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

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

Is a comic book character's sexual orientation really news?
Cover art from "Earth 2."
June 12th, 2012
04:34 PM ET

Is a comic book character's sexual orientation really news?

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

After DC Comics made it official that Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay, the reaction from the Trolliverse was as predictable as it was ridiculous. On Facebook, a friend hilariously mocked the all-caps, incorrectly punctuated outrage thusly:


It’s safe to say that those people didn’t pick up “Earth 2” No. 2 last week, when Scott made his debut in the relaunched DC Universe. Gay characters in mainstream comics aren’t new, but DC took a chance in changing the sexual orientation of an established character like Scott. Before the relaunch, he was a middle-aged hero whose son, Obsidian, was gay.

The coy, press-baiting runup to the announcement is another matter. FULL POST

'DC Nation' shorts show cute side of superheroes
The DC Nation "Super Best Friends Forever" shorts are as much about being a teenager as battling bad guys, an animator said.
April 27th, 2012
09:32 AM ET

'DC Nation' shorts show cute side of superheroes

Superheroes can be a dark and brooding lot, even when they’re in cartoon form. That may be one reason that DC Nation’s fanciful, animated shorts grabbed so much attention when they started airing in March on Cartoon Network. (Both DC and Cartoon Network are owned by Time Warner, which owns CNN.)

Interspersed with the full-length “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern” cartoons, the shorts bring an off-kilter charm to DC Nation’s Saturday programming block: Baby Superman crawling faster than a locomotive, Chibi-style Teen Titans, a Claymation Joker (created by Aardman Animations of “Wallace & Gromit” fame) and a particularly zany Plastic Man.

“The DC library is so vast and cool that we always want to introduce people to new characters or maybe characters they wanted to see animated,” said Peter Girardi, senior vice president of series and alternative animation at Warner Bros., who likens the shorts to a mini film festival. “We reached out to tons of studios and creators. We said, ‘Hey, rather than us tell you some characters to use, why don’t you just tell us the characters you always wanted to play around with?’ The tougher part is they have a minute and 15 seconds.”


The Aquabats: Superheroes who rock Saturday mornings
The Aquabats, masked and ready to save the day for an entire generation of kids.
April 19th, 2012
11:52 AM ET

The Aquabats: Superheroes who rock Saturday mornings

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

Words like “quirky” and “wacky” have been attached to alt-rock band the Aquabats, but “nerdy” is equally applicable to five guys who perform as superheroes wearing masks, rubber helmets and bright blue shirts reminiscent of the Fantastic Four.

All of which makes them naturals for a children’s television show.

After a long journey to the small screen, the Orange County band - whose members go by the names The M.C. Bat Commander (Christian Jacobs), Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (Ian Fowles), Crash McLarson (Chad Larson), Ricky Fitness (Ricky Falomir) and Jimmy the Robot (James Briggs) - has finally brought its colorful brand of whimsy to Saturday mornings. “The Aquabats! Super Show!” landed on The Hub television network in March, and there isn’t anything quite like it in the realm of modern kids’ programming.

Billed as “the first musical, crime-fighting super-group in history,” the band travels in a custom RV and breaks into songs like “Hamburger Rain” and “The Good Life,” a paean to doughnuts. They fight villains like Man Ant, an insect-human who wears a suit and tie. In addition to animated segments involving onion spaceships, there are live-action bits including commercials for the monster repellent “Mummy Spray” and a used-car ad featuring Bear Cosby, a person in what appears to be a wolf costume.

That barely scratches the surface of the hijinks.


Spider-Man makes an 'Ultimate' return to animation
A still from the upcoming "Ultimate Spider-Man" cartoon.
March 29th, 2012
12:28 PM ET

Spider-Man makes an 'Ultimate' return to animation

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

He’s been Amazing, Spectacular and Unlimited, but the nerdiest hero in comics is going Ultimate for a return to cartoon form.

“Ultimate Spider-Man” premieres Sunday, April 1 (11 a.m. EST), leading Marvel’s new programming block on Disney XD. The lineup includes new animated shorts and the second season of “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” as well as a real-life look at the art and science of superheroes.

It’s not just a Marvel thing. In March, DC Nation launched its own programming block on Cartoon Network. Along with the “Young Justice” and “Green Lantern” cartoons, there are lighthearted short films done in a variety of animation styles, including claymation.

With “The Amazing Spider-Man” live-action film coming to theaters this summer, Peter Parker is having a big year on screens large and small.

“Ultimate Spider-Man” takes its name from the long-running comic book series by writer Brian Michael Bendis, who has written every issue since it debuted in 2000 and serves as the series’ consulting producer/writer. Peter Parker, voiced by Drake Bell, even sports a hairdo similar to the one created by original comic book artist Mark Bagley. The comic currently goes by the name “Ultimate Comics Spider-Man,” in which a new character named Miles Morales has taken up the mantle following Peter Parker’s controversial death last year.

The character has had several cartoon incarnations over the past four decades, most recently in “The Spectacular Spider-Man” animated series that ran from 2008 to 2009. As in this summer’s feature film, Parker is in high school, but “Ultimate Spider-Man” doesn’t dwell on his origin story or his adjustment to becoming a superhero. FULL POST

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