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.

International Women’s Day

If you weren’t already aware, March 8th is International Women’s Day; a time to celebrate the achievements of women, show support for the women in your life, and inspire the next generation of women to go even further. In honor of the day we thought it might be nice to showcase some digital comics created by women. Some you might be familiar with, others you might not, but all are worth checking out. Of course, if you have any favorites that aren’t on the list please feel free to post them in the comments. Enjoy!

Ava's Demon by Michelle Czajkowski

Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski

AVA’S DEMON by Michelle Czajkowski – Follow the story of Ava and Wrathia, the demon that’s haunted her since birth, in a story that is a unique blend of magic and science fiction.

CHESTER 5000 XYV (NSFW) by Jess Fink – In this erotic, Victorian, steampunk romp, an inventor builds a sex-bot to satisfy his wife but fails to anticipate that they’ll actually fall in love!

DIGGER by Ursula Vernon – Winner of the Hugo Award for best graphic fiction, Digger is a complex epic about a wombat’s journey set against an often surreal backdrop where humans, animals and more co-exist.

Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto

Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto

GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS by Danielle Corsetto – Hazel and Jamie, along with McPedro the talking cactus, get into an assortment of misadventures with friends, lovers, and booze in this funny, often ribald, comedy.

GRONK by Katie Cook – A heat-warming, clever comedy about Gronk, the ex-monster far too adorable to be scary, and her human companion Dale.

HARK! A VAGRANT by Kate Beaton – This New York Times Bestseller and Harvey Award winning comic is an informative, sometimes absurd, and always entertaining tour of history, literature, authors, politics, and more.

HIS FACE ALL RED by Emily Carroll – A short but haunting story about two brothers, jealousy, fear, and death.

Lackadaisy by Tracy J. Butler

Lackadaisy by Tracy J. Butler

LACKADAISY by Tracy J. Butler – Prohibition-era adventure and hijinks about as bootleggers, rum-runners, gangsters, and flappers are reimagined as cats!

MUSEUM OF MISTAKES by Julia Wertz – A series of comics that are part memoir, part autobiography, and part observational humor with the signature wit of Eisner Award nominated cartoonist Julia Wertz.

MY CARDBOARD LIFE by Philippa Rice – A charming webcomic of short gags involving characters created entirely from cut paper, cardboard and collage.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson – A fun, funny, and often thought-provoking examination of good and evil as Lord Ballister Blackheart and his protegé, the shape-shifting Nimona, confront Ballister’s nemesis, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin.

NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks – It’s a no-holds-barred world of high school class warfare and robot death matches. Nothing can possibly go wrong!

OCTOPUS PIE by Meredith Gran – A genuine and humorous webcomic that focuses on the lives of two women, the cynical Eve and free-spirited Hanna, living in Brooklyn, New York.

SUPER MUSIC MAGIC ACADEMY by Jillian Tamaki – This smart and relatable Ignatz Award winning webcomic is a series of shorts centered on the anxieties, influences, ideals and schoolyard drama of super powered teens.

THUNDERPAW by Jen Lee – Best friends Bruno and Ollie are lost. As they try to survive and search for home together, the world around them continues to crumble.




What digital comics pioneer Balak collectively calls “Turbomedia” is a method of graphic storytelling that uses narrative tools from comics, animation, and video games adapted to tell stories made specifically for digital reading. It the same philosophy behind comics like RELAUNCH and THE ROAD GOES EVER ON, Marvel’s Infinite Comics, the work done on Thrillbent and by countless other digital comics creators.

JL Mast, a good friend, digital comics innovator, and co-creator of PAX ARENA and THE PANDAS SHOW put together an excellent timeline of Turbomedia starting way back in the stone age of 1988 through 2014. If you’re a fan of comics that are created specifically with digital reading in mind it’s a fantastic summary. Enjoy!

TURBOMEDIA: 1988 – 2014

Digital Comics Roundup

As Dan and I get closer to finishing the much delayed second season of RELAUNCH we thought it might be nice to showcase some of the other people out there doing progressive things with original, digital comics. When we talk about digital comics we’re really talking about comics created specifically for digital reading and not comics that only take advantage of digital distribution. Not that there’s anything wrong with digital distribution. It’s just not quite the same thing. There’s likely a post about that topic in and of itself in the future; in the meantime, enjoy some of these innovative, original, digital stories.

Sithrah by Jason Brubaker

Sithrah by Jason Brubaker

SITHRAHJason Brubaker is doing some interesting stuff combining a long, vertical scroll format with animated .gifs and traditional graphic storytelling in this digital original webcomic. He’s also using Instagram to post some behind the scenes art and work in progress. Good stuff!

Tomato Can Blues by Mary Pilon and Attila Futaki

Tomato Can Blues by Mary Pilon and Attila Futaki

TOMATO CAN BLUES – This short story by Mary Pilon and Attila Futaki combines prose with comic book illustrations that integrate parallax effects and subtle motion to create perspective changes while scrolling through the story. Added bonus: there’s a free audio version of the story read by Bobby Cannavale of “Boardwalk Empire.”

Le Long Voyage by Boulet

Le Long Voyage by Boulet

THE LONG JOURNEY – French cartoonist Gilles Roussel (a.k.a. Boulet) created this long, vertical scrolling webcomic about a man’s journey down his toilet and beyond that explores the idea of the Infinite Canvas in existential 8-bit style. It’s available in both French and English.

If you know of someone doing something interesting with graphic storytelling in the digital space, leave a link in the comments!

The Road Goes Ever On – The Annotated Script

If you’ve read THE ROAD GOES EVER on you might have noticed that its slightly different than a traditional comic. Being essentially one looping image – albeit a very large image – made writing a the script a somewhat unique challenge. In reading you’ll notice how we refined the “dashboard” process to better reflect how we wanted the final story to read. You’ll also see a far amount of notes between Dan and I as we exchanged ideas right on the script. As always, we hope you find it enlightening if not useful.


The Road Goes Ever On

The Best Digital Comics of 2012

This year saw the comic book industry continue its inexorable move into digital publishing. Along the way we’ve seen innovation, exploration and inspiration as writers and artists pushed the creative envelope, expanding the definition of digital storytelling. While there isn’t enough space to highlight everyone’s attempts to further the medium it is worth taking a moment to recognize some folks whose efforts were especially noteworthy. Without further ado, and in no particular order, COMIC BOOK THINK TANK takes a look back at some of the most innovative digital comics for 2012.

InsufferableINSUFFERABLE: By Mark Waid, Peter Krause, Nolan Woodard and Troy Peteri

Billing themselves as an “experiment in new-media publishing” storytelling maestro Mark Waid and the gang at Thrillbent are regularly exploring how print comics can evolve in a digital environment – with fantastic results!



XKCD: By Randall Munroe

A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language…and in this particular instance about the exploration of the infinite canvas.  If you haven’t already seen Click and Drag you owe it to yourself to head over there and spend some time exploring. You wont be disappointed.

AvXAVENGERS VS. X-MEN: INFINITE: by Mark Waid, Stuart Immonen and Marte Garcia

Kicking off Marvel’s Infinite Comics experiment in digital storytelling in a way only Marvel can – big! The House of Ideas didn’t shy away from pushing the digital envelope with this introduction to the mammoth Avengers vs. X-Men event.


Melding comic book storytelling with animation and special effects, the Madefire team describe their comics as “Motion Books” and are trying to do nothing less than “revolutionize how stories are told.”


instacopINSTA•COP: by Kwanza Johnson and Andy Belanger

A hard boiled action adventure delivered one panel at a time across multiple platforms. The fine gents behind Insta•Cop are exploring the increasingly thin boundary between comics and social media.


Operation AjaxOPERATION AJAX: by Daniel Burwen

Based on a true life spy thriller, this multi-media comic is chock full of extras and support documents that let the reader dive deep into a truly immersive digital storytelling experience.


America: Elect!AMERICA: ELECT!: by The Guardian

The interactive team at The Guardian used a creative scrolling digital comic format to tell the story of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and the US Presidential election. The results were far, far more fun than the election itself.


The Road Goes Ever On

Comic Book Think Tank is proud to present…


Based on “The Old Walking Songs” of Bilbo Baggins, as written by J.R.R. Tolkien, THE ROAD GOES EVER ON is a stand-alone, panoramic presentation of The Shire where the reader experiences the change of time and seasons as they advance through the comic.

From a storytelling point of view, Dan and I were interested in deconstructing the elements of a comic book and creating an experiential piece that isn’t necessarily a linear story. As a result THE ROAD GOES EVER ON has no distinct pages, no panels and, like the calendar year itself, the ending  brings the reader full circle, back to the beginning, creating a seamless visual loop. A not-so-subtle nod to the potential of the Infinite Canvas.

One crucial point of clarification that we want to be up front about: this comic is not-for-profit and not officially affiliated with The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings or the Tolkien estate. Hopefully you enjoy it and if you do please consider sharing it with friend!