‘Origami Salami’ and Other Fun Words
An Interview with Simon Scheer, author of ‘Splotch’ and the ‘Butcher Bob’ series
By Brandon Smith
The first piece of advice for new writers is “just write.” The second piece of advice for new writers is “just read.”
This second piece of advice is important because writing is about channeling the world around you. By reading, you take in different perspectives, challenge your thinking, and learn from other writers what to do and what not to do. It’s important to learn from other creators to enrich your own writing.
Simon Scheer is “The Guy with the Hair” behind Roundabout Monkey comics. He’s a local indie creator whose work is sold in all three Vault of Midnight locations in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Detroit. Simon himself is a Grand Rapids native who recently graduated from Grand Valley State University.
His work includes the “Butcher Bob and the Quest for the Origami Salami” series, “Under the Dome,” and the graphic novel “Splotch.” The Collegiate met Simon at the Hall Street Bakery downtown to talk about his journey as a creator and to learn his advice for upcoming creators.
What inspired you to start creating?
I started drawing real young, going back to even elementary school. I had amazing teachers. I loved drawing, and they really encouraged me to do it… They were supportive and were able to kinda keep me drawing. They recognized that passion, so just growing up, that’s something that I always did.
Did you follow any particular artists or creators?
Growing up, I loved Dav Pilkey. “Captain Underpants,” all that kinda stuff like “Big Nate,” all those. I just fed off those, those were like my go-to books. Still really good writing, I have to say, but more recently, too, I’ve been really liking Kim Jung Gi. He’s been really influential in my drawing lately, but growing up, that’s where I got my style from.
What’s your writing/art process like?
I’m from a family of authors, basically…I have a brother at MSU right now who’s studying journalism. I was growing up with that in my family, but as far as my writing process goes, it’s weird.
I guess going off from “Splotch,” that started as a COVID project. It was just something that… it was more like an idea for a scene that I was like ‘That would be a fun idea to play with.’ I’m sure you as a writer have a Notes app thing of all the stuff that you want to draw- or I guess write about- and so it was that kinda thing where it started off as here’s a scene I want to do. I want to have this as a whole story, so how do we go about making this into a story? And just kinda fleshing it out from there.
Was your family really supportive?
For sure, for sure. We’d always read together. We had giant bookshelves and stuff, and so it’s just been part of the family… That’s something that they’ve been very supportive of.
Where do your ideas come from, and do they change as you go?
It’s always changing. I take a lot of inspiration just from the world around me. I was always writing stuff down. If I notice something like there’s a guy walking across the street right now, what’s his story? Or if I see a neighbor is chasing a cow, what’s the story behind that? Just being able to write that down, keep an eye out for everything.
It’s always looking for ideas and being able to draw inspiration from the world around you.
How did it feel having your work published?
It was the weirdest thing. It was so weird, dude. The first copy I got of “Splotch,” it just blew me away… I don’t wanna say (it was like) having a kid, but as someone who hasn’t had kids, this is the closest I’ve gotten to having a kid, you know? It was just the weirdest feeling.
I worked on “Splotch” for two years, and to be able to see that come to life and have it turn from an idea that I had in my head… to an actual finished book that I was able to hold in my hands as a finished printed copy? It was just something else.
When I was making it, I wasn’t thinking about if I wanted color or black-and-white, but I was going in and filling it in with color. When I went to print it, it was like 50 bucks a copy to have (color). I was like ‘Ah okay fine, I’ll do black and white.’
What was the process like getting it published?
As far as publishing goes, I was able to self-publish pretty easily. That part wasn’t too bad. I was able to get an ISBN number, it was mostly pushing papers if anything. I can’t describe it in a way that will make it sound at all appealing. It was basically just file for what’s the title gonna be, what’s the release date gonna be, here’s a number, and here you go, you self-published. Wait a week and you’re good. It’s really nothing too difficult.
What was it like monetizing your work?
That was a whole other learning curve that I wasn’t ready for.
A color copy was 50 bucks versus the black and white was maybe 15. I went in and I said ‘Okay, we want to be able to make a profit off of this. How do we do that?’ And so I started preorders when I knew the release date… just kinda like to see how many people wanted it, and going from there. That helped me get a sense of how many people wanted it, how many I should print, and from there, the price.
What about marketing?
Honestly, it comes down to who you know. Lots of family and friends… I’ve been lucky enough to have a bunch of friends who have been really supportive of me. When they saw this was coming out, they were like ‘This is awesome!’ and super stoked and sharing it a lot.
As far as marketing goes, just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. That means post on social media, get other people to repost and post their own stuff. Spread the word, don’t be shy, get that fanbase going.
Where did the name Roundabout Monkey come from?
It’s so funny, so… I’ve been through a bunch of different names. I’ve done comics forever, maybe since like fourth, fifth grade. I’ve gone through a lot of different iterations of naming. I think “Roundabout Monkey,” I think that started in high school. That was just a random name that I came up with.
I think it’s just one of those stupid names that kinda stuck. I saved it as my website URL, and then it was too late to back down. We’re here now, we’re in it to win it.
Wordplay inspired your “Butcher Bob and the Quest for the Origami Salami” series. What’s your favorite bit of wordplay?
Me and my brother and one of my cousins, we have this group chat together. For the longest time, this started as an inside joke, my cousin was like ‘I have too big of a list of random indie band names!’ He’s like ‘I need to limit it to 10,’ so we were like ‘Why don’t we start a chat for random indie band names?’
I think honestly that’s probably one of my biggest achievements because I play bass in a friend group, just a garage band, and I think the biggest achievement from that group chat was our band name. “Indefinite Bulgogi.”
Where did you get the idea for the tattoos in “Splotch”?
That was one of the things that I actually kept from my original scene. The first scene I thought of when I first was thinking of “Splotch” was this guy who comes into a police station like ‘Dude, I just killed someone. I killed someone with tattoos! The tattoos are moving!’ He sounds crazy, but that was part of the idea that I had.
“Under the Dome” tackles mental health. How important is that to you?
It’s pretty important. I’ll go a little into the backstory of that book, too. I just graduated from (Grand Valley), graphic design major. Art’s in my life. And so part of my last semester, final design class, it was my senior project. I have to see a design project from start to finish, all self-led. That’s kinda how “Under the Dome” came to be.
The reason I’m so passionate about mental health is that it’s something that everyone struggles with. I feel like it’s not talked about enough. Me personally, I’ve had my own struggles. Anxiety, depression, all those things. I decided that this was something that needs to be brought to the forefront of everything, especially college students. “Under the Dome” was meant to be like an accessible way for really anyone but particularly college students to talk about mental health just because it’s such a prevalent issue.
What was your experience like at Grand Valley State University?
It was a really great place. I have no complaints whatsoever. The design program, the art program as a whole… it’s just such a great place to get a degree in that. I love all my professors, they’re all so helpful even post-grad, anyone can just email them like ‘How do I make a resumé? What is this?! I need a job, dude!’ They’ve been so helpful about all that stuff. It’s just such a good place and I’ve made so many friends both in and out of program. There’s so many extracurriculars you could do and ways to get involved, so I really like it.
Repping the place all the way to the grave!
What advice would you give to new creators?
How do you (write a graphic novel)? Don’t give up. It’s freaking intimidating as all get-out, and you don’t want to actually start, but it’s like ‘Just do it.’ That’s my biggest advice with that.
I saw this interview with Tyler the Creator… he was talking to someone like ‘You want to make an album?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Why haven’t you started it yet?’ ‘I don’t know, I’m scared.’ ‘Scared of what?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Then start it. What, you’re scared of what people will think? Just start it.’
It’s a lot, but it’s a whole process. Figure things out as you go, as long as you have the desire to do it, what’s stopping you? As far as art goes in general, just don’t stop making. Just keep drawing, keep designing, keep writing. Keep knocking on doors. That’s really the biggest advice that I can give anyone, really. You never know what could come from (that).