NYCC 2018: The Voices Of ComiXology Originals With McDonald, Seeley, Charretier & Donovan

by James Ferguson

Matt Kolowski introduced the Voices of ComiXology Originals panel, outlining a few of the titles that are available as part of this line. As a reminder, these are free to read for members of Amazon Prime, Kindle Unlimited, and ComiXology Unlimited. Fans in attendance received the ComiXology Originals 2018 preview book. The panelists include Kiersten Wing from ComiXology, Kel McDonald (The Stone King), Tim Seeley (Grave Danger), Elsa Charretier (Superfreaks), and Eryk Donovan (Fair Trade).

Wing asked the panelists how they bring their ideas to life and assemble their dream team. McDonald said she spoke with her artist to find out what he wanted to draw. The answer was “giant rock monsters” and she crafted a story to fit that.

Seeley said he likes to work with friends of his and many of his comics are born from conventions like this one. He and artist Mike Norton share a studio so they were jamming together to make something new.

Charretier met her artist at a convention and they wanted to work together. It took a little while to find the right story but then everything clicked. Donovan had a similar story when he met writer Tini Howard at Heroes Con some time ago and they both wanted to work together. This opportunity came up and it was a great fit. He said that he had no idea five years ago that this would have happened so networking is always a great idea.

The panelists had all met their collaborators in person, so Kolowski asked if they’ve had success working with people they haven’t met. McDonald has experience with working with many different artists for her anthology series. She sends out an email to many different artists, knowing that only a few will actually respond or make the cut.

Wing asked the panelists about how character designs come together. The answers were mixed as it’s different for every collaboration. McDonald followed up on her rock monster anecdote and said the one comment she gave him regarding the design was that she thought it would be cool if the monster didn’t have a face. Donovan said that the first script he received had no real physical descriptions for the characters so he just dove in to create them.

Seeley has a background as an artist and he has one specific request to make sure that the design looks great on the comic book page in 2D. It doesn’t matter how it would look like on TV or anything else.

Charretier said that she left the designs for the characters up to the artist for Superfreaks. She was going to be the one drawing it for five issues so it was important that the designs were something she liked.

The ComiXology Originals model allows for a very flexible release schedule. Superfreaks was released as five issues all at once while Grave Danger is released monthly. Seeley said that there’s room for experimentation here and you can set your own schedule as a creator. McDonald pointed out that the issues can be different lengths as well.

Seeley pointed out that we’ve become a binge culture thanks to platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix. The tone has shifted so people are less interested in single issues and more interested in collections or large hardcovers.

Wing asked the panelists if they had one piece of advice for aspiring creators. McDonald said to just make them. Seeley joked to marry someone with health insurance. Donovan mentioned networking again and recommended to be genuine to people. You never know what the future will bring for everyone.

The panel was opened up to audience Q&A. Kolowski’s young son was in the crowd and raised his hand to say he’s hungry.

A fan asked about how ComiXology Originals works with physical copies. Most of the series through the program are available are print-on-demand. The only downside is that you have to pay for your own books, but that’s not entirely out of the ordinary for most publishers as you usually get some comp copies and then you’d have to buy more.

Another fan asked how the panelists approach digital comics as compared to physical comics. Donovan said he did a horror comic through Thrillbent with James Tynion IV and used the scroll feature to create a sort of jump scare. He was also able to turn something like a conversation between two people into a more dynamic presentation that wasn’t quite an animation.

Seeley said one of the weirdest adjustments is that you lose the double page spread in digital. ComiXology actually doesn’t recommend doing double page spreads if you’re creating for digital.

As a follow up to that question, someone asked if there was interest in adding sound to it. Seeley pointed out that there were other versions of digital comics before ComiXology that included sound effects and they were terrible. Comics are good as is and don’t need additional features like that.

Kolowski said they’ve always viewed comics as a passive reading experience, but Donovan disagreed saying it was the opposite. The gutter allows for the reader’s imagination. You’re filling in the gaps between images. Seeley added to this by saying that comics fans are some of the most excited in fandom because they’re part of the experience. They can feel like they helped write this too.

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