Simpson’s story and lush illustrations was immediate and plentiful, making it one of the most critically lauded comics of the year.

By that summer, Warner Bros. acquired the film rights. Simpson, a newcomer to comics, had a huge hit on his hands and a highly anticipated second issue to finish.

Then, that fall, Simpson crashed his bicycle, an incident that could have been fatal if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet. As the right-handed artist wrote on his Project Waldo blog, “Every bone connecting my right arm to my torso was broken.” His arm in a sling, he was physically sidelined. But Simpson began to write candidly about the other obstacles he had to confront, namely, the enormous pressure he felt after “Nonplayer #1” hit the shelves, and the moments of frustration and outright panic while writing the second issue.

Those blog entries were a window into the reality of making an independent comic and the weighty expectations that accompany success, but they were also highly personal essays about creative perseverance. Fittingly, Simpson compared his craft to riding in the Tour de France.

“(No) matter how much the world begins to feel like a demense-covered treadmill, you remind yourself that the finish line is up there somewhere. It may be far away, but every turn of the pedals brings you a little bit closer. It took Lance exactly the same number of foot-pumps to get there as it'll take you," he wrote.

“The only way to fail is to stop.”

“Nonplayer” fans will be happy to know that Simpson hasn’t stopped. He has healed sufficiently to spend many hours a day working on the comic, even with a day job at online game company PopCap, and the second issue is in progress. Simpson talked to Geek Out! about being a professional comics and gaming geek, how immersive gaming inspired “Nonplayer,” coping with sudden success and having an honest dialogue with his readers about the challenges behind the curtain. FULL POST