Shaun Simon first hit the comics scene as co-writer of “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” with Gerard Way in 2013. Now the musician-turned-comics scribe is back, and this time, he’s riding the writer’s chair solo for “Neverboy,” due out from Dark Horse Comics on March 4. With art by “Peter Panzerfaust” co-creator Tyler Jenkins, and colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick, “Neverboy” explores the borders between reality and the imaginary world.
CBR News spoke with Simon about the origins of “Neverboy,” which comes in part from his real-life experiences, the era and creators whose work influenced the series and what its been like writing a comic on his own for the first time.
CBR News: “Neverboy” has kind of a unique, crazy premise. Where did the initial idea originate?
Shaun Simon: “Neverboy” is about a former imaginary friend turned drug addict. It follows his journey as he’s trying to live in a world that he isn’t supposed to be in. I guess that’s the one line pitch.
I think the idea came from, in a way, society. Seeing a lot of my friends, and even me to an extent, taking all these drugs just to get through the day. Sometimes people abuse them and it gives people a false sense of reality. “Neverboy” is like that, to the extreme, where you’re relying on drugs and medication so much that you forget who you are sometimes. You know, it’s not saying that drugs and stuff aren’t good at all when people use them; I mean, I used them myself for a while. This is an extreme case of that; it’s someone abusing that to be somewhere he isn’t supposed to be and to live this false sense of reality that he’s created for himself.
So does the story deal with real world addiction?
It does. It’s not very heavy, not in a heavy-handed way. It’s more about his own personal story and his own particular case. It’s not saying drugs are bad; it’s not a D.A.R.E. ad, you know? [Laughs] I think it’s more just about him.
You’ve said ’90s Vertigo comics are a big influence on your work, and it seems like there’s some “Sandman” that comes through in “Neverboy,” and the idea of becoming a real boy seems like a “Pinocchio” reference. Are those fair to call influences on “Neverboy?” Are there other things that influenced your writing?
I think so, even if it’s subconsciously. I’m a big fan of 90’s comics, and 90’s Vertigo comics. Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan. That was stuff that inspired me to want to write comics myself and I think that all those guys are a big influence on me whether I notice it or not. I think subconsciously it’s there, and then “Pinocchio.” It’s funny because my wife said that when I was first telling her about the story a few years ago. She said, “Oh yeah, this is like a real fucked up ‘Pinocchio.'” And I guess so. It’s not really where it came from, but yeah, you could say that.
This isn’t your first comics project — you co-wrote “Killjoys” with Gerard Way — but it’s the first one you’re writing solo. What’s been different or more challenging in being the only writer?
You don’t have anyone to fall back on. Not that I couldn’t get my friends’ opinions on stuff, which I do. It’s just that it’s my story, so if I fuck up, it’s all on me. That’s the real big thing, that it’s all coming from you. You’re not collaborating with another writer, coming up with scenes and lines and dialogue.
Do you plan to keep writing on more projects by yourself?
Yeah, absolutely. I have other stuff in the works right now that hasn’t been announced yet, but there’s definitely other stuff coming.
What has it been like working with Tyler Jenkins and Kelly Fitzpatrick?
They’re awesome. They’re super nice people. I saw Tyler’s work on “Peter Panzerfaust.” I hadn’t seen it before, and at the time we were looking for an artist for “Neverboy.” I was like, this guy might be really awesome. That book takes place in World War II and it’s a totally different vibe than “Neverboy,” but I saw it and I really wanted to get in touch with him to see if he would be interested. I felt like he would be awesome.
Tyler is the one who brought Kelly, who was coloring some of his stuff, and she is just fantastic. We all talk, and they’re just great people and it’s all collaboration. People bring ideas and this and that. It’s kind of how comics should work, I would imagine. I don’t know too much about other stuff, but this is how I picture it working. It’s been really fun to do.
In addition to writing comics, you’ve done some prose writing and you’ve worked in music. What’s different or the same about making comics compared to other types of art?
I think with comics and stories and writing, there’s so much you have to think about, compared to music. And I’m sure a musician would probably say the opposite, but there’s so much little detail in it. You have to make sure, if you want to see something in issue four, you have to plant it in issue one. There’s a lot to it. Writing is an art in itself and sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes something will fuck you up but I think that’s true for any kind of creative person. You get so involved in something and it just eats away at you and it can drive you crazy. But then you’ll figure it out and it’s the greatest thing in the world. I think that’s true for all creators.
Did you ever have an imaginary friend?
I never did, no. But my daughter does. It’s cool, because I just sit there and watch her sometimes, and she’s having these whole conversations and play sessions with this thing that’s not even there. But maybe it is — how do I know? [Laughs] Maybe I just don’t see it, you know? But no, I never had one myself. I kind of wish I did.
Well, now you have Neverboy.
Exactly. “Neverboy” is my imaginary friend.
Is there anything else about “Neverboy” or any other upcoming projects that you wanted to talk about?
There’s nothing I can say right now about anything else, but Gerard Way did a variant cover for issue one; we just got that from him, and it looks amazing. Our cover artist, Conor Nolan, is an amazing artist. “Neverboy” is one of his first comics gigs; I know he also did a couple covers for “Hellraiser.” He is a fantastic artist. I met him at a “Killjoys” signing last year or two years ago, and his stuff is fantastic. Our covers are incredible. Everyone on the team is awesome, and I wish we could keep going with it.
“Neverboy” debuts from Dark Horse on March 4.
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