Cognito Comics creates interactive iPad graphic novels

Last November I talked about innovation and creativity with digital comics on the iPad and other mobile devices. Thanks to Twitter, I recently stumbled upon what looks like an amazing example of what I was talking about that launched in December.

Cognito Comics creates what they call “narrative nonfiction” in comics, animation and games. Their debut is the iPad app Operation Ajax, a political thriller graphic novel explicitly created with the iPad in mind. This is a notable change of strategy because most comics and graphic novels on the iPad are comics that were created and published in print years ago. They have created an interactive experience that includes an advanced version of the panel-by-panel guided view of services like Comixology and iVerse. You can also explore CIA documents, profiles and other information that appear in the story. The app is free and includes the prologue chapter, with subsequent chapters getting released once a month for $2.99. Chapter 2 was released February 11. Take a look at this demo video for a taste:

Operation Ajax is based on Stephen Kinzer‘s best-selling book All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, which tells of the 1953 coup in Iran orchestrated by the United States and England. Kinzer servers as story editor and advisor for Cognito, and there’s a real sense that he was directly involved in the creation of Operation Ajax and not just rubber stamping this adaptation. The graphic novel is written by Mike de Seve (Beavis and Butt-head, Sesame Street), who is also providing art direction. Artists include Steve Ellis (High Moon), Tyler Jenkins (Proof) and others. (I wish it was a little bit easier to find out who actually made the comic – Stephen Kinzer’s name is really the only one pushed. Makes sense given his profile but there are others at work too and I don’t see the artists listed anywhere on the Cognito Comics or Operation Ajax websites.)

With positive press from PBS, The New York Times, ICv2 and Graphic Novel Reporter, this is bound to be just the beginning of this kind of innovation that still uses the language of comics and might even bring it to a new level. For you traditionalists, fear not. A print version is planned.


  1. Hi Corey,

    Thanks for writing about the project.

    To answer some of your questions, Ajax has been a team effort from the git go, given the platform and the content needs. Mike deSeve wrote the original script, then adapted it for the comics medium with Jason McNamara.

    The art for the first 4 chapters was storyboarded by Sergio Paez, and inked and layered by a Bulgarian team overseen by Mike.

    Tyler Jenkins did chapters 5 and 6. Steve Ellis is currently inking 7. And Sergio will be completing the final chapters, 8, 9 and 10. Every page has been colored by our colorist in photoshop, Anton Magdalina.

    I oversee all creative aspects of the project, from story editing with Stephen, to creating balloons and editing the text in illustrator, to fixing up layers and prepping assets for our animators in photoshop, to planning promo stuff, designing Ui elements, animation, you name it.

    And of course, besides myself, there’s the onsite team at the Cognito office: my tough as nails producer Katie Edmonds, and our wonderful 2 art tech / animators, Donna Carmenini and Luis Garza, who are animating the pages for the ipad screen every day.

    So, as you can see, there are a lot of us.

    Chapter 4 is right around the corner, and chapters 1, 2, and 3 are going free in about a week, so stay tuned.

    We expect to have the entire book out by summer, and the second half is all spy action goodness, stay tuned!

  2. Hey Corey,

    The full app just launched! We’ve added full sound, new UI, and refined animation.

    Check it out :

    Free for a limited time 🙂

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