The Only Living Boy is one of those comic book success stories that makes you think creators still have a chance in a world where Disney owns your entire childhood. Writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis conceived and exploded their Kickstarter goal to fund it. Then they partnered up with Comixology to offer even more availability to their backers and fans. Until midnight tonight, get the first and second issues for 50% off with redemption code: ONLYLIVINGBOY.
You can also read the first issue for free on the comic’s official website, but we wanted to go deeper. So we invited them to provide a commentary track on their work. (To save your browser from having a heart attack, it’s spread over three pages.) Take it away, fellers:
David: So here we are, Steve…Only Living Boy — now serialized and broadcast as an online graphic novel.
Steve: I’m excited. So what are we covering today? The first 20 pages or so?
Steve: Sounds good. Sooo…let’s start with the cover?
David: The cover is important.
Steve: Well, you know — the cover expresses everything we want the series to be about. Erik looks small, but at the same time looks strong. Confident. It gives you a slight taste of this new worlds and pushes the pulp flavor forward. A lot of what we’ve done here was take this very classic, pulp action setting and replace the hero with a young boy. This could have been a Tarzan image. It wasn’t, but it could have been. The difference is that in a Tarzan story — he solves the problem, saves the day, and goes home to have dinner with Jane and Cheetah. Erik has no home to go to.
David: The world can be a lonely place. It’s why I love this cover so much.
Steve: And even though it’s lonely, he’s still ready for adventure.
David: Right, so now we’re on Page 1.
Steve: This is our third version of the first page. Originally, Page three was Page 1. Then Page 2 was Page 1. The action of running brought this sense of urgency to the story.
David: What I like about this page is that it’s a strong powerful statement that colors the rest of the story.
Steve: It’s much more literary this way. There is a sense of mystery about it.
David: So then we cut to him running. Who hasn’t thought about running away just once? So anyway — yeah — this is Erik. He’s 12. An age where he’s experienced enough to have mastered childhood, but knows nothing about being an adult. It’s the age where we see signs of the man he might become — but it’s all buried under awkwardness. It’s the age you can’t wait to grow out of.
Steve: What I like about the narration is that we’re giving reader everything we need them to know. He’s mostly a blank slate — a cipher — like you’ve find with Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. We’re painting on the blank slate of these characters.
David: How’s that quote from Fight Club go? “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Un-burdened by his memories and cynicism, Erik is much more interesting character to play with — at least right now.
Steve: There’s an oppressiveness to this scene. Originally, we had two pages of running, but that didn’t feel like enough. There’s a sense of menace here — and by extending the scene — we can build off of that. We have no idea what he is running away from or even how long he has been running. Nothing about his life is pretty at this point.
David: I believe this is around the time we were considering designing the book exclusively for digital — like we did for Box 13.
Steve: I think once we decided that page count didn’t really matter, I felt more comfortable being expansive with the story. It was important as a young adult book — to make the artwork a bigger part of a story than you’d find in a simple grid — it’s difficult to open the world up to somebody who is reading when you box yourself with with a grid. We’ve been building our story on a larger stage — and using that to our advantage as storytellers.
David: Speaking of opening the story up…we’re now in our first double page spread of the series.
Steve: We get to the park. Now we’re somewhere. The running has some more context. At least we have a location in Central Park.
David: There’s a sense of freedom here, but Erik is still scared. He’s more scared of whatever is following him than he is of getting hit by a car. But — there’s also this reverence to the traffic lights too.
Steve: Those are subtle behaviors, but ultimately important.
David: So now…we’ve crossed the street.