Interviews

The “Demon” in Eisner Award Winner Jason Shiga

Jason Shiga’s webcomic Demon has been released by First Second as a four-book series and received a nomination (and recently won) as best graphic album–reprint for the 2017 Eisner Awards.

The second volume of Jason Shiga’s Eisner-nominated webcomic is a high-adrenaline rush that picks up where it left on from the first book and never lets down…until its closing moments. Jimmy Yee is the indestructible (so far), body-possessing demon who is on the lam, and he’s on a vengeful quest to destroy Heron Marsh, the man who killed Jimmy’s wife and daughter in a car accident, which led to Jimmy’s ill-advised bank robbery and suicide attempts and current troubles with the law. Jimmy also has to worry about Agent Hunter of the OSS, who has figured out most of Jimmy’s abilities and is in hot pursuit.

Book two provides additional backstory to Jimmy’s origins—the actuary whose life goal was to be an actuary. This volume also explores Jimmy’s demonic abilities at length in a coldly calculating and scientific manner that lends the story its brilliance. Volume two isn’t just any old comic—it’s full of blood and guts, bloodier than the bloodiest summer blockbuster and with more ruthless knock-offs than an episode of the Sopranos. And Jason Shiga once again proves his genius as master manipulator in a story arc that will leave readers breathless and hungering for more.

We caught up with Jason in the weeks before SDCC 17 to chat about upcoming projects and Jimmy Yee’s latest metamorphosis.

The Once and Future Geeks (OFG):  Jimmy Yee has appeared in pretty much every book you’ve drawn. He’s there as the sleuthing library policeman in Bookhunters; he’s the guy stuck in a phone booth beneath concrete in Fleep; and he’s the lovesick geek whose seeking requited love in Empire State. In Demon, Jimmy has become a ruthless murderer intent on revenge.  

Jason Shiga (JS):  I’ve always been an admirer of Osamu Tezuka and one of his ideas that I’ve copied for myself is his use of the “star system”. Tezuka would recycle character designs in different stories as if they were actors playing different roles. The hero of one story could even be the villain in another, like Kevin Spacey or something. I don’t think I’ve ever gone that far myself but I do tend to recycle the Jimmy character design a lot. It’s also fun to think of Jimmy in all the different books as actually being the same character, maybe in a similar way that it’s fun to think of Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and dreaming he’s Indiana Jones.

How much of Jimmy is in Jason Shiga?

Well I wouldn’t describe myself as an immortal psychopathic demon, but we do share a similar world view. When Jimmy goes on a rant about how shitty life is, it’s actually me who’s thinking that. When Jimmy flings himself in front of a semitrailer, that’s secretly me who’s fantasizing about that too.

Judging from all the scrapes in which Jimmy finds himself, I am assuming you’ve been heavily influenced by the conspiracy sci-fi serials on TV. How much X-Files is in Demon? What other shows influenced the story in Demon?

You might have guessed I’m a huge pop culture junkie. I’ll generally just consume anything, high or low, although that’s slowed a bit since having a kid. Oddly, I don’t think X-Files directly worked its way into Demon but everything else from Left Behind to Commando to Mythbusters did. The biggest influence was of course was the old 90’s TV show Quantum Leap; I worked in the image of Jimmy looking at himself in the mirror several times throughout the story.

I love the minimalism of color in Demon, which gives what could be an otherwise cartoony character a gritty and menacing personality. What led you to make this design choice for the comic?

Demon was originally released as a series of minicomics, printed up on an old risograph machine I got off Craigslist. I would literally print every page in black and white, then feed the printed pages back into the machine, change out the ink cartridge and lay a red layer on top. I had to throw out half the pages due to horrible misregistration, but the ones that came out somewhat aligned looked great. The First Second books basically replicated the same process but with 2 color printing and they look even better than the minis!

What are some of your upcoming projects? And should we expect to see more Jimmy in these projects?

Demon might be the last time you see Jimmy. I’m trying to retire the character so I can move on to others, but we’ll see. I just finished laying out a 600 page interactive comic but I’ve still got to draw it. And of course since having a kid, I’ve been itching to do a children’s science comic. Stay tuned!

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