Monthly Archives: May 2011

The day Nate Simpson came to Sim City

“I’m in Vancouver — Canada’s life-sized Sim City map!” – Nate Simpson

 

This being a recollection of my brief yet enjoyable chat with Nonplayer’s Nate Simpson.

 

A week ago, Nate Simpson (the creator of the new hit Image comic, Nonplayer) came to Vancouver and spent the day as a guest at my local comic book show – I would call it a ‘comic con’, however the term ‘con’ implies something larger than this show ever is: the Vancouver Comicon at Heritage Hall in Vancouver is a smaller local show for local comic book collectors and dealers and as such offers a more intimate and homey feel for its patrons. The organizer of this well-established show, Leonard Wong, has been able to straddle the line between organizing a smaller local show and still being able to bring in recognizable, known creators as guests on a regular basis.  Anyway, as stated, this time around one of  the guests at the show was Nate Simpson. Both Simpson and fellow comic creator Moritat ( Elephant Men) were there to meet face to face with their Vancouver fans. It is so nice to know that creators are aware of their Vancouver fans, y’know?

Okay, I’m straying from the point of this post: Nate Simpson.

At this point it is not news to anybody to say that his recent book, Nonplayer, has become something of an indy hit and that his rich, detailed artwork and fluid storytelling ability have garnered him an instant following.  I originally missed the boat on Nonplayer by choice: after seeing the impressive preview pages online, I decided that I would pass on the first issue and just pick up the trade down the road. Well the gods smiled on me and decided to give me a second chance by having Image release the 2nd print of Nonplayer 1 the same week that Nate Simpson came to my hood.  With such a concurrence of events, I had no choice but to partake of the delights of this book. (Yes, that means I enjoyed it a lot) I particularly enjoyed how the story did not just rely on the stunning art to carry it but instead was complimented by dialogue that reflected more how people speak to each other than how comicbook characters are want to over describe events to the reader. I also felt that the dialogue succeeded in helping to move  the story along at a decent pace.  Within a few days of picking up the book I had the opportunity to meet the man himself.  I got to find out first hand that he is a very cool gent, easy going and a pleasure to talk to.  When I got to his table at the show, he had just finished signing a fan’s copies of Nonplayer #1 as well as a couple of posters that he had for sale. (all featuring art from the comic and still for sale on his book’s website, nonplayercomic.com) After exchanging some pleasantries and offering my praise for his recent effort, and realizing that there was a lull in the fan greeting action, I took the opportunity to throw a few questions at Nate. I have to admit I felt spoiled because in most situations you will maybe find yourself with the opportunity to ask just a couple of questions of a hot creator before feeling that you have outstayed your welcome because of the line of fans behind you all waiting for their turn, but on this day at this show I found myself with the necessary time to exhaust every question that I had in my head for Nate and he was gracious with each one of them. (luckily for me)

I started out by asking him about his artistic influences. After browsing his blog it was obvious that Moebius was on his radar: he had a quote from the man that made it clear that Moebius had received a preview copy of his book – and more importantly had liked what he had seen. I asked him about that and Simpson confirmed that sure enough Moebius was high on the list of his artistic influences. When I asked him about the Moebius quote, he laughed and asked me, “which one?” Turns out I had not browsed back far enough on his blog. My bad.  I then asked him about Geoff Darrow – not because of any mention of Darrow on his blog, but just because of similarities in their approach to storytelling. Sure enough, Simpson indicated that Darrow was another influence on him.

I then moved on to his storytelling style and asked if it was a result of his work in the game industry and in animation. It was at this point that Simpson was quick to point out that although he worked in the gaming industry, he would not go as far as to describe himself as being a true animator. This seemed to be a fine point for him and one that he wanted to be clear to make. I suspect that many non-gamers (such as myself) are often guilty of just lumping everybody in the industry into one murky pool, ascribing the same job duties and divisions to nearly everyone in the industry. Hey, I work in healthcare and you would be surprised how often somebody just assumes that I am probably a male nurse. (I’m not, I’m a care aid) Nate commented that he would love to take the time to complete some indepth animator training but does not see himself finding the time for that any time soon.

Following on this subject, I asked him if he was influenced by the works of Ralph Bakshi, a famous animator of the 70’s and 80’s, and while he suggested that he was aware of his works, he didn’t feel any strong affinity for his work as any kind of influence on his. Even though it had already been established that Nate was not involved in traditional animation, I found his lack of association with Bakshi ironic since I personally see some strong similarities in the ‘look’ of their art.(I get this from seeing a comic layout-styled magazine version of one of Bakshi’s movies years ago)

Finally, I peppered Nate with a couple of questions about his publisher. I asked him about his decision to go with Image comics and whether he went to them or they came to him. He said that going with Image was his choice and that he went to them with Nonplayer because they are one of the only larger publishers who do not have any stringent requirements for newer creators to have subsequent issues ready before going to press with a first issue. Sure you could argue the merits and detriments of this kind of relaxed policy at a company like Image but it does allow for new creators to at least get their wares out there for public consumption. Nate admitted that he did not like the thought of having to have two issues of Nonplayer ready to roll before having the first one see the light of day, seeing as how the first issue was a labour of love that took him the better part of a year to complete to his satisfaction. Just browsing the comments section on his blog or the back page editorial of the 2nd print of Nonplayer 1 (not found in the 1st print, according to Simpson) you can see that he has taken some well-meaning flack for the suggestion that it might take some time for him to get a second issue out to the public.

I also asked him if he had any feelings about the built in ‘heat’ that many Image first issues seem to have these days, whether he felt that it made it harder to gauge just how many people were buying his book for its own merits vs buying it out of speculation? This didn’t seem to be much of a concern for Simpson who suggested that he was just glad that it was a book that sold well enough to affirm the trust that Image put in his work in the first place.

Before the release of Nonplayer, the anticipation generated online for the book was in large part  a result of Simpson getting the word out about his work at conventions, through comic news sites and through his network of friends. His efforts seem to be the latest definition of mission accomplished. I asked him about this and whether despite all of his own efforts at public awareness he was surprised by the widespread attention his book has received? The answer? A resounding (and head nodding) ‘YES!’ A pleasant surprise no doubt.

As I wrapped up my polite interrogation  I happened to notice that Nate had an open sketchbook nearby with a half finished work on the page; I teased him about having the time to sketch for others and whether I should press him for a commision then and there. He laughed and intonated to me that the work was a favour for someone involved in covering the cost of his meals while in town. I laughed and suggested that if he was at next year’s  Emerald City Con in Seattle, I would have to harass him for a commission,  knowing already which comic characters I would like to see him tackle. The good news for me is that he didn’t flat out refuse my suggestion. lol

It would seem that the list of potential candidates for my sketchbook next year has alrady started and that Nate Simpson is at the top of the list…

Hardcover Ho Down!

A post in which Stephen takes a look at the potential appeal of Hardcover graphic novels to the would-be graphic novel reseller…

C’mon, admit it: wouldn’t you rather look at this instead of some stuffy old graphic novels?

In the roughly six months that I have been selling graphic novels on amazon.ca-ca, I have surely learned a few things about how to find the right books to sell and how to (more often than not) be successful in selling them for a profit once you have found them.

One thing that I have come to learn is that you stand a good chance of turning a bigger profit with less effort if you find and sell the right hard cover graphic novels online. It seems (at least to me) that there are many collectors out there who would rather own a hard copy edition of a graphic novel collection than a paperback version of the same thing. Whatever an individual’s own reasons for this preference, the relevant thing here to note is that this desire means collectors will often be willing to pay more for the hardcover than they would for the TPB – even if the TPB is still in print and on comicbook store shelves – and if you have that book they are willing to pay that higher price to you.

I have noticed that there is a trend to many hardcovers(or HC’s for short). Most of the time, after a book has been released as a hardcover it won’t be kept in print for any prolonged length of time. This is the opposite of the trade paperback (or TPB for short) which seems to be the format of choice for most publishers when keeping a particular book in print – probably something to do with publishing costs and the increased attractiveness of a lower price point to the consumer in the marketplace. So that means you will usually see a HC version of a book get released, followed a little later by the more affordable TPB edition, and soon enough you likely see the supply of the available copies of the HC print run dry up and eventually dissapear from store shelves.  This gets us back to my earlier observation about demand for the HC. You usually see the steady demand for the HC book continue even after the TPB release and this continued demand combined with the shrinking retail supply leads to the higher prices seen for various HCs on sites like Amazon.

What I find interesting about all this is the predictability of it all. There is a knack to predicting the potential value of a HC book in the near future. After emmersing myself in this stuff recently, I can now see when a HC book (especially an oversized book like a DC Absolute edition book) is likely to sell out and still have a strong demand for it after. This does not mean that I am willing to speculate on such books because there are enough times when a HC book (again like the absolute editions) goes back to print within a year or so after its initial realease, effectively killing any hope of reselling it for a profit. What I have started to do is make a note of what kind of print run a sold out HC book has had that still is in demand and then see how the next volume in the collection compares to it. For example, if the first volume of the deluxe slipcased edition of the Spawn Origins HC had a print run of so many thousand and sold out, then if the next volume is set at the same numbers I kind of expect to see the same thing happen again. This is even more predictable when considering a signed and numbered edition of a HC book; the beforementioned Spawn book had a limited S&N edition limited to 500 copies of the book which sold through pretty quickly. The second volume had a similar subset of 500 S&N copies released, too, and sure enough this mini run has shown signs of selling out just like the first. You can still find copies for sale at retail or even slightly lower here and there but those copies are steadily disapearing and being replaced by reseller copies going for above retail. I have also noticed that the first volume of the Umbrella Academy oversized hardcover didnt take too long to sell out at the retailer level and is now commanding higher prices on the secondary market – even for “used” copies.  I noticed that the second volume is showing similar signs of selling out even faster than the first one, and because of this I decided to take the plunge on picking up a copy at below retail and take a wait and see approach with it.

Of course, just the whole idea that you can maybe find an out of print and in demand HC at your local comic shop and pick it up to resell it for a considerable amount more right after is somewhat appealing. Of course you have to be willing to pay more up front for such books compared to TPBs to see more return at the back end per sale. That is an important factor to consider whenever contemplating dabbling in the HC reseller game. To this I offer the advice: know the pedigree of what you are buying, and be ready to sell at a break even price for a quick sale if you should find out that the book in question will be going back into print as a HC edition which is always a possibility. To see an example of this, you need look no further than some of the DC Absolute books such as the All Star Superman book or the Absolute Planetary volume one; the Planetary book went back to press (and then funny enough sold out again) while the Superman book has been announced as going back to print as a hardcover again later this year.

It’s probably safe to say that when it comes to predicting the hardcover market that there is probably no such thing as a sure thing, but that some books come very, very close.