The Adventures of Simone & Ajax – Now in Color!
Did Saturday seem a little bit drab without your weekly dose of The Adventures of Simone & Ajax? A little less funny? This Thursday, we make it up to you with brand-new stories, in full color.
Written and drawn by Andrew Pepoy, the new story was colored by Jason Millet. Since graduating from the American Academy of Art in Chicago in the early 1990s Jason Millet has worked as an illustrator in advertising, publishing, games, toys and, of course, comics. His clients include DC Comics, Devil’s Due Publishing, Dark Horse, Penny Farthing Press, Scholastic Books, Wizards of the Coast, Disney and Choose Your Own Adventures.
We had a chance to ask Andrew some questions about his new stories.
COMICMIX: Tell me about your first color story!
ANDREW PEPOY: "Simone, Queen of the Jungle" is a tribute to the old Sheena/Cave Girl/Jungle Girl comics, and picks up where we left off at the end of "Moon Madness," with the rocket ship crashing towards Earth. Fortunately Simone and Ajax leap out with jet packs over a strange prehistoric land in the middle of Antarctica. Simone lands on Jayn of the Jungle, knocking Jayn out as she’s trying to unite the native tribes so they can defeat the unleashed Tiki Monsters. So Simone has to take her place, dressing up as a jungle girl and doing what she and Ajax can to stop the monsters and Ajax’s much larger dino relatives.
CMIX: Does color make it better?
AP: In this case, I think it does. I’m actually a fan of well-done, black-and-white comics, so I don’t always think color is needed, and I sure did have fun doing the earlier stories on duo-shade board to get all those Roy Crane-ish effects, but in my mind Ajax has always been very green, Simone always very colorful, in more ways than one. And I think my colorist has really gotten the look I always pictured, though I can give him pretty detailed notes on what I want.
These days the colors I’m thinking of most for S&A is the work on the more recent Franka graphic novels by Henk Kuijpers. His palette is so bright and lively without being gaudy, and it’s mostly flat with only a little modeling to the color. I’m asking Jason to do a bit more on the modeling, but he’s really keeping the spirit of what I’m looking for, so I’m very happy with it. I really do think the bright color will add a bit more sense of fun to the stories.
CMIX: What have you noticed about the characters in color that you didn’t notice before?
AP: As pictured in my mind, the stories always were in color, so they haven’t changed much.
CMIX: Tell us about your colorist. Where’s he from? What’s he done?
AP: The colorist is Jason Millet, a friend of mine who lives not too far away here in Chicago. He’s done lots of work in advertising, he can draw, paint, color, everything, and has done comics work of one kind or another for DC, Devils’s Due, Dark Horse, and others. But it was his work coloring some of Steve Byant’s Athena Voltaire that really made me want to see about getting him to color Simone & Ajax. We worked together once before when I got him to color a Liberty Girl story I drew for Heroic Publishing.
I first met Jason, along with Steve Bryant, when, being the big jerk that I am, I cut in front of them in a portfolio line in San Diego. Actually, they were nice enough to let me get in front. They were the first in line to see an editor who hadn’t arrived yet, and I just needed to see this editor for a moment to find out when we were supposed to meet later, and since the editor was very late, we had a good chance to chat. I kept running into them at cons after that and we all got to be friends from there.
CMIX: How did you re-think your approach when color came into the picture? Did it change your storytelling?
AP: I don’t think it changed my storytelling too much, but it has been an adjustment in the drawing. Like I said, the stories were always in color in my head, and part of the process of drawing all the earlier stories was to adapt it to black-and-white and work in the use of the 25% and 50% tones of the duo-shade board in the design.
Several times in penciling the new pages I’ve found myself working in shapes for the tones and then realized it has to work without them. It has made the inking a lot less nerve-wracking, as on the duo-shade board, because the tone effects are printed invisibly on the board, that if I made any kind of mistake that needed White-Out, I couldn’t use the duoshade effects there. Now I can make smudges, which I do often, without suddenly freaking out.
CMIX: Do you see these new color stories as, say, a contemporary American Tintin?
AP: Contemporary? In a way… While some of these stories may take place in the past, Simone & Ajax always brings some of the modern world’s thoughts and attitudes with it. And Tintin and its sense of adventure everywhere was certainly an influence. I used to describe Simone & Ajax as "Tintin meets Tank Girl," another inspiration. I guess I’m influenced by lots of things, comics and others, but most seems to have a sense of adventure or fun or, when the best, both.
CMIX: Does using color change the kind of stories you tell?
AP: I don’t think it changes them, but it can help some. "The Maltese Duck," having been inspired by old movies, especially film noir, I think would still work well in black-and-white, but the first story, "Simone, Queen of the Jungle" and the novel to follow later, which is a pirate story, I think will be so much livelier with color. The jungle pages are so much more jungle-ly with all those greens and tiger prints.
CMIX: “The Maltese Duck” is the next story. What’s that about?
AP: The story, "The Case of the Maltese Duck," was originally called "The Case of the Big, Sleeping, Maltese Duck," but that was a bit long, but it does show you where I’m drawing much of my inspiration: from all those old 1940s detective movies, especially the Humphrey Bogart ones, though there’s plenty also drawn from pulps, serials and low-budget B-movies.
Without giving too much away, as revealed in the first episode of the story, the legendary Knights of Malta have guarded some very special ducks, but the last one is lost, and Simone and Ajax get called in to help find him. Ajax likes doing the hardboiled private-eye bit, as has been seen in a couple of the short stories, but here he gets to do it for 60 pages in Simone & Ajax’s first graphic novel. It’s a wacky round-the-world adventure, though many of the locales may seem a bit like something out of an old stereotyped movie set, with the duck being sought by many bad guys at the same time our intrepid duo is after him.
Some of these stereotypes of people or places may get me a few complaints, but I’m hoping people will see I’m having fun with and poking fun at these stereotypes rather than buying into them. And while some might think it’s not for kids, I think kids are smarter than we give them credit for, so as long as it’s a good story with a good bit of silliness, I think they’ll have a good time with it – even if some of the references and parodies go right over their heads. Hopefully these extra layers will keep the adult readers happy.
I guess the main thing is, I have to write it for me to enjoy and hope others will want to come along for the ride.
CMIX: Obviously, Chandler and Bogart were influences here. Did Indiana Jones have any impact on Maltese Duck? Did Simone and Ajax have any impact on Indiana Jones?
AP: Indy indirectly influenced Simone & Ajax in that they were both inspired by many of the same serials, pulps, newspaper strips, and old adventure movies. Those Indiana Jones movies, as a kid, likely led me to seek out that kind of material. As for Simone & Ajax influencing Indy, well, the main reason Indy’s been gone so long is that Simone, who found this really big snake, thought it would be really funny if Indy and the snake…. well, I can’t really say more due to the terms of the legal settlement between Simone and Indy.
CMIX: What is Simone’s favorite color?
AP: I’m betting she’d give you 5 different answers if you asked her 4 times.
CMIX: And Ajax?
AP: I think he likes being green. He’s a big Kermit the Frog fan. As am I.
Remember, you can read brand-new, free issues of The Adventures of Simone & Ajax every week here at ComicMix. Want to get caught up with the story so far? Check out the archive of Adventures of Simone & Ajax issues on ComicMix.