Simon Roy Talks Tone, Inspiration, and Point of View in “Jan’s Atomic Heart & Other Stories”

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Simon Roy is no stranger to the world of comics. For the last few years he’s been doing incredible work on “Prophet” with Brandon Graham, which got him an Eisner nomination last year. His style evokes a certain casual sense of dread in a world of layered science fiction. Creature designs are his forte and writing any new creature like an odd human being is just part of his charm. If you’ve been a fan of science fiction comics chances are really good you’ve seen his work.

Before all of this though, in 2009 Simon started work on Jan’s Atomic Heart, a story written and illustrated by himself and released with Ed Brisson’s New Reliable Press. In 2010 he was nominated for a Shuster Award for his work on Jan and illustrated two short stories in the first volume Brisson’s Murder Book series, called “Catching Up” and “Skimming the Till”.

Now, right before he’s about to launch “The Field” with Ed Brisson and Image Comics, he has decided to release “Jan’s Atomic Heart & Other Stories.” His now long time partner Image Comics has decided to spearhead this incredible release of older collected material next week on March 26th. To celebrate Bloody-Disgusting caught up with the talented writer/artist to talk about the stories inside the collection.


Bloody Disgusting: What influenced the futuristic character designs in Jan’s Atomic Heart?

Simon Roy: The work of Masamune Shirow (specifically his first “Ghost in the Shell” manga) has been a big influence on the way I approach tanks and robots and all that good stuff. He’s got this knack for perfectly balancing organic and mechanical visual elements in his designs so that they have this weirdly practical feel to them.

BD: The story is seeded in sensitivity and paranoia, do you carry these things with you on a daily basis?

SR: Well, a little bit. I’m the middle brother in my family, so I was doomed to sensitivity from an early age. But I don’t think I’m overly paranoid – it’s more of a pervasive, soft pessimism.

BD: How did you conceive of Jan? How did it evolve?

SR: I’ve actually got an infographic that tells that story a little better here – a graphic design project i managed to hijack and drive a bit more in the comic direction. http://www.flickr.com/photos/povorot/5261821802/

BD: You wrote it in school, what did teachers think of it? how did they influence it?

SR: Writing Jan’s was actually a bit of a reaction to the lack of connection i felt to my curriculum in first year art school. It was a total labor of love, and something that helped me feel like i was spending my time well (between making up bullshit explanations for sculpture projects).

BD: Why is some of your work a satire of war and violence? (Good Business)

SR: As a kid I loved all the history and machinery of war, but as an adult it’s much harder for me to approach that kind of stuff as gleefully. I still love the visual texture of it all, but if i’m going to use and enjoy that imagery, i don’t want to be just reinforcing the negative cultural messages that we’ve already all internalized. It’s funner to play with expectation a bit more.

BD: What comes first the story or the drawing?

SR:Usually the story, nowadays, but lots of the stories in this collection started just with an image. This image – a shipwrecked man getting stoned with a gorilla – was the seed that started “Shipwrecked with Dan the Gorilla”, for example. It’s hard to separate the two sometimes. http://www.flickr.com/photos/povorot/2913319193/

BD:Your work often features an odd POV, how do you decide what lens to tell a story through?

SR:I really enjoy work by creators like Philip K Dick and the Coen brothers, who are masters in telling stories about ordinary people that get caught in these webs of unintended consequences – naturalistic, almost momentum-based stories. I think I’m trying to emulate that a lot in my own work by trying to focus the story around characters i can really relate to. It’s a lot more interesting to see a character you’re connected to get dragged through an adventure – or take a viewpoint that’s not ordinarily sympathetic and see what the world looks like from there.

BD: All of your work seems to be part of a shared world, how much world building goes into a new project?

SR:It depends on the project. Most of the stories in this collection take place in worlds that are only lightly fleshed out, but the elements of exposition that do get used are hopefully implying a lot more. Generally speaking, the world-building in this collection is more about communicating an overall tone and making a convincing space for the story to exist in then building the entire world. That being said, I do like the idea that all these stories exist at different points in time in the same universe/timeline, which i do keep in mind a bit while i’m writing…

BD: Why did you collect all these stories? Why release them now?

SR:The idea kind of came up once Ed Brisson (my co-conspirator and publisher of the original “Jan’s atomic heart”) sold out of his last copies of that initial “Jan’s” print run. Since I’d been working with Image on “Prophet”, doing a reprint through them seemed like a logical next step. It helped that i had a bunch of other short stories lying around my studio and hard drive that i wanted to get out into the universe, too.

BD: Your work is steeped in science fiction, what has influenced you most?

SR:I read a lot of Larry Niven books when i was a kid, and he’s got a great set of stories set inside his “Known Space” universe – including a whole series of books (written by all sorts of different authors) detailing the long-running space wars between humans and the Kzin (tiger-people from beyond the solar system). Between that and Star Wars, a particular internal narrative foundation was laid in my mind very young, and i’ve been stuck there ever since.

BD:What are you excited to be working on, right now?

SR:This second I’m starting the pencils on a new story I’m doing for Dark Horse, for a small collection of paleolithic shamanic adventures starring a shaman called Tiger Lung. It’ll be part of a little hardcover collection that should be coming out sometime at the end of the year…

From IMAGE:
Price: $14.99
Diamond ID: JAN140546
Published: March 26, 2014

From the mind of Simon Roy, co-writer and artist of the Eisner Award-nominated series PROPHET, comes a collection of tales that span time, space, and species.