The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium

The Comic ElectricCall for Participation

Led by renowned comic writers Leah and Alan Moore, The Electricomics project launched in May 2014 with funding from The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Now, as the project nears the conclusion of its initial research and development stage, we seek to establish a new academic symposium through which to share our findings and expand discussion and debate around the field of digital comics research.

The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium will be held at The University of Hertfordshire on Wednesday 14th October 2015. As part of this symposium participants are sought to present papers across a wide range of topics that relate to comics scholarship and digital media. Appropriate subject areas include:

  • New and emergent digital comic forms and technologies.
  • Changes to the underlying structures of the form as a result of digital mediation.
  • Crossovers, adaptation and hybridisation between comics and other digital media.
  • Acts of reading and the impact of digital mediation.
  • Aesthetic and literary analysis of digital comic narratives.
  • Digital distribution, changes in the industry and the threat of piracy.
  • Webcomics, widening readerships, minority voices and fan cultures.
  • Multimodality and comics relationship with larger transmedia narratives.

Other areas relevant to the study of digital comics will also be considered. Abstracts of no more than 300 words for papers of 20 minutes in length should be submitted via e-mail to Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Alison Gazzard at [email protected] by Monday 27th July 2015. If you have any questions about the symposium or need clarification on any aspect of this call for participation, please also contact us via the above e-mail address.

The Comic ElectricAbout Electricomics

The focus of the Electricomics project has been the creation of a new digital comic anthology app and an open source toolkit for the creation of digital comics. Towards this goal, the project has examined how the language, tropes and production processes of traditional comics are impacted by digital technologies. Our research has also explored how an easy to use and openly available toolset might facilitate content creation both in the comics sector and amongst a wider arts community.

Electricomics is collaborative project between arts, technology and research partners. Arts partner Orphans of The Storm was founded by comic writer Alan Moore and film director and producer Mitch Jenkins. Technology partner Ocasta studios are responsible for the creation of the Electricomics app and comic creation toolset. The research partners on the project are Alison Gazzard from the London Knowledge Lab at the UCL Institute of Education and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey from the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Creative Arts.

The Comic Electric is a joint symposium between three of the School of Creative Art’s research groups; TVAD (Theorising Visual Arts and Design), G+VERL (Games and Visual Effects Research Lab) and The Media Research Group. It is held in conjunction with the DARE (Digital Arts Research Education) research centre at the UCL Institute of Education.

The Comic ElectricAbout the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts

The Digital R&D fund for the Arts is a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council England (www.artscouncil.org.uk), Arts and Humanities Research Council (www.ahrc.ac.uk) and Nesta (www.nesta.org.uk).

We want to see projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. With a dedicated researcher or research team as part of the three-way collaboration, learning from the project can be captured and disseminated to the wider arts sector. Every project needs to identify a particular question or problem that can be tested. Importantly this question needs to generate knowledge for other arts organisations that they can apply to their own digital strategies.

Lottery Funded

Electricomplexity.

Comics is a complex process. You have many people in a long chain, and hopefully if you pass an idea from one end of that chain to the other you end up with a comic. There are good reasons why things work the way they do, and they have been done that way for a long time. There are conventions and tried and tested methods, and professionals who make their living by doing that job the same way every time.

This project has been unconventional from the start. We announced before a word was written, did a convention without a comic to sell, and have done workshops with almost no software to test. The project has thus far been a ghost in the aether. An intangible object, or to put it more bluntly, a lot of hot air.

This month, the time has come to put the art and the words and the tech together into the actual electricomics.

This is the bit that counts. This is the bit where we work out the pipeline for production for real, where we figure out a path between the working practices of the entire comics team, and also the entire technical team.

Time is at a premium, the work still to do is immense, and the only way through it all is one step at a time, working it out as we go.

What filetype do we use? What size? How do you read a balloon when zoomed in, and also when zoomed out.

Comics is usually a constructive process, which each stage bringing together the previous ones, and a neat file being spat out at the end.

Electricomics is a fragmentary almost destructive one, with the art kept as layered files, the pages chopped apart and panels shown one at a time. Each process is complicated, each professional asked for more than usual. The resulting files will be handed off to be assembled by a team of expert but non-comics engineers. Will they put it all back together in the right way, or will it emerge like Frankenstein’s monster, all bolts and stitches and amiable awfulness?

This is the nitty gritty now, this is the bit where we have to put our money where our mouth is.

I find myself holding my breath. Not sure I can hold it for the next eight weeks though…

Leah

Edit for clarity: The eight week deadline is for the fourth of our six milestones, we have to fulfil a lot of the technological side of the project at this milestone, so its where the pinch of time and resources and features is really felt.

Milestones five and six are still vital, but have more writing up, and results of the research in them.

L

 

 

DMG drops science in Malmo.

Daniel Merlin Goodbrey is a busy man, and has been much in demand of late. He has been appearing physically and virtually in all kinds of places, talking about digital comics:

The Busy Season

The Empty Kingdom It is officially Busy Season at stately E-merl Towers. So busy that I’m already two weeks behind on letting you all know about the E-merl Autumn Tour. So! For folks who have access to a time machine, you may want to travel back to Saturday to catch me talking about sound in digital comics at Transitions 5 in London. Or perhaps set the controls for the Sunday before last to hear me discuss digital comics with Scott McCloud and Russell Willis at The Lakes Comic Arts Festival.

For those without a time machine, I can offer the small solace of a video recording of the guest lecture I gave last Wednesday on Comics and Videogames at Malmo in Sweden (I wasn’t actually in Sweden, but my big giant head was transmitted there by the wonders of the Internet):

This news post would more happily sit under the title of “olds” were it not for the fact that I’ve got three more speaking engagements coming up in the next month:

On Friday 7th November I’ll be giving a keynote on digital comics at The University of Bergen’s Visibility illustration symposium. My actual entire body is being transported to Norway for that one, so that should be fun.

Then the following weekend (November 15th-16th) I’ll be at Thought Bubble in Leeds as part of the Electricomics booth. The whole Electricrew will be on a panel together on Saturday, which will hopefully be entertaining and informative in equal measure. And at the booth we’ll have an exclusive new mini comic that includes a three page strip from myself, entitled ‘An Elephants’ Guide To Digital Comics.’ Also at the show you’ll be able to get your paws on the final issues of Necessary Monsters 2: Murderbox, which is packed full of enough Azzopardi goodness to warrant your attendance all on its own.

Finally, (finally!) on the 19th November I’ll be appearing as part of this year’s Comica Festival on the Digital Comics: Evolution and Revolution panel at the Institut Français in London.

Wow, I sure have been talking about digital comics a lot lately, haven’t I? Alongside all the talking I’ve also been taking my new game/comic, The Empty Kingdom with me on tour and subjecting the unwary to random play testing. Keep it under your hat, but if you click on the chap in the crown to your left you can get a sneak peak at the first screen. If you’d like a more in depth look, pop along to one of the events listed above, or possibly invent time travel. Which ever’s more convenient I guess.  – Daniel Merlin Goodbrey

(reposted with kind permission from Dan’s own blog  e-merl.com)

 

Thought Bubble 2014

Thought Bubble is a big deal, its the biggest and best comic festival in the UK. This year it has grown so big, they have had to create a huge teepee to house part of it.

Several of the Electricrew are already Thought Bubble regulars, so taking Electricomics to it was a no-brainer, but we really wanted to make it a bit special too.

We decided to produce a very limited edition booklet exclusively for Thought Bubble. Something special to have there so people can take part of the project home with them.

The booklet will have some of the beautiful art we have coming in for the project, some of the lovely shots taken by Mitch Jenkins over the course of project so far, a stunning cover by Colleen Doran, a completely new three page comic by our digital comics guru Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, and an interview with the man behind the curtain himself, Alan Moore.

Mr Moore has kindly said he will pre-sign all of them, and of course you can also get them signed at the show by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, John Reppion, Peter Hogan and Leah Moore.

We are not going to reprint these ever, they represent a sizeable chunk of our marketing budget, and as a research and design project we do not have any reserves, so if you buy one, its a one off!

We will also have a selection of badges so even if you haven’t got pots of cash, you can still make your friends jealous and proudly show that you are on Team Electricomics!

So if you are up for it, and I am assuming at least a few of you are, we will be there!

November 15th and 16th, 10am till 5pm, Table 22 in New Dock Hall.

FireShot Screen Capture #072 - 'New Dock Hall Floor Plan » Thought Bubble - Leeds' Comic Art Festival 2014_ 9th – 16th November' - thoughtbubblefestival_com_new-dock-hall-floor-plan copy

There will be somebody from the team manning the booth throughout the show, and you can also catch them at the Electricomics panel on Saturday afternoon from 1.30 till 2.20, in the Newsroom, on the 4th floor of the Royal Armories: Peter Hogan, Dan Goodbrey, Mitch Jenkins, John Reppion and Leah Moore will be talking about the project, how it came about, where they are up to now, and what they hope to achieve.

As if that wasn’t enough, if your schedule is really tight, and you have other stuff to do while the panel is on, you can catch Leah Moore  John Reppion and Peter Hogan all signing on Saturday 3 till 4.30 in Royal Armouries Hall, tables 23 and 24 which are the designated signing tables, so bring down your trades and back issues and get them signed!

Leah and John will also be signing from 3 till 4.15 on the Sunday afternoon, before they dash off home, so Sunday only people, you will not miss out!

The team will be at the party on the Saturday night too, so make sure you get your ticket and come along and say hi. Its always a blast. Last year we drank the bar dry, not just us of course, there were hundreds of people there. Ahem.

Anyway, Thought Bubble 2014, if its not already in your diary, then its still not too late!

- Leah

 

 

Wired Next Generation Event Report

Saturday morning, I threw a load of comics and paper and pens into a wheely case and kissed the kids goodbye, and then leapt onto a London-bound train. When I got off the DLR at Shadwell, the sun was beaming down, everyone had washing on their lines, and I had to follow signs that said “Pirate Ship”. All the omens were good.

WIRED Next Generation was in Tobacco Dock, a huge and intriguing space which did not disappoint on the pirate ship front.

I met up with Alison Gazzard and we checked out the show, which included drones, awkward ipad virtual presence bot things on wheels, X-wing made of bike parts, 3D printing, South Africa in virtual reality, and my personal favourite GIANT COLLABORATIVE TETRIS!!! me and Alison had a go, and it was so hard. I was in charge of left/right and Allie was in charge of rotate/drop. The pressure was *enormous*.

We waited outside our workshop room, and chatted to the man who made the  X-wing out of bicycle frames ( https://twitter.com/HeavyPetalUK)while the group inside made musical instruments out of fruit and veg.
When we were allowed to enter we watched them unplug and dissemble the various devices, which had electrodes jabbed in lemons, potatoes and notably, a small aubergine.
Feeling not at all intimidated by all of that, we set to work putting out all the hi-tech equipment we were going to need…

We put out some quality comics to inspire them, and then quickly put away again all the ones I realised had swears in… o_O

First we were scared nobody would come and we’d sit there with only crickets chirping.
Then the crowds started to gather, and we became scared everyone would come.
In the end we had all 20 of the kids who had booked, and then five or six extras we couldn’t bear to turn away.

We gave them some plot ideas, in the form of clippings which I’d chopped out of New Scientist the night before.
The idea was to say that ideas can come from anywhere, and its totally legit to find inspiration in everyday places, but I think it just meant they all thought I was a loony.

Anyhow, they all got going thinking up ideas.

Their ideas were AWESOME.

This was the one inspired by an article which said a huge subterranean ocean has been discovered beneath the Earth’s crust.

This was one from an article about using things creatures really do in nature to inspire inventions.

When he gets angry he becomes magnetic. Hilarious and disturbing events follow…

This table had two clippings, one about 12.5 fingers being the optimum amount, and one about brain probing which causes people to be back in places they once were.

This was the awesome work of one attendee who has a bright future ahead of him I think!

This was all from a story about trousers (really, I gave them quality material to work with…) and I have to say the results were…amazing.

I really want to read comics about Dr. Disproportionate and Mr Dubstep.

Note the infographic at the bottom which clearly demonstrates the difference between trouser crabs and crab trousers.

I want this on a T-shirt please…

This was a story I really wanted to see more of, a sci-fi epic by Finnbar Wilson.

Finnbar Wilson, creator of the World’s Scariest Thing. I want to work with Mr Wilson some day when he can fit me in. @_@

So that was our workshop!

We did attempt to skew it toward ways of doing the comics if you were reading it on a ipad, (aided by Alison’s awesome paper cut out iPads) but in the end, talking about the ideas and the characters was too fun, and we got cut off short before we could properly finish and say goodbye.

I ran away and into a taxi, and got home at ten that night.

thank you for having us WIREDNG! we’d love to come back next year if you’ll have us?

HUGE thanks to all our attendees, without whom we’d have just been two crazy ladies in a room on our own. If you attended and want your name up next to your work, drop me a line using the Contact page, or tweet at me @electricomics or say hi on Facebook.

I have two email addresses already, and if any more of you get in touch, I will set you guys up as beta testers when we are at that point. You were so awesome thankyou!

Apologies for the hideous quality of the pictures, I took them on my iPad, on the floor this morning. It shows, I know.

Electricomics Everywhere…

So not only are Leah Moore and Alison Gazzard teaching a workshop about digital comics at the #WIREDNG event tomorrow in London (For more details click HERE)
Daniel Merlin Goodbrey is also appearing at The Lakes Comic Art Festival too, in Kendal.
He will be talking to the legendary Scott McCloud, along with Russell Willis from digital comic app Sequential.
If you are going to Kendal anyway, make sure you catch the panel. If you are in two minds about attending…GO! If you weren’t planning on it, what were you thinking? Go and listen to them talk. They know all of the things!

If you arent going to either of these events, we are of course attending the mighty and amazing Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds in November, so click HERE to book your ticket and we will see you there with all manner of exciting things!

Electricomics at the WIRED Next Generation event October 18th 2014 – Tobacco Dock

This Saturday, Leah Moore and Alison Gazzard will be leading a digital comics workshop at the WIRED Next Generation event.

How to…
Make comics for the digital age

Electricomics

Electricomics will explain the link between storytelling and software, taking you from stapled pages to app design. You’ll not just move comics to the screen, you’ll make the comics own the screen.

Electricomics at the WIRED Next Generation event
Saturday, October 18, 2014
4:00pm – 4:45pm

[ready_google_map id=’1′]

Tobacco Dock
50 Porters Walk
Wapping
London, England E1W 2SF

We will be bringing all the state of the art equipment, such as PAPER and PENS, so all you need to bring is your brain. To be honest, even that’s optional.

See you there!

Click HERE to buy tickets.

WIRED2014 – Next Generation On Facebook
WIRED2014 – Next Generation on Twitter

Can’t make it? Search #WIREDNG and you won’t miss a thing!

Crackling with activity…

We had our third meeting last week, and it went really really well. We are finally getting to the point where we can begin to imagine what it is we are making, and what we might be able to do with it.

What I hadn’t realised about Research and Development is that the process itself is the project, not the finished thing.

I’ve been slogging away and wondering when we’ll have something to show for it, worrying what people are going to think of it all, will it be up to snuff? But actually, sitting there talking about what goes into the actual comics, and what goes into the code for the app, and what tools we might be able to offer, and which ones are harder to achieve, it was suddenly clear to me that this is what the grant is for. its for the talking, and the thinking, and the problems to solve, and the tricky stuff that drives you all crazy.

I have no idea if what we end up with will be what any of us imagined at the start, but i am very excited to see how we all get there, and what happens along the way.

Mitch Jenkins, the world class photographer and director who recently finds himself reduced to reporting our meetings (often tucked away in a hide so he can observe our natural behaviour), has been at it again. This time he had a large and noisy polaroid contraption, which reduced anyone he photographed to a startled ghost. He has very kindly put them up on his blog for all to see, along with his own meeting report:

http://mitchjenkins.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/overload.html

As he points out, he is a very busy man right now, dashing from city to city to screen ‘Show Pieces’, the five amazing films he and Alan Moore have made together, and from the world of which the whole Electricomics project is but a tiny part.

A quick glance at www.mitchjenkins.com shows that his talents are truly squandered snapping us eating biscuits in an attic. Thankyou sir. Your hard work is much appreciated!

The Ocasta chaps have been very hard at work also, writing code, assembling libraries of Javascript (I type like I know what that means) and figuring out how to translate the frankly huge list of hopes and desires in the scripts into reality.

They are taking on more people to cope with it all, and still have need of iOS people, if that is you, please use the Contact Us form to get in touch and make the subject iOS.

In a similar but non specific request, any genius code monkeys out there willing to Beta test or lend a hand to the Electricomics project, please use the contact form again but put CODE MONKEY in the subject title. We are fast realising we need all the help we can get!

When we were writing our script for our story Sway, I had no idea what the end result would be, and no real idea of what it would take to get to that result.

After sitting down with Martin and Steve and the gang and actually seeing what they have to do to make that real, I found it rather humbling as a writer.

I have been very accustomed when writing comics, to just thinking what might look cool, what might be an awesome thing to put in a story, or what my current obsession happened to be. I would happily send off the script to whichever editor had commissioned it, and that would be my job pretty much done. the artist would presumably draw it, and then the other processes would happen and my comic would pop out fully formed at the end.

Working with the team as it is, where we have tech and research partners who have varying degrees of familiarity with the comic making process, and ourselves as the arts partner with almost no idea of anything technical or academic, the project is becoming a lesson in co-operation, in playing to your own strengths, in asking what things mean, and what the next step is, and actively seeing that script through the process at every minuscule stage.

My comfortable detachment is gone. I have to account for my ridiculous scripting decisions, and either stick with them, or ditch them quick. Efficiency is the new king, and Ego is cast out.

And yes, for anyone wondering, all that even goes for the big hairy fellow himself. Big Nemo is obviously  ambitious boundary pushing multi faceted and clever. It’s an Alan Moore comic, of course it is, but it has been under just as much scrutiny by the whole team.

Colleen Doran has been wrestling with the behemoth like Big Nemo script and even posted this in the wee hours of last night:

It still astonishes me that I have Colleen Doran working on my project. I am giddy as a result.

I have received rough layouts from Paul Davidson, who is working with Pete Hogan on Cabaret Amygdala Presents… and they are just fantastic. His layouts are what a lot of artists would just hand in as pencils. We are lucky to have him while we can still afford him!

I have rough layouts from the great Peter Snejbjerg for Red Horse which he is doing with Garth Ennis. I cannot wait to see the actual art for it. I am trying to maintain my editorial mask of detachment, but I fear it won’t last.

I also have rough layouts for Sway, which I co-wrote with my husband John Reppion, and which is being drawn by Nicola Scott. Nicola Scott, people. I know.

I have also seen the sketches for our first very beautiful cover. If you pay close attention to Instagram and Twitter and our Facebook page, I may show you a tiny bit of, just so you can be excited too.

I’m nice like that.

I haven’t mentioned our research team, Alison and Daniel, but don’t let that fool you. They dont just sit there nodding and making little notes and being enigmatic, they are really digging in and getting their hands dirty. Dan is working on something which attendees of Thought Bubble will get a peek at, and Alison and I have another event which we are plotting, where we will use the innocent youth of London as guinea pigs for our own devious experiments.

More on that soon I promise. More of everything soon!

Stay tuned people. We are just getting to the good stuff!

Leah Moore

I'm not running away with these cakes. I am just holding them for a friend.
I’m not running away with these cakes. I am just holding them for a friend.