All the Shah’s Men

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.