San Diego Comic-Con 2014

San Diego Comic Con LogoIt’s that time again! Time when the comic industry makes its annual pilgrimage to America’s Finest City for Comic-Con International. If you’ve been to the San Diego Comic-Con in recent years you know that it can be a crowded, frenetic, clamorous, media whirlwind as studios, publishers, celebrities, outlandish marketing gimmicks, barkish PR sharks, movies, television, games, toys, collectibles, comics, and every niche aspect of pop culture you can imagine (and many you can’t) compete for 125,000+ people’s attention – simultaneously.

How do you see it all? Well, you don’t. Not really. However there are plenty of sites that have sound advice for planning ahead but remember, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

As usual, on this blog we like to focus on digital comics and storytelling. we’ve run down the convention panels related to digital comics creation and publishing. A word of note; the panel descriptions are pulled directly from the San Diego Comic Con Program Guide and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this blog. However, beneath each panel description we break down why, in our opinion, you might want to consider attending that panel. So without further ado…

THE SWITCH TO DIGITAL – Thursday, July 24th, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, Room 7AB
“From mail to photographs and now comics, everything is making the move to digital. Comic-Con International special guests Colleen Coover (BANDETTE), Batton Lash (SUPERNATURAL LAW), Jeff Smith (BONE), Rina Piccolo (TINA’S GROOVE), and Paul Tobin (BANDETTE) discuss with moderator Mark Waid (DAREDEVIL, Thrillbent) when and why they make the switch to digital.”

Why Should You Go? Professional artists and writers giving sound advice on the how and why of digital creative moderated by a veteran comic writer/digital publishing pioneer. This panel should be informative and enlightening for anyone interested in the creative process.

Agent MMARVEL: HOUSE OF IDEAS – Thursday, July 24th, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm, Room 7AB
“Love having the best comics in the industry on your mobile devices? Want to know how Marvel stays on the cutting edge of technology while bringing you what you love? Want to learn more about Infinite Comics? Well, this panel is for you, True Believer! Get exciting news from Ryan Penagos (Executive Editorial Director of Digital) and other guests on what’s happening with the Marvel Comics App, Marvel AR, Marvel.com, Marvel’s vast social media presence, and more in this can’t-miss panel!”

Why Should You Go? With original digital publishing efforts like Infinite Comics, Marvel AR, and Adaptive Audio it’s not hard to see that Marvel isn’t afraid to explore and pivot their strategies as they go. Ryan “Agent M” Penagos is a preeminent social media figure and knows how to engage the audience as well. Whether or not you’re a fan of Marvel content this panel will make you think about your own publishing strategies.

Batman '66 Meets The Green Hornet by Alex Ross

Batman ’66 Meets The Green Hornet by Alex Ross

DC DIGITAL: DOWNLOAD THIS! – Thursday, July 24th, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, Room 6DE
DC Entertainment’s digital initiative has been a pioneer in digital comics. Get an exclusive look at the exciting series that make up the future of digital comics with the all-star talent behind them, including Ralph Garman (BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET), Marc Guggenheim (ARROW), Kyle Higgins (BATMAN BEYOND), Kevin Smith (BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET), Cat Staggs (SENSATION COMICS), Freddie E. Williams II (INFINITE CRISIS) and others behind them!”

Why Should You Go? DC Comics panels tend to focus on content and they often preview unseen art and hint at future stories and events. If you’re interested in DC Comics’ digital content or the creators mentioned in the description then this is definitely a panel to hit.

COMIXOLOGY: ASK ME ANYTHING – Thursday, July 24th, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, Room 8
ComiXology, the revolutionary cloud-based digital comics platform, spills the beans on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about digital comics, publishing, life, and more! Learning everything from how to publish your own comic book through comiXology Submit to how to begin your own successful startup just like comiXology, from co-founders and panelists David Steinberger and John D. Roberts. Moderated by comiXology’s marketing & PR maven, Chip Mosher.”

Why Should You Go? Between the acquisition by Amazon, the sunsetting of their original app and the subsequent removal of in-app purchasing in their new app, ComiXology has been in the news quite a bit lately. While the panel description doesn’t explicitly say they’re addressing these topics it does say “Ask Me Anything.”

Thrillbent - a digital comics site by award-winning comics writer Mark Waid and television writer/producer John Rogers.

Thrillbent – a digital comics site by award-winning comics writer Mark Waid and television writer/producer John Rogers.

PITCH YOUR COMIC TO MARK WAID AND THRILLBENT – Thursday, July 24th, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm, Room 8
“Think you have a one-shot digital comic in you that the world should see? Here’s your chance to pitch it to Mark Waid (DAREDEVIL, SUPERMAN: BIRTHRIGHT, EMPIRE), James Tynion IV (BATMAN, THE EIGHTH SEAL, THE HOUSE IN THE WALL), Christina Blanch (THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD), Chris Mancini (COMEDY FILM NERDS), Nicholas Rucka (KITCHEN DEATH MATCH), Lori Matsumoto (Thrillbent general manager), and Raygun (Thrillbent web development/design). They’ll listen to your verbal pitch and select the best they hear for further development. Along the way, there’ll be frank discussion about how Mark and his partners do what they do, what works and doesn’t work in digital comics, what makes this medium unique, and what new projects are coming up from Thrillbent!”

Why Should You Go? If you’re interested in pitching a web series to a high profile, professional digital publisher then this is a no brainer. Beyond that, this panel offers a peek behind the scenes at how Thrillbent approaches their publishing plan, what they look for in a series, how the team dynamics work, and the qualities they think make a successful digital comic regardless of whether or not it’s a Thrillbent series.

BREAK INTO DIGITAL COMICS USING THE MOTION BOOK TOOL – Thursday, July 24th, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Room 2
“From BATMAN to MY LITTLE PONY, Madefire and DeviantArt have revolutionized the comic book online. Learn how to publish your comic to DeviantArt in less than five minutes using Madefire’s unique cloud-based tool! Panelists for this session include Dave Gibbons, Bill Sienkiewicz, Liam Sharp, Yuumei, and Stanley ‘Artgerm’ Lau.”

Why Should You Go? Madefire dominates “motion book” storytelling, combining animation with traditional comic art. They’ve recently strengthened their position outside of the App environment by partnering with DeviantArt. If you’re at all curious about what’s going on and how to be a part of what they’re doing then this is definitely the panel to hit. Bonus? Talking about the creative process with comic industry greats like Gibbons (WATCHMEN, DOCTOR WHO), Sienkiewicz (STRAY TOASTERS, ELEKTRA, NEW MUTANTS) and Sharp (DEATHS HEAD II, HULK)!

Monkeybrain ComicsMONKEYBRAIN COMICS: DIGITAL AND BEYOND – Thursday, July 24th, 8:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Room 28DE
“Since launching in 2012, Monkeybrain Comics has become recognized as a premier publisher for quality digital comics, and many of their titles have since been released in print editions by publishers such as IDW, Image/Shadowline, and Dark Horse. Co-publishers Allison Baker (Monkeybrain Comics) and Chris Roberson (EDISON REX) are joined by Anina Bennett (HEARTBREAKERS), Christopher Sebela (HIGH CRIMES), Jen Vaughn (AVERY FATBOTTOM), and Gabriel Hardman (KINSKI) to discuss the advantages of publishing digitally and how digital and print can work together.”

Why Should You Go? Monkeybrain has focused on digital creative with a eye toward print collections and so far the strategy has been working well for them, having forged strong partnerships with ComiXology in addition to a number of traditional print publishers. If you’re interested in living in both worlds this panel should provide some valuable information. Also of note, it might be interesting to hear how Monkeybrain is shifting their strategy in the wake of ComiXology’s purchase by Amazon – if at all.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY: BEHIND THE DIGITAL LINE – Friday, July 25th, 10:00 am – 11:00 am, Room 28DE
“As digital comics have become a driving force of the medium, more publishers and creators have launched digital first lines of comics. How do publishers and creators deal with the unique properties of the web and tablet? How do readers react? Are they an evolution from webcomics or their own medium? And how will technological evolution affect storytelling as more choices arise? PW’s Calvin Reid discusses the digital evolution with the people behind digital lines, including Aces Weekly’s David Lloyd, Monkeybrain’s Alison Baker, New Paradigm’s Brandon Perlow, Black Mask Studio’s Matt Pizzolo, and Sequential’s Russell Willis.”

Why Should You Go? Publisher’s Weekly tends to take a distinctly industry focused approach to their reporting and I would expect this panel to be no different. The panel description alone brings up some important topics, notably devoid of typical comic book marketing hype. With a nice, cross section of comic industry publishing pros this panel looks to be perfect for those that take the business of comics seriously.

The Mire by Becky Cloonan

The Mire by Becky Cloonan

COMIXOLOGY SUBMIT: THE FUTURE OF SELF PUBLISHING – Saturday, July 26th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Room 23ABC
“Think you have what it takes to be comics’ next indie-creator superstar? Then this panel is for you! Since its launch at SXSW in 2013, comiXology Submit has released over 1400 independent comic book series. ComiXology’s marketing & PR maven Chip Mosher and comiXology co-founder and Director of comiXology Submit John D. Roberts are joined by such breakout Submit superstars as the sensational writer and co-creator of THE BUNKER Joshua Fialkov, Eisner Award-winning cartoonist behind THE MIRE Becky Cloonan, and the artist/writer team of the Eisner Award-nominated series WATSON & HOLMES, Brandon M. Easton and N. Steven Harris, for a discussion on how you too can join the ranks of comiXology Submit stardom!”

Why Should You Go? ComiXology’s self-publishing portal has been live for just under a year and a half. Although the system isn’t without fault, in that time an impressive number of creators have published through the platform and some have even gone on to score print distribution of their series through mainstream comic publishers. How Submit fares now that ComiXology has been acquired by Amazon is still subject to debate but the fact remains that ComiXology has provided a relatively turn-key solution for digital comics distribution within the ComiXology ecosystem. If you’re interested in that, this panel should not be missed.

Deadpool: The Gauntlet by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Reilly Brown

Deadpool: The Gauntlet by Gerry Duggan, Brian Posehn, and Reilly Brown

CREATING COMICS THE COMIXOLOGY WAY – Sunday, July 27th, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm, Room 24ABC
“From early experiments like BOX 13 and VALENTINE to more recent efforts like POWER PLAY, Marvel’s Infinite Comics, ATOMIC ROBO, and DC Comics’ BATMAN ’66, ComiXology’s cinematic Guided View Native format has ushered in a new era in comic book creation! Now, you too can learn the trade secrets of creating Guided View Native comics straight from John D. Roberts, comiXology co-founder and director of digital storytelling, joined by Reilly Brown, co-creator of POWER PLAY and artist on DEADPOOL: THE GAUNTLET Infinite Comics, and Jamal Igle creator, writer, and artist of the exciting GVN comic MOLLY DANGER.”

Why Should You Go? I know what you’re thinking; another ComiXology panel? Yes. ComiXology is making an effort to really distinguish their panels topically at this convention. This panel focus’ on creating comics specifically for compatibility with ComiXology’s Guided View. Attempts at branding and ownership aside, creating comics for ComiXology’s Guided View doesn’t substantially different from the way comics are created for digital publisher’s like Thrillbent or how Infinite Comics are displayed in Marvel Unlimited and other non-comiXology platforms (including right here on Comic Book Think Tank). However, none of those other platforms are hosting panels that talk about how to do it. If you’re interested in the creative process behind digital original comics and “turbomedia” then you should consider hitting this panel.

Relaunch by Ron Perazza and Daniel Govar

Relaunch by Ron Perazza and Daniel Govar

DIGITAL COMIC: GOING BEYOND THE PAGE – Sunday, July 27th, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm, Room 8
“A distinguished roundtable of comic creators, digital impresarios and webcomic entrepreneurs discuss all things digital comics – the promise and the peril of the ongoing digital revolution. Panelists include Mark Waid (head honcho at Thrillbent), Ben Abernathy (Editorial Director at Madefire), Ron Perazza (co-founder of Comic Book Think Tank), Jen Brazas (MYSTIC REVOLUTION), Hank Kanalz (Senior VP of Integrated Publishing at DC Comics), and Josh Elder (SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED).”

Update: Because of a scheduling conflict, Mark Waid won’t be able to make the panel. However, Tony Hobdy (Chief Operating Office of iVerse) has been added.

Why Should You Go? Full disclosure, Comic Book Think Tank is taking part in this panel. An open forum with a roundtable of digital comics creators, editors, publishers, and strategists from across a spectrum of start-ups, self-publishers, non-profits, and corporate giants? If you’re at all interested in the how, what, and why of digital comics this is the panel to hit.

KEENSPOT 2014: GIANT-SIZE PANEL OF PURE WEIRDNESS – Sunday, July 27th, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm, Room 4
“YouTube superstar Markiplier of the markiplierGAME channel hosts this totally weird 14th annual Comic-Con panel for pioneering webcomics publisher Keenspot, again featuring their transmedia partner Red Giant Entertainment! Keenspot fans are accustomed to comics being free to read online, but Red Giant is about to “set free” the world of printed comic books! On Free Comic Book Day 2014, Red Giant previewed their revolutionary ad-supported, free-to-consumer comic book line GIANT-SIZE COMICS with a bundled four-pack of #0 issue flipbooks to incredible response (within hours, the sought-after free bundle was paradoxically being purchased on eBay for as much as twenty bucks!). Along with some of Keenspot’s top webcomics creators on the dais to answer audience questions, many of the minds behind the GIANT-SIZE line will be here to discuss and reveal all-new details on its exciting future as a free 72-page weekly event launching in stores later this year. Creators scheduled to appear on this panel include Benny Powell (WAYWARD SONS), David Campiti (PANDORA’S BLOGS), Thomas Fischbach (TWOKINDS), D. J. Coffman and Ally Monroe (THE GOD CHILD), Mort Castle (DARCHON), David Lawrence (MAGIKA), R. C. Monroe (OUT THERE), and GIANT-SIZE story editor Brian Augustyn. All attendees will receive the GIANT-SIZE #0 four-pack bundle!”

Why Should You Go? Keenspot is one of the original webcomic portals, having been founded way back in 2000. Originally an open collective for webcomic creators, Keenspot is now a more exclusively focused digital comics publisher. Red Giant is an intellectual property development and publishing company that has a strategic partnership with Keenspot for distribution outside of Keenspot’s website. Where many webcomic creators are defiantly independent, Keenspot has taken a “strength in numbers” approach that has survived the test of time. If you’re interested in webcomics history and how some webcomics creators have adapted from the early days of of digital publishing to today’s much more digital friendly world then mark this panel on your schedule.

That ought to do it! Of course, if you know of an event, artist, or exhibitor relevant to digital comics that’s not listed here please feel free to mention it in the comments. Finally, if you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and wade into the madness remember to stay safe, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t be creepy.

Good luck!

Digital Comics Roundup: True Believers

True BeliverThe summer is the peak of the comic convention season. Starting with the Glyph Awards and running through the Inkpot Awards, the Eisner Awards, the Bill Finger Award, and on into the Harvey Awards (just to name a few) it’s also a time where the comic industry tends to reflect on it’s own. Joining that illustrious group this year we have the True Believer Awards.

Self described as being “established in 2014 to provide a worldwide platform for professionals and non-professionals alike to voice their opinions of the work being done in the medium” the inaugural True Believer Awards were presented at the London Film and Comic Con. Although I don’t generally agree that digital or “web based” comics should be separated out from the rest of the comics – after all, comics are comics – it’s still worth recognizing the achievements of the digital comics creators that were nominated and, of course, the winner. And the nominees are…

ACES WEEKLY – ACES WEEKLY is a digital comic anthology magazine published by David Lloyd (V FOR VENDETTA, HELLBLAZER, DOCTOR WHO) and featuring a plethora of comic industry greats. Each volume is upwards of 200 pages and available through a subscription on the ACES WEEKLY website.

DUMBING OF AGE by David Willis

DUMBING OF AGE by David Willis

DUMBING OF AGE – DUMBING OF AGE, a daily webcomic by creator David Willis (ROOMIES, IT’S WALKY, SHORTPACKED) tells the story of a Joyce, a Christian homeschooler off to college for the first time, her atheist best friend Dorothy, and an ensemble cast of rebooted and reimagined dysfunctional characters from Willis’ other webcomics, all living in a co-ed dorm at Indiana University. As might be expected, hijinks ensue.

JL8 by Yale Stewart

JL8 by Yale Stewart

JL8 – What if the heroes and villains of the DC Universe were all elementary school children? That’s exactly the question that creator Yale Stewart cleverly answers with his weekly webcomic JL8. It’s worth noting that JL8 is unlicensed and not affiliated with DC Comics whatsoever – which likely means that Stewart has a lot more creative license than you might expect. If you’re a fan of DC Comics or of superheroes it’s worth checking out!

OGLAF – OGLAF is a hilariously ribald webcomic set in a mythic fantasy world with a rotating cast of wizards, witches, warriors, monsters, demons, and every other sort of creature you can imagine – and then some. As creator Bodil Bodilson says in his warning, OGLAF started out as an attempt to make pornography and “degenerated” into a sex comedy. Extremely funny and extremely NSFW.

XKCD – We’ve featured XKCD on this blog before but in case you’re new to webcomics, XKCD, by Randall Munroe, is a webcomic about romance, sarcasm, math, and language. Truly excellent and innovative…and all with just stick figures. Read and enjoy!

So who won? As a reader you can’t really go wrong with any of these comics, they’re all fine examples of digital storytelling created by artists who clearly understand their craft. But the judges at the London Film and Comic Con had to decide and decide they did. Congratulations, ACES WEEKLY!

Digital Comics News & Opinions

It’s been a busy week for digital comics! Let’s break it down:

Motion Books are short burst, episodic, digital reading experience that combine audio and visual elements.

Motion Books are short burst, episodic, digital reading experience that combine audio and visual elements.

MADEFIRE – The motion book start-up Madefire announced new partnerships with print comic publishers Archie, Clive Barker’s Seraphim, Lion Forge, and Aracana. The new publishers will join DC Comics, IDW, Top Cow, and Dark Horse – along with Madefire’s own, original content – in distributing motion books through Madefire’s free app and web platform. What does this mean for digital comics? At the very least it means that Madefire’s is making a strong move to diversify and grow their audience. It could very well mean that Madefire’s brand of motion books is gaining traction and distinguishing itself from the false start of poor animatics that the comic industry collectively branded “motion comics.” This is a good thing; Madefire’s motion books are distinctly different from motion comics. More experimentation with how digital tools and techniques can evolve graphic storytelling and sincere attempts to popularize digital comics are both positive goals and Madefire’s digital first approach is going after both head on. Related: Three Questions with Madefire Co-Founder Liam Sharp.

EMPIRE Volume 2 by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson, Chris, Sotomayor, & Troy Peteri

EMPIRE Volume 2 by Mark Waid, Barry Kitson, Chris, Sotomayor, & Troy Peteri

THRILLBENTThrillbent announced the return of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s Eisner-nominated series EMPIRE. Originally published in print through the short-lived Gorilla Comics and completed with DC Comics, the series will now be offered as a premium digital comic available only to Thrillbent subscribers. What does this mean for digital comics? The idea of reviving a fan-favorite print comic series as a digital comic offers digital readers new content and potentially appeals to fans of the original series, transitioning them to digital reading. Companies like Netflix have seen great success in continuing beloved but cancelled series (eg. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT or STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS) as a draw to their subscription service. Replicating that in a digital comics environment has a lot of marketing and growth potential. As mentioned before, figuring out ways to grow the digital comic readership and expand the market is always a good thing. Making direct connections between the established print comic readership in ways that support comics as a whole makes this a win-win. With a subscription price of just $3.99 it’s a bargain. Related: Three Questions with Thrillbent creators Mark Waid, Geoffo & Mast, Alex De Campi, and Gabe Bautista.

ElectricomicsELECTRICOMICS – From legendary curmudgeon Alan Moore (WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, THE KILLING JOKE, FROM HELL, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, and so on and so forth), comes Electricomics. Presented as “a research and development project to create an app enabling digital comics to be made by anyone” the initiative/app isn’t much more than an announcement. There are some impressive creators attached to the project – Peter Hogan, Garth Ellis, Peter Snejbjerg, Leah Moore, John Reppion, and, of course, Moore himself – but without much more than story titles and brief descriptions, and almost nothing about the proposed toolset, it’s starts to feel like the announcement of an idea instead of a thing. What does this mean for digital comics? Claiming to be part digital comic and part open source toolkit for digital comics creation, Electricomics has a lot of potential. Backed with legendary creators with the possibility for some original, made-for-digital work makes the project even more interesting. We’re big fans of open source digital comics tools, like our Yanapax Comic Reader, so having someone of Moore’s profile experimenting in this space could be beneficial for both the digital comics and open-source software communities. However, it’s all speculation at this point. Chalk this one up to vaporware at the moment but with fingers crossed.

DiamondDIAMONDDiamond Comics is the largest comic distributor of English-language comic books, graphic novels and related pop-culture products in the world. They also have an effective monopoly on the Direct Market in the United States but have struggled with digital distribution, most recently with a stillborn Diamond Digital initiative meant to “empower” brick-and-mortar comic shops to sell digital comics over the counter; almost certainly an effort to placate comic retailers’ unfounded fears about digital comics cannibalizing print sales. Unsurprisingly, the program quietly faded away. Diamond’s most recent effort, a multi-year partnership with eBook distributor Trajectory, is much more sober, building off of their expertise at distribution without being burdened by protectionist fears. This new partnership should enable publishers to distribute their print comics and graphic novels not only through Diamond’s network of Direct Market retailers but also through Trajectory’s network of eBook retailers, library and schools. What does this mean for digital comics? Not much. This is a straight-up, print-to-digital conversation and distribution deal for traditional comics publishers. It’s late in the digital distribution game but it could potentially help a number of print publishers that don’t have the ability or desire to navigate digital distribution on their own. For that reason it’s good because – yeah comics! Don’t expect much in terms of innovation.

Anatomy of a Blurb Book

Anatomy of a Blurb Book

GRAPHICLYGraphicly, a former digital comics app and marketplace turned digital comics conversion house, has been aqcui-hired by indie book and magazine publishing platform Blurb. Existing behind the scenes for the last few years, Graphicly was at one time part of some key initiatives in the mainstream comic market; including funding the comic community and news platform iFanBoy and acquiring the digital comics reader application Double Feature. Recently they’ve focused on print-to-digital conversion services, creating fixed layout ePub files for comics, picture books and the like. This move gives Blurb a much needed boost in comic and graphic storytelling knowledge while nearly doubling the size of their current eBook team. What does this mean for digital comics? Indirectly it could mean a lot. Blurb’s expertise on high-quality, boutique print-on-demand publishing combined with Graphicly’s knowledge of the comic market and graphic storytelling could mesh together nicely and result in Blurb’s ability to offer digital comics creators a turn-key service for print editions of their digital comics. Something to keep an eye on.

Got some digital comics news of your own? Let us know in the comments!

Three Questions With Gabe Bautista

GaboWe’re on a roll with our weekly THREE QUESTIONS interview series! This week we were lucky enough to grab some time with digital comics creator Gabe Bautista (a.k.a. Gabo).

You might be familiar with Gabo’s art from his work with Oni Press (THE LIFE AFTER), DC Comics (ALL STAR WESTERN, THE SPIRIT), his self-published webcomic (JESUS CHRIST: IN THE NAME OF THE GUN) or Image Comics (COMIC BOOK TATOO) – for which he won an Eisner Award. He’s currently working with digital comics collective Thrillbent on ALBERT THE ALIEN and, lest we forget, he’s the creator behind the comic book battling site Entervoid.’

With our THREE QUESTIONS series we presented the same three questions to different digital comics creators, innovators, and pioneers. The similarities (and differences) in their answers is often both interesting and enlightening.

ALBERT THE ALIEN by Gabe Bautista and Trevor Mueller

ALBERT THE ALIEN by Gabe Bautista and Trevor Mueller

CBTT: What is the best thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

GABO: Innovation. The way that comics are read online, the pacing most importantly can now be dictated by the writer. A perfect example is this book I’m currently drawing for Trevor Mueller called ALBERT THE ALIEN, which is not only hosted as a webcomic but also on Mark Waid‘s Thrillbent website. At one point in the story when we reveal the identity of the mastermind behind a big mystery, in print form you turn the page and you are presented with a drawing of the character right? Well on Thrillbent, my writer Trevor, builds up the suspense by making each click of your mouse (clicks are used to progress the story forward or backward) reveals a new panel showing a different panel with a different character, each one reacting to the news differently. This new way of reading comics gives the creative team more control on how the story is paced, it’s really exciting to plan and imagine how to build up suspense that could never be achieved via print or even typical web comics.

PLANET PANIC by Gabe Bautista and Gene Goldstein

PLANET PANIC by Gabe Bautista and Gene Goldstein

One other amazing new frontier of digital comics is slightly animated webcomics. My buddy Gene Goldstein and I are working on a project that has the slightest of animations in each panel, like rain falling, a twinkle in a girls eye, smoke coming off a cigarette as the cherry pulses with a glow. Pretty amazing stuff you can’t otherwise do on paper!

CBTT: What is the worst thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

GABO: One of the worst things about digital specific content is the idea that digital comics can’t be seen by people who live in towns with no internet, or electricity etc. I am a first generation Mexican, and when I was a kid my parents would drag us to their technology free hometowns. I distinctly remember my father’s town didn’t even have a phone. Not one. If someone wanted to call you, they would have to call the next town over (which was about a twenty minute drive away) and ask for you, then some kid on a motorbike would have to race to the town you’re in and try to find you. That’s rough.

THE LIFE AFTER by Gabe Bautista and Joshua Hale Fialkov

THE LIFE AFTER by Gabe Bautista and Joshua Hale Fialkov

CBTT: That’s a really great point. It’s easy to forget that not everywhere in the world is quite as wired as, say, New York City.

GABO: The town has since upgraded and acquired high speed internet and cell phones, and I know it’s a silly thing to worry about as communication technology is getting cheaper all the time, but still – there are some places out there that won’t get to see your product. Then again, on the print side of the issue, I remember bringing my print comics to Mexico and the kids out there would flip the hell out. It was tough trying to find comics out there, you could only really get them in the big cities, and even then they were a bit hard to find.

CBTT: What do you see in the future for digital comics?

GABO: Color e-paper. Where is my damn color e-paper!? I love reading comics on my iPad, but it gets a bit annoying at times. I’ve had a PaperWhite Kindle for a while now and I love reading novels on it, and even sometimes download a few comics that I know will look good in black and white. HELLBOY in particular looks pretty nice, and they’ve got that panel-to-panel system that ComiXology uses, so its not so hard to read it on the tiny device. But still, I’m scared that eInk might have lost the battle against tablets. Especially with how long batteries are lasting these days.

More realistically speaking though, the future for digital comics I feel will be download codes you get from print copies. I’ve seen Marvel and DC doing this as of late on select titles. I hope that someday it’ll be as common as you it is when buying Blurays, and getting a download code for iTunes. God knows I’m running out of room in my house for all these print books – how nice would it be to be able to get rid of the ones I probably won’t read again for ages, and keep them digitally?

CBTT: Pretty nice.

Gabo is currently hard at work Kickstarting a print volume of ALBERT THE ALIEN. You can find more of his work on his personal website or his DeviantArt page. You can also follow him directly on Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube.

Three Questions With Liam Sharp

Liam SharpOur weekly THREE QUESTION interview series with digital comics thinkers, creators, innovators, and pioneers continues this week with someone that is arguable all of the above – Liam Sharp.

Death's Head II by Liam Sharp & Ryan Brown.

Death’s Head II by Liam Sharp & Ryan Brown.

You might recognize Liam by his many comic credits, from his early illustration work with 2000 AD on JUDGE DREDD and DEATH’S HEAD II to his later work with Marvel and DC Comics where he contributed his unique style to the likes of THE X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN, THE HULK, BATMAN, SUPERMAN and others. In addition to his illustration work, Liam is also the founder of a critically acclaimed and award-winning publishing company, Mam Tor Publishing, showcasing a variety of independent, fantasy, and science fiction comics and prose. That’s not all! Liam is also the Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of Madefire, a pioneering digital comics storytelling platform whose motion books blend elements of comic storytelling, animation, audio, and even video game sensibilities for a wholly unique reading experience.

Liam was kind enough to take part in our three question interviews. His singular perspective with both print and digital publishing as an artist, writer, editor and innovator is a welcome addition to the series!

CBTT: What is the best thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

Motion Books are short burst, episodic, digital reading experiences that combine audio and visual elements.

Motion Books are short burst, episodic, digital reading experiences that combine audio and visual elements.

SHARP: For me it’s the fact that it really is a new medium, so the old rules can be broken! It’s rare to get to use your skills – words and pictures – to create an entirely original experience. And the extent that creators choose to embrace the possibilities is wholly subjective. A digital comic can be completely authentic to the original medium, with no frills, or it can incorporate motion, sound, timing – new ways of revealing the imagery via masks, or fades or slide-ins. I also love how the aspect of time means you no longer have to establish a top left to bottom right reading standard. The eye is led by the next reveal, so you can take the reader wherever you want to go within the confines of the screen. And I think sound adds much more to the experience than we ever expected. The grammar for digital-first reading is just evolving!

CAPTAIN STONE by Liam Sharp, Christina McCormack, Cody Garcia, Joe Costello & Box Of Toys Audio

CAPTAIN STONE by Liam Sharp, Christina McCormack, Cody Garcia, Joe Costello & Box Of Toys Audio

We know, too, that people who find digital comics or motion books online are not all comic fans to start with, so it can lead them to print comics. I don’t believe the mediums are in any way mutually exclusive.

CBTT: What is the worst thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

SHARP: I’m not really seeing a negative – other than iPads aren’t particularly great to read on in bright light!

CBTT: What do you see in the future for digital comics?

SHARP: It’s wide open. I hope people continue to explore the possibilities. I think a new wave of creators will burn down the established bastions of storytelling – all the stuff we old pen, ink and print guys have to unlearn – and they will build myriad digital constructions in bold and varied forms, far beyond the silent constraints of 22 pages.

CBTT: Exploration is the key!

Liam’s latest venture is Madefire. You can learn out more about Madefire from their website or the motion books section of DeviantArt. You can also find Madefire on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. Madefire motion books are available through a free iOS App.

You can find more of Liam’s personal work on his personal website, his DeviantArt page, or on the Mam Tor Publishing website. You can also follow Liam directly on Twitter and, of course, be sure to check out episodic his Motion Book – CAPTAIN STONE IS MISSING!

Three Questions With Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis Welcome back to THREE QUESTIONS our weekly conversation with digital comics creators and innovators. This week we’re talking to Steve Ellis. You might recognize Steve’s mainstream work for Marvel and DC Comics on characters like GREEN LANTERN, IRON MAN, and the WINTER GUARD but he’s also the Harvey Award winning creator behind ComiXology’s first digital original series BOX 13 and Zuda Comics’ debut series HIGH MOON. He’s currently partnered with writer David Gallaher for another digital original comic, winning critical praise from the likes of Boing Boing and The Hollywood Reporter, with THE ONLY LIVING BOY. As always, we’ve presented Steve with the identical question we’ve asked previous participants. Steve’s unique insight into the digital comics creative process is a welcome addition to the series.

CBTT: What is the best thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

ELLIS: It allows you the ability to interface with the reader in a way that takes advantage of technology. For example, the way BOX 13 was created for the iPhone, we were able to consider the reader experience in an individual way; the pace of the story is dictated not only by panel changes, but more significantly by the speed by with the reader clicks through panel-to-panel and screen-to-screen.

BOX13 BY Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

BOX13 BY Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

It’s exciting because it can be a much more interactive experience. Digital also affords us the ability of being directly interactive between the creators and the readers. The feedback loop is immediate for the creator, and it makes the reader more invested in the project community.

CBTT: What is the worst thing about comics specifically made for digital reading?

ELLIS: From an artistic standpoint, it can be visually restricting on how you design a page. A lot of artists enjoy the freedom that comes with wacky panel design, but that’s restricted when you have to consider devices like a phone or iPad. It’s harder to do more intricate, fluid panel design when you feel restricted to the ratio of a smartphone screen. The rectangle can be oppressive!

THE ONLY LIVING BOY by Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

THE ONLY LIVING BOY by Steve Ellis & David Gallaher

CBTT: What do you see in the future for digital comics?

ELLIS: Hopefully, as more and more devices appear on the scene, I would like to see and create more projects that interact with the reader more. I think that rather than giving people an animated experience to watch like motion comics do, I would like to see something where the reading speed, flow, tempo and style is fitted more to an individual readers pace. The nice thing about digital with regard to comics is kind of like Scott McCloud said – the canvas is infinite! I think we’ll see more experimentation. There will always be conservatives who think paper first, and there will always be people trying to push the limits of technology. But I think we’re going to settle somewhere in-between flashy technology and a paper dominant model, in a place where the reader’s interactive experience is paramount to how the material is processed. Too often, the technology wants to move us toward animation, which leaves the readers as simply viewers, and therefore less engaged. I’d like to see comics that allow the reader to interact with the material in the same way that one might turn a page (flipping panels, choosing the direction of the image flow) without affecting the story.

CBTT: Fantastic and valuable insight. Thanks for playing along, Steve!

As the Chief Creative Officer behind Bottled Lightning, Steve is hard at work on THE ONLY LIVING BOY. However, if you’d like to see more of Steve’s work you can check out his personal website. You can also find Steve on Tumblr, DeviantArt, Facebook and Twitter.