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’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!

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.