In 2011, the first issue of Nonplayer, written and drawn Nate Simpson, was a hit on the comics market. Instantly selling out at local stores and acquiring a movie deal, I was only able to find a copy of it at SDCC later that year and was fortunate enough to have Simpson sign and doodle in it. But as suddenly as it appeared, Nonplayer vanished.
The appeal of Nonplayer is the combination of art and intrigue focused on Simpson’s idea of a future were games shape reality. Our main protagonist, Dana Stevens, enjoys the escape of online gaming because it allows her to avoid the hardships of her life. The game doesn’t just provide escape, but it also grants Dana power and status in the virtual world. The plot develops when we explore that virtual world to discover that the characters native to that world are more than just nonplayer characters, giving credence to the title.
The future kind of sucks, and that goes double for Dana Stevens – she’s stuck in a dead-end tamale delivery job, and she’s way too old to be living with her mom. But in the online fantasy world of Jarvath, she’s an elite warrior. When she slays the wife of celebrity game character King Heremoth, her fame seems all but guaranteed – that is, until the game spins totally out of control.
Four years is a long time in comics. It’s fair to say Nonplayer coming back to the environment is not too dissimilar to finding Captain America floating in an iceberg. Despite despite its hit status, most people would’ve said the title was dead. Rumors were similar for The Chilling Tales Of Sabrina, Teenage Witch that was only delayed 6 months between issues 1 and 2. Over those years, infrequent reports cropped up over the status of Simpson and the title but there was no clear evidence of the second issue till Simpson announced that he’d finished the second issue in December 2014.
At the time, there was really no other book like Nonplayer. The Walking Dead was the dominant force in independent comics, so I was ready for a new change of pace. One with color, preferably. Simpson delivered in spades, and actually made me crave answers to the thought piece he gave us in issue one. What happens when video games and entertainment determines your reality? What happens to your reality when those forces you entrust with your reality turn on you? Me, and many other fans, were eagerly awaiting those answers and to see where the story would go. It’s like if we saw The Flash pilot, but then there was no series. Sadness all around. Not to mention, that art. Back in 2011, we didn’t have Fiona Staples killing it with Saga, we had Nate Simpson drawing a fantasy/science fiction juggernaut. When I think of relative comparisons Simpson’s art today, my brain jumps to think of McKelvie/Wilson and Staples because the colors, lines, and expression seem so powerful and flavorful.
Despite the hiatus, I believe Nonplayer will again prosper and perhaps even more so now than it would’ve in 2011. I think the readership’s responsiveness to titles like Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, and Sex Criminals, signal that there’s a huge market for books that provoke thought and aren’t something in spandex. Readers are eager for quality independent content; the two latter titles recently acquired television deals through Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, Inc. and Universal TV. Though things may have gone off track for Nonplayer initially, it’s finally arrived to reclaim its star status in the industry and give much needed relief to all those patient fans.
With the second issue having just hit stands June 3rd, and the reprints of issue 1 having hit stands in April and June, it shouldn’t be very hard to find a copy in local shops. I am sure re-orders are available. If all else fails, digital via Comixology and Image Comics is a sure way to track down the book. In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Simpson said in regard to future plays for the title,
I cannot get into specifics other than to say that there is a plan that is being discussed. My personal goal, should all the stars align, is to have all seven issues completed in the next five years. I think there is a way for this comic to come out more than once a year, which would certainly be a vast improvement over the last one. I don’t think anyone, including myself, has the patience to get through a seven-issue series at two issues per decade.