First things first: it’s not what you think it is. You know what I mean… the comic book written by a celebrity with help from a more seasoned pro, the one that features a character who looks suspiciously like the celebrity who “wrote” it and has a story that reads a lot like a movie pitch. Yeah, those comics.
Well, I’ve read the book and I can tell you first-hand that that’s not Incarnate, written and illustrated by Nick Simmons, and if you’ve got any preconceived notions about this comic just because you’ve seen the writer on television (or seen his father breathing fire and wearing makeup on stage), you might want to go ahead and leave them at the door and give this book another shot.
Prior to the release of the first issue, I got the opportunity to shoot a few questions Nick’s way regarding the series and his work. Naturally, I asked him if he had to deal with any criticism from cynics or snobs because of his celebrity status and how he has dealt with it…
“Actually, I haven't really dealt with that yet. People have responded pretty well as soon as they got a look at the book itself. We've been getting pretty positive reviews, and not for no reason: this isn't a vanity project by any means, and I don't consider myself a celebrity.”
Of course, just because you don’t consider yourself a celebrity doesn’t mean you aren’t a recognizable face (and a household name). Simmons was upfront and logical about his unique situation. Hey, it isn’t his fault his dad is Gene Simmons…
“I'm using whatever resources are at my disposal to get my book out there, and they just happen to include a famous pops and a reality show. I'd be a fool not to take advantage of these things to make my passion come to life. But when these so-called snobs have read the book, so far, I think they see that I'm not just testing the water: I've loved manga for as long as I can remember. It's what I want to do for a living.”
Reading the first issue, I was surprised to find that not only is Nick Simmons writing the book, he’s drawing it too. I asked him about his background in art and how much of the work in the book was his. Turns out the bulk of the work is his own, but Simmons was quite humble and didn’t hesitate to credit his collaborators…
“I'm self-taught, been drawing since I was a little kid (and only drawing fairly well for the past couple years) and my partner Nam Kim is a great help. All the characters you see in the book, the layout, the story, that's all me. Nam handles most of the background details and tedious technical details---I'm just not neat enough nor am I skilled enough to do that yet… But I have a strict policy that no one can touch or alter the characters themselves---nothing about them can be changed, even if it's just a tweak to improve something technical, so that's all me.”
I found out that Nick doesn’t have a whole lot of interest in mainstream superhero comics but is a dedicated fan of manga (which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen his artwork) – in fact, his love of the art form is such that it had an unconscious effect on his work.
“… in my first book, one of my pages is laid out as if it's supposed to be read from right to left---it still works, technically, but I did it subconsciously, and my editor pointed it out to me. I was oblivious. But it adds to the mood, I think, so we kept it.”
The current Incarnate series, published by Radical Comics, is just the tip of the iceberg. This arc is just the first of a three-issue series, but Simmons plans on continuing the book for a long time to come.
“… it's going to say "To be continued" in very big letters at the end of that third issue, and I plan on continuing this for as long as I can, even if I have to put it out myself.”
And that’s not all he’s got in store.
“I have another comic I want to start, but it'll have to wait until I have more time, Incarnate takes first priority. I'll probably start the other one (while continuing Incarnate) when I graduate college, two years or so down the line. Or maybe over summer. I'm going with the flow.”
I asked Simmons who his influences were. He listed Neil Gaiman as his favorite writer and Kentaro Mira as his favorite artist, going so far as to say that Mira “… is a god among insects. I barely even try to emulate him, he's so far beyond what eons of practice and tutelage could do for me.”
The first issue of Incarnate is on stands now and the second is available for pre-order. At over 50 pages for $4.99, that’s a pretty healthy comic right there: and a pretty good one too. And from the sounds of things, it isn’t going to be the last we hear from Nick Simmons.
For those interested, here’s the official synopsis of Incarnate that Nick gave me…
Mot is a boy who cannot die.
Riddle him with bullets, burn him at the stake, douse him with napalm, hang him from the gallows…still, he will walk away.
Forever haunted by a mysterious doppelganger that no one else can see, Mot has wandered the world for centuries, searching for meaning and, perhaps, an end to his endless life.
He is a Revenant—an immortal, ageless creature that has existed since time immemorial. Their origins are a mystery—they have been worshipped as gods, feared as monsters, and scorned as devils. But they have always been there, living in plain sight, in the bright altars and dark corners of every ancient civilization since the beginning of humanity. There has never been a force on this earth that has been able to give them the death that Mot, secretly, seeks.
Now, something is different. Now they are being hunted.
A shadow organization known only as Sanctum has discovered a way to kill the Revenants and is carrying out a secret genocide that spans the globe. Mot, his protégé Connor, and the rest of the Revenants now must decide how to ensure their place at the top of the food chain.
Mot finds himself smack in the middle of an escalating war between mortals and immortals, neither of which he identifies with. Will he choose a side? Or will he be labeled a traitor and be hunted down not only by humans, but by creatures as invulnerable and merciless as he is?