What are the great collaborations of our time? Simon and Garfunkel. Laurel and Hardy. Gallaher and Ellis? Okay, maybe not yet on the last one, but writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis have slowly been carving out a niche for themselves in the comic book world, turning in fan-favorite cult runs on creator owned titles like High Moon and Box 13, as well as work on Marvel books like Winter Guard.
We recently caught up with the pair on the eve of the release of the last issue of Box 13: The Pandora Process, a sequel to their previous, wildly successful online experiment to talk about all their projects, including a unique one-shot as part of Deadlands, a comic book adaptation of the weird western RPG from Image Comics:
MTV Geek: Let’s first talk about conventions… You guys were at C2E2, and sold out of your books almost immediately. How has hitting the convention circuit helped build your fan base?
David Gallaher: Steve and I are pretty passionate creators. When we are at conventions, I think that passion really shines through -- and I have to say, based on my experience, our fans are equally passionate. Passion is contagious.
Steve Ellis: Sitting in your studio for many hours in the day requires you to sit alone and work with your own passion and excitement to fuel you. Going to conventions recharges you and it's an infectious feeling. It is a great release to be surrounded by similar people who share your enthusiasm. It is a personal relationship between us and the fans -- and gives them investment in the projects too.
Geek: There’s a ton of fan support for High Moon, it seems… What is it about your supernatural western that’s so resonated with people?
DG: I think there is a real hunger out there for new, interesting and compelling material. I like to think that readers get hooked on watching cowboys wrestle with werewolves -- you know the spectacle of it all -- and stay for the storytelling and worlds we've created.
SE: I think that people respond well to projects that come out of genuine place of inspiration, time, and effort. We take the time to back up the fun stuff with a real story, and a sense of history. There's a breadth and depth to what we've created. It's a double punch of flashy images and strong storytelling. We work hard to play to all of those elements in our stories -- and give our fans value with their reading experience.
Geek: Looking back, do you feel – for both of you – that your style has changed over the course of making High Moon?
DG: Hmmmmm ... Good question. I hope it has improved, and that we've only gotten better. Along the way, Steve and I took the opportunity to experiment and try different techniques of collaboration and story telling and I hope that has paid off in the long run.
SE: I think it has refined itself. I started experimenting with High Moon right off the bat -- but as I went along, I think it found its style and a solid visual voice. As fans know, each chapter has its own feel. Chapter Three, for instance, is different contextually than Chapter 4. The art reflects that.
Geek: Let’s talk about Box 13: The Pandora Process, which is wrapping up today, actually. As you’ve been doing this, more and more people have adopted mobile devices as a way of reading comics… Has that affected sales? Or moreso, the way you’ve created the “book?”
DG: We've offering Box 13: The Pandora Process for free, so it hasn't really affected sales, per se. But -- over the last couple of weeks, we've noticed a groundswell of support from fans who really seem hungry for original, free, and serialized digital content. But, I'm not sure that it's affected the way we've been making the book -- though we have really tried to out do ourselves and not repeat what we've been doing. We're always looking for new ways to keep the story fun, breezy, and exciting.
SE: The one thing that has changed is the kind of story we've been telling. We wouldn't be able to tell this kind of story in the direct market. But, here we were able to tell a story that was much more universal appeal.
DG: Interested readers can check out the book for themselves at box13comic.com. ComiXology has the first issue available, with over 100 pages of content, for five bucks. And right now, every chapter of the Pandora Process is free. There is plenty of cool stuff to check out.
Geek: What’s coming up in the conclusion? And will we see more Box 13?
DG: The conclusion of Box 13: The Pandora Process has our heroine Olivia Mayfair trying her best to contain the mess that our protagonist, Dan Holiday has made. Dan has sort of unlocked the secret of human potentiality -- and they results may just be explosive.
SE: In terms of more Box 13, we're always open to doing more -- but for now, we're going to put it on the shelf and doing a few other projects.
Geek: Moving on to Deadlands… Umm…. What’s Deadlands?
DG: Deadlands is a supernatural, alternative-history, multi-genre, western role-playing game. It's got magic, monsters, mad scientists and really a little something for everyone. Visionary Comics, along with Image Comics, picked up the license to develop a series of one-shots based around the property. We're doing the first one, which is solicited for this month, and scheduled to come out in June.
SE: It is a world were we could tell an interesting western story that would fit into the world of High Moon, but would still be uniquely its own thing.
Geek: It certainly seems to be playing in your wheelhouse… Was there any worry that you would get pigeonholed as the “Weird Western” guys?
DG: I don't think so. This is a very, very different project than High Moon. It is more intimate, more personal. It is far different than everything else I've written to date.
SE: I don't think it is a matter of being pigeon-holed, but rather an opportunity to tell a story we wouldn't have a chance to tell otherwise.
Geek: Tell us about your one-shot… What happens?
DG: Well, I don't want to spoil the story -- but basically it is the story of an inventor named Copernicus Blackburne, who is hired to make a gun that can kill the devil. It is a very haunting and emotionally evocative story.
Geek: Steve, did you approach Deadlands differently, artistically, from how you approach High Moon?
SE: Ummm ... Well, for one -- it's vertical, rather than landscape format, like High Moon. My goal is to treat every story differently. If you look at Box 13 and then look at High Moon, you'll see they are very different types of stories. "The Devil's Six Gun," our story for Deadlands, is a much more moody story. It changing the way I approach everything
Geek: David, I know you play RPGs… Have you ever played Deadlands? Did you have a heated game to prep for writing the book?
DG: Steve and I both game. And yes, I have played Deadlands. It is remarkably enjoyable. I didn't have the opportunity to prepare for this story by gaming, but I did read nearly all of the players’ manuals. The world of Deadlands is so incredibly robust that it's hard not to get excited about it.
Geek: I know you both always have a ton of projects in the works… What’s coming up next?
DG: Well ... there are several things we can't announce yet -- but we do have another digital comic series or two in the works. And I recently completed a parody novel called Huck Finn & Ninja Jim that will be released by Dropping Pebble Press later in the Spring. I'm working on something else that should be available in time for the San Diego Comic Con.
SE: We'll be producing a second Box 13 trade in a few months. And ... I can vaguely whisper something like "Here, there be monsters ..." to our fans as a little hint of what's to come ... But, contractually, lawyers will slay us where we stand if we utter anything else.