Hilarious in execution, serious in subject matter, irreverent to human life, and an homage to various science fiction tropes; This only scratches the surface of what comprises Demon. Broken up into four books, this lengthy comic by writer and artist Jason Shiga and published by First Second touches on everything from scientific imaginings to questions of morality, all with a pinch of “Quentin Tarantino-esque” violence. The violent work that is Demon has been nominated for an Eisner award at next week’s San Diego Comic-Con. In a recent interview with Jason Shiga, who just last year moved from the states to France, I couldn’t hold back my plethora of questions regarding his work. Warning for all you readers, mature subject matter and spoilers ahead!
I just binged on all four of the Demon books. My first thought after my brain finished processing what I had just read were, “…Wow…”, followed by, “How did the author get anyone to publish this comic-insanity?” I guess my first real question is, what was it like, this journey from conception, to comic, to book?
Shiga: I assumed out of the gate that Demon would likely never be published. But instead of trying to make it “more-friendly” to publishers, I wanted to double down and make something even more unpublishable in both form and content. This includes varying issue sizes, from 4 pages to 60 pages, having an all-black issue and of course the depraved content which we’ll talk about later. The plan was that I’d release it as a series of self-printed minicomics over the course of 2 years, then call it a day.
How long did it take until all four books were finally out?
Shiga: It took 5 years all together to write pencil and draw but I don’t like keeping folks waiting for too long. I always think about that time between Eightball 19 and 20 when that bullet was just floating in the air for a year. The minicomics were monthly over a two-year period. The First Second collections come out every 4 months so it’s literally just a year to get all 4 volumes.
How did it come about that First Second would publish Demon? Did they have specific stipulations regarding the comic?
Shiga: None! Everyone at First Second was eager to follow me down this dark path. It’s still hard for me to believe that Demon is being put out by the publishers of Zita Space Girl. But it happened.
In what was basically the forward of the first book, you warned readers of the craziness that they would soon find. What was your motivation for the insane amounts of bloodshed and dark humor, sprinkled with “cum-knives” and camel sex.
Shiga: I like to think it isn’t all just shock for shock sake. I really did want to suggest a serious a philosophical theory about what makes for a meaningful life. It just so happened that I felt the hedonic treadmill was best represented visually by camel sex.
Did you find yourself going nearly as crazy as your main character during this project?
Shiga: I don’t think Jimmy is crazy in the story. I think everything he does is based on bedrock priors followed by airtight logical deductions. Even the cum knife.
I would really love to know what some of your influences have been, on this project and your other work.
Shiga: I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie, especially when it comes to sci-fi paperbacks. The observant reader will notice everything from Rudy Rucker to HF Saint’s “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” worked its way into the story. Of course, in terms of comics the biggest influence would be Death Note.
The art style definitely helped to remind that none of the book was to be taken seriously. Was it a choice made particularly for the comic or just your style in general?
Shiga: I’d like to say it was intentional, but that’s just the way I draw.
Last year you moved to France. How has the transition been for you and your family?
Shiga: It’s been wonderful! I was invited by the “Maison Des Auteurs” for a yearlong residency to work on whatever I wanted with complete freedom!!! It was very liberating to just forget about what publishers or even readers would want and work on a complete moonshot comic. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.
What prompted you to write about issues like suicide, mass homicide, demon possession, and mathematics?
Shiga: Well they say write what you know.
What reactions have you gotten over Demon?
Shiga: I’ve been abroad for the year so I’ve really only talked with my French readers. If France is any indication though, I think the reaction has been good so far.
How does it feel to be nominated for an Eisner Award at San Diego Comic-Con?
Shiga: It’s a great honor! I’m sad I won’t be able to attend the awards this year mostly because I would have loved to meet the other cartoonists in my category such as Charles Burns, Dame Darcey, Dylan Horrocks and Tom Hart who were some of my biggest influences when I was starting out.
What can you possible do next to top Demon?
Shiga: I’m working on a 600-page interactive comic with an automated memory system that unfolds into a cube.
Any regrets over things you wished you included or didn’t include in the comic?
Shiga: I wish there was some way to include all the crazy letters pages from the mini comics (like the one from a guy who said he tried to create his own cum knife but it didn’t work), but I guess that’s part of the ephemeral beauty of reading the story in minicomic form.
It’s too bad you weren’t able to attend Comic-Con this year, but good luck at the Eisners!
Shiga: Thanks! I’m returning to the States July 23, literally the final day of Comic-Con! Rotten timing but happy to have the extra time in France.