Nimona, Noelle Stevenson's hilarious and heartfelt tale of a not-so-evil villain and his pushy, shapeshifting sidekick, is one of our favorite current webcomics. Now that it has completed its online run, a Nimona print volume is on its way, and we've got the cover and an interview with Stevenson.
HarperCollins will be releasing Stevenson's Nimona graphic novel in May 2015, so that we can consume the mashed-up science fiction and fantasy adventure as a complete story. If you haven't read Nimona yet (and you really should), it follows Lord Ballister Blackheart, a disgraced former knight and brilliant inventor with a grudge against his the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and his one-time brother-in-arms Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. But as Nimona helps Ballister with a new set of schemes, secrets are revealed from all sides.
And here is Stevenson's cover in all its glory:
We spoke with Stevenson, who is also one of the writers and creators of the comic Lumberjanes, about the creation of Nimona, and why the reading experience will be different in print:
Where did Nimona come from?
It started as an assignment for school. One of my illustration classes gave us an assignment to create a character and then write one page on this character and turn it into these books where we would write a little bit of the story. And so I created this character just off of the cuff and after I turned in the assignment for that class, I was like, "I really like this character. I want to do more with her." I started to do these one-page stories about her, which are the first pages of Nimona. Eventually, a year after I made those first pages, I decided, "I really like this. I want this to be a complete story." So I ended up putting it online as a webcomic and trying to take it through to the end, which I did.
But we've also got Lord Ballister Blackheart, who is such a wonderful character. At what point did you decide this would be his story?
Well, I still feel like it's very much Nimona's story. It's just through his eyes. I think I wanted to do that because there is this mystery around Nimona and who and what she is. And if it was from her point of view, that mystery wouldn't be as much of a mystery. I've always kind of gravitated toward characters who are a bit distant from the narrator or the point-of-view characters, so that's kind of important to me, to set up a different character who would be the point-of-view character for the story.
I also love the way that you play with archetypes. I mean, we see the anti-villain a lot in storys, but we also have Nimona as the sidekick who immediately takes charge. Did that dynamic emerge as you were developing the story?
I guess it was just sort of what naturally happened. I was inspired by a few of my favorite sidekick and villain pairs from different stories that I was already a fan of. So there's a little bit of the Magneto/Mystique in there, but one of my biggest inspirations is actually from the animated show Kim Possible, because the villain and his sidekick, who, she's very unimpressed with everything he does, and is actually a lot smarter and more confident; she's unmotivated. So I was always really, really fond of that dynamic and there's a little bit that went into that, the kind of upstart sidekick who's like, "I have all these big ideas about how this is going to be and I just have to start somewhere."
We also have this wonderful pair of platonic love stories, between Ballister and Nimona and between Ballister and Goldenloin.
This wasn't my intention when starting the story, granted, but as the story went on I definitely realized that Ballister and Goldenloin's relationship had been romantic in the past. And it's more of my personal approach to that is that I still gravitate more towards strong friendship and connections that aren't exactly romantic or sexual in nature and that's always more interesting to me. So maybe two characters who have dated in the past and what their relationship is now and trying to rebuild trust between two people when there's so many obstacles in the way. So I think it's just the way I approach strong relationships of any nature, whether romantic or platonic. Similar things interest me about those relationships, so they tend to read as similar, which I think confuses some people who are used to more straightforward romance stories. People are like, "Are Nimona and Ballister romantic?" And I'm like, "No! Of course not." "Well are Ballister and Goldenloin in a relationship?" And I'm like, "Yeah, okay."
What made you decide to set your story in this combined science fiction and fantasy world?
That all goes back to that original assignment. It was all really off the cuff, quick brainstorming, because I think we had half an hour to come up with these characters. And I was like, "I'm going to have this character who's a shapeshifter—people love shapeshifters." And I think part of the concept was that I was making a joke with my friend that it's going to be steampunk, but instead of Victorian, it's going to be medieval. So it's not steampunk; it's monkpunk. And that was a hilarious joke at the time. It turned into this punky, chainmail-clad person and then a robot-armed knight villain. Yeah, so it started out as a throwaway joke to the person sitting next to me in class, but it ended up really informing the world of the comic. You know what? Knights are awesome. Robots are awesome. Why don't we have both? I can't claim that was especially thought out.
Do you feel like the story is going to read very differently in print, with people reading it as a single-serving story rather than living with it for months and months?
Oh yeah, I hope so. Yes, it's always going feel a little different depending on the time frame that it's consumed over. So there certain things when you're doing a webcomic, "Bear with me on this page. I know it's not what you want to see right now, but it's going to be important. It's important for this to be the whole story." And hopefully when people go back and read it as one finished product, those choices will be more clear and everything will work together. I think also a few people have been upset that I didn't exactly answer a lot of the questions that were set up in the comic, and the thing is I kind of did answer them; it's just kind of hidden in foreshadowing. If you were to sit down and read it all at once instead of, "This pages is referencing another page that I posted seven months ago"—then it's harder to get that callback. So I think it will be easier to pick up on things when you're reading it as one cohesive unit.
One thing I really I want to know is, when are we getting a Nimona animated film?
I would love that! And I'm working on an animated show right now, Wander Over Yonder with the Disney Channel. So that's been really exciting. It's a whole new realm for me, but I'm both excited for the potential of any kind of animation things that Nimona could potentially be and it also makes me happy that Nimona exists in its current form. Things do tend to get changed; things do go through levels of bureaucracy before they can get made. And they do end up very different. So I think having it in this book and having it be done and finished in this thing that exists. It's like, "It's okay if you change it, because it already exists the way I imagined it. You can't change that."