Andrew Pepoy has worked for U.S., Canadian, British, and French publishers on hundreds of comics on such characters and titles as The Simpsons, Fables, Batman, The X-Men, Iron Man, Star Wars, Wallace & Gromit, Scooby Doo, Betty & Veronica, Lanfeust, Uncle Scrooge, and many more over the last 30 years. In 2000 Andrew redesigned Little Orphan Annie and drew the newspaper strip for the next year, and in 2005 he brought his knack for retro glamour with a modern twist to writing and drawing a revival of the classic Archie Comics character, Katy Keene. Since 1990 he has written and drawn many stories of his own Harvey Award-nominated creation, The Adventures of Simone & Ajax, which has been collected in book form by IDW and by Andrew’s own imprint, Spicy Tomato Studios. Nominated several times, Andrew won an Eisner Award in 2009 and has also won an Inkwell Award and been nominated for the Harvey and Hugo Awards. He lives in Chicago. His recent work includes drawing a Dinosaucers mini-series for Lion Forge, inking the 50th Anniversary graphic novel adaptation of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine for Titan, inking various Simpsons comics for Bongo Comics, art for MAD Magazine, a run as guest artist on the Dick Tracy newspaper comic strip, inking and drawing Die Kitty Die for Astrocomics, and drawing covers for Doctor Who, Archie vs. Predator II, Red Sonja, Lady Death, and other titles.

I have known Andrew Pepoy for more than 15 years and I first discovered Simone & Ajax in a Christmas card from Andrew. I was excited to hear that Andrew was coming back to Simone & Ajax with a new Kickstarter. Andrew was nice enough to stop by First Comics News and let our readers know all about Simone & Ajax.

First Comics News: Simone & Ajax debuted in early 1990, what makes this the right time to launch a Kickstarter?

Andrew Pepoy: I’d been wanting to do something to celebrate their 30th anniversary. The Adventures of Simone & Ajax first appeared in my college arts magazine in 2000… their first comic book appearance coming in 1994… but, most of all, this seemed the right time to try to give people some fun and jokes, some laughs to help with these strange and uncertain times. A smile and a chuckle can go a long way.

1st: For fans who are new to Simone & Ajax, who is Ajax?

Andrew: Ajax is a small, 3-foot tall dinosaur. He is the more pragmatic of the dauntless duo. While deep down he loves adventure, too, he’d rather ponder and worry before leaping into the fray. Perhaps some of his timidity stems from being a small, green dinosaur in a predominantly human world. And while Ajax looks up to Simone for her spontaneity, they are just good pals hanging out together.

1st: How did Ajax survive to this day?

Andrew: He wonders that sometimes, too. Maybe he’s really not that old. It’s a mystery!

1st: How did Simone & Ajax meet?

Andrew: They met at an art museum when they both sought shelter from a battle between the museum guards and pudgy, winged babies fighting for royalties for all the reproductions of paintings they’re in. This story was serialized in Arrow Anthology a long time ago, but if this Kickstarter goes well I hope to do another campaign next year to collect, for the first time, all of Simone & Ajax’s early adventures. I hope people will please check out this current campaign, so I can make both books happen.

1st: How does Ajax keep Simone out of trouble?

Andrew: Simone is his best friend, and he follows her not only for the adventure but also to keep her out of too much danger. Ajax puts an element of stability and common sense into Simone’s life, much as Simone lends an air of fun and excitement to Ajax’s otherwise uneventful life.

1st: Simone and Ajax live in the ruins of Rene de Chartres Cathedral. Where is that?

Andrew: In a field in the woods. Can’t tell you more. It’s a secret!

1st: How do the woods around Rene de Chartres Cathedral allow Simone & Ajax to move through time and space?

Andrew: Another mystery! We may never know!

1st: What is the Lemming Squad?

Andrew: Simone & Ajax met Jim, Jim, George, Steve, and Bruce in one of their early, holiday adventures, and the lemmings came home to live with them. They’re small and don’t take up much space! They give Simone & Ajax companionship at home, lessons in jumping off things, and sometimes join them on their adventures. And they come in handy when our duo find themselves in need of rescue, because wherever they are… Lemmings Always Know! Especially polar lemmings, who are very mysterious.

1st: In what time period does Hi-Seas Hijinx take place?

Andrew: In the era of pirates and sailing ships! Or does it? It could be any time Simone & Ajax want! They’ve had adventures in ancient Atlantis, the era of barbarians, and more. In this new Kickstarter book, they meet up with pirates, go to the old west, and have an adventure in the era of hardboiled private-eyes, as well as meet monsters in Transylvania.

1st: Trembilin’ Tumbleweeds is a western, how does Ajax hold a six-shooter?

Andrew: He doesn’t. He’s had problems with this in the past, such as when he’s a private eye. No hands or fingers!

1st: How do Simone & Ajax end up fighting vampires and werewolves?

Andrew: This story is in the Kickstarter book. Simone meets a guy at the blood bank. She’s donating blood, but he’s making a withdrawal. They get to chatting, and he invites her to visit him in his castle in Transylvania. I’ve written this whole story and will soon be drawing pages. As soon as a few are finished you’ll be able to read a preview at www.simoneandajax.com.

1st: Who is Ajax, Private Eye?

Andrew: Ajax is a big fan of old movies and likes to pretend he’s Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon” or some other classic detective, so he puts on his hat, grabs a root beer, and sits in his office, full of far more Venetian blind shadows than seems possible, starts narrating his gumshoe existence, and finds a caper. Simone tags along because she thinks Ajax is adorable when he’s tough as nails.

1st: Do the characters in the story notice that Simone shows a little more skin than the average person in that time period?

Andrew: I hadn’t, so maybe the characters don’t, either. She takes her modern-day tastes wherever she goes and adapts them to that era and places as she chooses to.

1st: For fans who are unsure, do you have some free previews for them to check out?

Andrew: I sure do! Right now you can go to www.simoneandajax.com and read free previews of the first 2 stories in the new book. As soon as I get a few pages from each of the other two drawn I’ll be posting them there, too. If you sign up for my newsletter on my website or back the campaign, so you’ll get Kickstarter updates, I’ll let people know when there are more previews up.

1st: Is this a new adventure or a reprint?

Andrew: While some of it has appeared online, about 2/3 has never been seen before, and none of the stories have been printed before. This will be an original collection of 4 adventures, with Simone & Ajax facing pirates, danger in the old west, vampires and werewolves and other monsters, and a private-eye caper.

1st: Digitally is it 4 separate issues?

Andrew: There are 4 stories, but it’s not necessarily 4 separate issues. I know when I pledge to a Kickstarter I want to read it as soon as possible, and since it will take me a few months to finish drawing it and a couple of months past that to get the books printed and then into people’s hands, I want to make sure they get to read it along the way while waiting. Even though each story is a different length, I thought I’d get people 4 issues to give them something to enjoy while they wait. The first issue will be the pirate story, the second the western adventure, but the third story, Monster Mia, is extra-long, so that will take the whole third and half the fourth issue, that last issue concluding that story and also containing Puttin’ On the Ritz, the Ajax, private eye tale.

1st: When can readers expect to get the first digital issue?

Andrew: Within a few weeks of the end of the campaign, probably not more than a month, and then roughly each month after that.

1st: What is the minimum pledge to get a digital copy?
$5 for the first issue alone, but only $10 to get the complete book digitally. And the complete book will also include any digital-only stretch goals.

1st: So one issue is $5, but all four is $10? What a bargain.

Andrew: I hope backers will think so! Plus, if you buy the complete book in either digital or physical form, you’ll get a bunch of rare bonus material exclusive to the complete book, like my Holiday cards, drawings I’ve done for friends or other publications, and more.

1st: When can fans expect to get the physical print book?

Andrew: Spring of next year. All of it is written and thumbnailed, but I still have some of it to draw, and printing will take 2 to 3 months, so I’m saying April 2021, but I’m going to do my best to try and deliver it sooner. Everyone who buys the complete book in either form will get the digital version as soon as it goes off to the printer, so they’ll have that to keep them reading while they wait.

1st: What is the minimum pledge to get a print copy?

Andrew: $30, plus shipping, plus you get all physical and digital stretch goals with it.

1st: If you order the print edition do you also get the digital issues too?

Andrew: You sure do! With the print edition you’ll still get the 4 digital issues as finished and the complete digital book, too.

1st: What’s in the Mystery Box?

Andrew: First of all, the physical book, but every box will also come with some piece of art by me. It might be a rough sketch, a page thumbnail, a cover rough, or even a small piece of finished art. One random backer of this will get a finished, published pin-up worth at least $200, but every pledge for a mystery box will get some kind of original art. Every box will also have other things, like comics by me, Archie comics and digests, comics-related books… I have some Carl Barks Duck hardcovers and some great comic strip reprints set aside… vintage pulps and mystery paperbacks. Lots of things I like that I hope others who like my comics will also enjoy.

1st: Tell me about the Commission reward?

Andrew: Along with getting the physical book and stretch goals, anyone who pledges for this will get a convention-style drawing of one single character of their choice, in ink on 9×12 board. If they pick Simone or Ajax they get a 2nd character free, as long as it’s the other half of the duo.

1st: You are offering a one-on-one, via video, portfolio reviews. How much is this and how many of the rewards are being offered?

Andrew: I’ll offer 3 of these reviews. I know I always appreciated… in fact, I still do… someone knowledgeable looking over my work and trying to steer me in ways to make the work better. I like to think that after 30 years in the business I could make some helpful suggestions. The pledge is $80, which includes the $30 physical book.

1st: Tell me about the Lunch with Andrew reward. Who is paying? Where are you going to eat? What do you talk about during lunch?

Andrew: There will only be one reward of this level, but the backer and I would agree on a restaurant somewhere in my neighborhood, Wicker Park, in Chicago. We’d each cover our own lunch. We’d talk about whatever we wanted, especially if the backer has certain things they want to chat about, ask, whatever. It’s their time. I’ll do my best to make things fun! And I hope it’s safe to do this soon, but we’ll have to wait a bit if it isn’t.

1st: For any reader still on the fence, what makes Simone & Ajax so cool no true comic fan should miss it?

Andrew: You mean besides the lemmings? Other than it being a fun comic full of silliness, I’m always making little nods to other comics or comics-related things. There are little Easter eggs comics fans will pick up on that maybe the casual reader might not notice. This book has a few hidden themes and jokes, about comics and other things, too. I’m waiting for some reader to catch them and write me about them. I’m as much a fan of comics as I am a creator of them, so I try to make something that I, as a reader and fan, would have a great time reading.

1st:  You can find the Simone & Ajax Kickstarter

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Andrew Pepoy has worked for U.S., Canadian, British, and French publishers on hundreds of comics on such characters and titles as The Simpsons, Fables, Batman, The X-Men, Iron Man, Star Wars, Wallace & Gromit, Scooby Doo, Betty & Veronica, Lanfeust, Uncle Scrooge, and many more over the last 30...