“The iPad may be THE new digital distribution method” Cartoonist and letterer Chris Eliopoulos talks Cowboys and iPads

As a graphic designer I’ve always been a big fan of the look of a comics – often more so than the story. Growing up I used to love analysing the lettering in old comics books and then in the 90s everything changed with advent of digital and a new generation of super talented typographers started to appear. One of my favourites was Chris Eliopoulos whose work I first noticed on the Erik Larsen run of Amazing Spider-man and later on Savage Dragon. Chris’ lettering really captured the fun of Larsen’s artwork and later when I saw his artwork on Franklin Richards and Desperate Times I became a fan for life. Having seen Chris tweet about his love of all things Apple I dropped in a line to interview him for MacFormat, but while we chatted about iMacs and Thunderbolt ports, I also asked him a few questions about his new book Cowboy and his plans for it’s digital release.

How do you think the growth of iPad apps is affecting the comics industry – positively or negatively?
For some, it means nothing, for others, like me, the iPad may be THE new digital distribution method. Comics look great on them and I think they will become the new standard. I think, eventually, all monthly comics and even some graphic novels will be offered digital-only and then trades offered in the dead tree versions as well. When prices are lowered I think we may see a new boon in comics reading. We may even see the end of monthly comics, replaced by digital offerings on different schedules.

Do you still have a sense of nostalgia for the ‘old school’ way of doing things or are you all about digital these days?
I didn’t grow up reading comic books. Comic strips, yes. So I don’t have this nostalgia for print. I’m always forward-thinking, or try to be. When digital lettering was first started, I saw right away that was the future and while many other letterers clung to their pens and ink, I went straight for digital. 

When it comes to publishing your own titles like Cowboy are you embracing digital or preferring to stick to traditional distribution methods?
We are going full-in on digital. We will be offering the first chapter for free digitally. Then the rest for a low price digitally and when the first arc is done, print the collection. I think we can save so much money not printing initially and use digital to gain interest in the book and then offer it as a printed work to all who enjoy the story.

Do you think smaller publishers are embracing digital faster than the big boys like Marvel and DC? And which comics apps do you use and which do you rate?
I don’t have this strict definition of comics, so I like the idea of using the medium and delivery system as something in and of itself. Why just try to recreate print digitally when it can be so much more? As for apps, I think ComiXology and GraphicLY are fine, but the comics are too expensive right now–not for what you get. I think the innovations will come from smaller companies and, as usual, the big companies will be the late adopters and then it will gain traction.

When it comes to drawing or lettering comics do you find yourself changing the way you work to adapt to the world of digital comics?
Not yet. I really do want to start working on comics that will use the technology more. I see books like The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, I think that that may be a fun hybrid of storytelling and animation and comics.

Do you still letter books by hand or is it all completely computer based these days?
Well, I do use my hands, but it’s all digital now. On Cowboy, I do not use a font, but actually use my Cintiq and letter “by hand.”  As for the lettering for Marvel, there is a real need for working with fonts since there is a need for corrections, changes and finally the ease of converting to foreign language lettering. There are some holdouts here and there who hand letter, but it’s very rare. Now we make comics digitally to be sold digitally.

Chris’ new book Cowboy will be available in March 2011, but in the meantime why not check out the brilliant Misery Loves Sherman strip or follow him on Twitter @chriseliopoulos

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.