Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Your talents have spanned various industries, from the Harvey Award-winning web comic, High Moon, to writing for Marvel Comics, and even working with the interactive comic role playing games for AMC TV’s Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Before these great successes, what inspired you to pursue careers in the comic book industry?
Steve Ellis: Stories. The stuff that got me into comics was stories. Loving the stories I read. That’s what inspired me and inspires me to this day. Space Captain, the comic I did in college, really lead me to taking that as a professional direction. It was a humorous strip. That and the comic book club I joined in college made me feel like it was a reasonable career choice. In that group were folks like Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlevy, and we all lived, breathed, and made comics for a while. We made up a lot of stuff as we went along. And, a lot of the ideas that we came up with in college — like Tranquility and The Silencers - became books we later published.
David Gallaher: I think the need to tell stories is ingrained deep within us all. Comics just happened to be where I landed. If I wasn’t in comics, I’d likely still be working on the stage or in publishing. Acting was my first professional job. The first things I ever got a paycheck for. What I love, though, is being to now take those insights and tricks I learned about the stage and apply them to the page.
BD: Since first collaborating on High Moon eight years ago, you have since created the Young Adult web comic, The Only Living Boy. How would you describe the premise of the series, and how often is the web comic updated for readers?
SE: It’s a high-adventure story that features a runaway — with lots of action — with an unlikely protagonist who is learning how to become a hero.
DG: There are mermaid-warriors, insect princesses, mad scientists, and dragons — and a while bunch of other things. It’s sorta like the Island of Moreau meets the Jungle Book. The next issue, which debuts in the Spring, brings us deep inside a floating insect city — it’s kinda insane and rather monstrous.
BD: In addition, you recently founded your own creative studio, Bottled Lightning, Inc., through which you will be serializing The Only Living Boy, as well as releasing other original material and an upcoming podcast. What is your vision for the company, and what do you hope that readers will take away from it?
DG: We’re driven to create stories that power the imagination and stick with our readers long after they are finished. Something badass, something dramatic, and something fun.
SE: One of the things that I love are good stories — and the power of our own imagination. I’ve been lucky enough to tell the types of stories that I want to tell, which is one of the benefits of my career and my training. We want to not only create stories — but also create better stories for other people to share. Stories are the way that human beings relate to one another.
BD: What is the most difficult aspect of being an independent creator, and do you find differences between working for studios and and larger publishers versus working for your-self?
DG: It’s the juggling. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes things to clamp down on — paper-work, scheduling, printing, specs, etc. — that you don’t have to engage with the same way when you’re freelancing for larger companies. The tradeoff, of course, is the incredible freedom you get authoring, illustrating, and publishing your own work.
SE: As an indie creator, the projects you’re on don’t often pay off as rapidly. I describe my job a lot like that of George Clooney, who does a few Ocean 11 movies, and then goes off to do an independent film. One project to feed the mouth, the other project to feed the soul. Both are important, but the ideal is to have a project that is both. Sometimes, that happens with projects like Only Living Boy and High Moon, for instance.
BD: Like many independent creators, you recently launched a Patreon campaign to raise funds to maintain Bottled Lightning and its projects. Why would you encourage readers to support the campaign, and what are the perks available to backers?
DG: We believe in steady and sustainable growth and are always looking at new ways to engage our readers. From newsletters to Kickstarters, new platforms allow us to try new things. We don’t need Patreon to thrive, but it does empower us to tell more stories more often.
SE: When it comes to indie projects like comics and such — there is no stable audience — there’s no guaranteed readership audience. Because of that, there’s a lot of risk with new projects. We’re always willing to take that risk — but things like Patreon allow to you identify and reward readers who are willing to take that risk with you.
DG: In terms of perks for backers — well — they get to see new pages of High Moon and Only Living Boy before anybody else, we offer a collaborative Q&A, portfolio reviews, and at higher levels original artwork.
BD: As Bottled Lightning continues, are there any exciting updates or plans that you would like to share with our readers?
DG: We have several pretty outstanding announcements that are rolling out in the coming weeks — some comic news — and some other amazing stuff I’ve been hoping to see for years. Of course, that means more High Moon and more Only Living Boy — some other super cool stuff.
SE: Let’s see if I can be less vague. We’re always looking for new ways to expand our skills and our worlds — and the stories we’re working on. We’ve got new partners, new products, and new projects to work on including more High Moon, more Only Living Boy, and more projects to announce soon.
BD: Being that we focus on all things “geek” at Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your favorite comic books, graphic novels, or web comics?
DG: Hrrrrrmmmm. Are we talking favorite comic books of all time? Or current favorites? I had the chance to re-read some older issues of Green Lantern — and just a few days ago I was drowning in the stats of the old Marvel Superheroes Role-Playing Game. I forgot how amazing and fun that stuff could be.
SE: I would say the things that I’ve been geeking out about lately is Walt Simonson's take on Norse Mythology with Ragnorak. And, I was just in France for Angoleme, and it was amazing books Siegfried and sketchbooks by Bengal. Simply incredible stuff.
BD: Are there any upcoming conventions which you will be attending in the coming months where fans may be able to meet you?
SE: I know it’s over, but I literally just got back from Long Beach Comic Expo. There were so many awesome creators — like Dan Panosian, Denys Cowan, Jeff King, Bobby Timony, Mike Kunkel, Sandy King Carpenter, and Jesse Snider. Fantastic show! Great panels! Amazing guests.
DG: Looking forward, we’ll be at East Coast Comic Con this year in the Meadowlands, which we’re quite thrilled about. It’s the same awesome team that put together the Asbury Park Con over the last few years, so it’s an absolute delight to watch the show grow and expand. It’s an honor to be a part of it.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about your work with Bottled Lightning?
SE: The work we’re doing with Bottled Lightning is really exciting work — projects that take risks that aren’t the same sorts of things that your won’t find with other companies.
DG: Stories that spark the imagination. That’s our motto. Whether it’s an adventurous werewolf western, the sordid tale of a Steampunk sisyphus, a torrid gothic tale, or an over-the-top spy-fi thriller, we’re not afraid to dream big.