Cognito Comics first interactive graphic novel for iPad, Operation Ajax, has been attracting plenty of positive press attention since its launch in December.
The comic story by Cognito Comics founder Daniel Burwen and the San Francisco-based company's Art Director Mike De Seve (who also provides most of the art), tells the true story of the CIA’s involvement in the Middle East and the roots of the modern American conflict with Iran in the 1950s – and has gained coverage as diverse as the New York Times and Graphic Novel Reporter.
|Art from Incognito Comics|
iPad tale Operation Ajax
The story is inspired by the investigative journalism of best-selling author Stephen Kinzer and his work All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror.
"Our project is one of the first graphic novels that was created specifically for tablet computers like the iPad," Burwen told Graphic Novel Reporter last year. "It’s about the events that led up to a US and British-backed coup that resulted in the removal of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh from office in 1953.
"Mossadegh wanted to nationalize the oil resources that were discovered and refined by the British government, and he really paid the price for it. The British didn’t want to lose their investment, especially after World War 2 , and the US was afraid of communist takeover in the region, so they partnered in what they thought was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Basically the current situation in Iran is a direct result of what happened in 1953. Ajax was the first coup ever arranged by the CIA."
Cognito Comics says it is introducing a new genre of narrative nonfiction for the iPad by creating an immersive graphic entertainment experience. The company, established by Daniel Burwen to present socio-political and world issues to the general public through comics, partners with world-renowned authors, prestigious institutions and unique causes to tell their stories using "emerging technology, top rate art, compelling narrative nonfiction writing and entertaining visual experiences".
Its goal is to inform audiences about the pressing issues the world faces as a global community, we produce graphic novels that address a wide range of research-rich topics in a manner previously unexplored by traditional print media.
San Francisco-based Tall Chair, meanwhile, who built the novel's underlying platform using their Active Reader, says that the technology could be used to create iPad-centric content beyond the political comics that Cognito is interested in. One project is Cowboy Rocket Dinosaur, an interactive, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure graphic novel created for the iPad which the company says has plans to bring to the web after the iPad launch, if budgets permit.
Beyond comics, Tall Chair has also created mobile games like Cowboys vs. Zombies and Warner Bros.' Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, raising angel funding from the Venture Development Group and Jung Soo Kang.
"Tall Chair's proprietary multi-touch interface makes it possible to unlock real historical papers, old photos, and actual leaked CIA documents bit by bit," noted Burwen taking to GNR. "As we navigate the story, the technology makes it possible for readers to glean more facts: discover the compromised motives of CIA heads; the secret business alliances with Nazis and oil giants; even actual "black-ops" documents that were used to execute the mission. It's all set in a richly artistic design that combines the distinct flavours of both ancient Persia and Cold War spy culture."
Writing for the New York Times, Anthony Ha, from technology web site Venturebeat, describes the project as "coolest media experiences that I’ve seen on the iPad".
"As well as some great looking art, Operation Ajax features lots of animation to move readers from panel to panel and page to page," he explains.
"It’s an impressive experience, but it’s not a perfect one — it can be hard to figure out exactly when each animation is over and it’s time to turn the page" he notes, but points out that in addition to the story, the iPad format, enables readers to tap on drawings to see extra material like character biographies and photos of real-life locations. They can also refer to all that material later on through folders that they can access from anywhere in the story.
For all; the bells and whistles the iPad offers, Burwen insists that the story comes first and foremost. "A reader can ignore the visual cues and just proceed through the story, and everything will make sense from a narrative standpoint," he says. "It’s not like there are secrets that have to be unlocked in order to read the book. We want it to work both ways, for sure."
• The Operation Ajax app is free (download it here) and includes the prologue for the story. After that, each chapter (which is about the length of a normal comic book) will cost $2.99, and Cognito plans to release a new chapter each month (or slightly more frequently).
• Cognito Comics Official web site • Operation Ajax on Facebook • Twitter
• Tall Chair Official web site • Cowboys vs. Zombies on Facebook • Twitter