This weekend we crowned a new Digital Comics App of the Year, as Electricomics, Alan and Leah Moore’s open source publishing platform, saw off competition from all over the globe to be chosen as the best digital comic app of 2015. To celebrate we caught up with founder Leah Moore to discuss their triumph, as well find out more about Electricomics‘ first year and their plans for 2016.
Congratulations on winning Digital Comic App of the Year 2015, how does it feel?
LM: We are so happy to win! Everybody at Ocasta and Orphans of the Storm has been working so hard on this, trying to get it all completed in line with the funding milestones, and fulfilling everything we set out in our bid, and I think we may have underestimated what an exciting project this would be once it was released! In the three months since it went live, we have been delighted by the quality of the comics people are making using our Generator, and by how positively the app has been received by the readers. This is a fantastic way to start the year, and hopefully 2016 has more in store for Electricomics.
The Electricomics iOS app was launched at the end of last year, how has it been received and what were you most surprised or pleased about when it launched?
LM: Yes, its been about three months since we launched and the response was very positive. People seem to like our approach to digital, and they enjoyed the comics we launched with. The thing I’ve been most surprised and pleased about is the response to our comic creation tool, The Generator. We had no idea if anybody would want to use it, or would be able to use it well enough to make anything worth reading. Turns out people are really into the idea of it, and the quality of the comics they are making is phenomenal. I think, moving forward, if we can improve the UI on the generator a bit, it could be the biggest thing to come out of the project.
Was it a particularly troublesome journey to get to the final launch, were there are problems along the way, and are you happy with how the app has turned out?
LM: We had some issues with matching the timing of the development to the payments made by our funding body, The Digital R&D fund for the Arts because they were tied to specific stages we’d set out at the start, and then the development didn’t progress in exactly that linear form. We got everything we wanted to do done, and we are really proud of it, but there were times where satisfying the funding milestones became another whole task in itself, apart from building the app.
The only other challenge was dovetailing the comics workflow with the app development workflow, as neither side had previous experience of the other, and what their job entailed, so there were a couple of scheduling issues that came out of that. At the time those things seemed fairly huge, but actually that’s what the funding was given to us for, to find out what we were able to do, and what issues it might throw up for us. We are all hugely proud of what we’ve achieved.
The four launch titles were really varied, but each showed the apps functionalities in different ways, which were you most impressed with and which did you enjoy reading the most?
LM: I think I was most impressed with Peter Hogans work on Cabaret Amygdala Presents: Second Sight, just because he had really really tried to come away from a static page, and do something purely digital. His comic was a nightmare to create for that reason, but I think from a standing start he really tackled it the most aggressively. The one I enjoyed reading the most is Big Nemo, because the story is pitch perfect, and the art is like a gorgeous glowing tiffany lamp, especially as its on a screen. Colleen and Jose’s work together really sings in digital.
How have you found the Open Source platform has been greeted by other creators? Is it working how you had hoped and are there any titles which have been produced that you are particularly impressed or proud of?
LM: People have been excited to have a go with it, by and large, and the comic folk who also code have suggested all kinds of things we could do with it next. There are about thirty comics by other people in our Library page now, for people to download and read for free, and the thing that strikes you is the inventiveness. People are making comics that use digital to ramp up the tension, the suspense, and the emotional impact of their stories. One of the first ones I got in, was Lars Schwed Nygård’s (@Larsschwed) “The Birds of Twilight Park” which is a fantastic little mystery story, with the page elements appearing one at a time to great dramatic effect. The story immerses you more I think because you control the pace, but then the ending is so unexpected, its fantastic. That was the first story where I thought we might be onto something with the Generator.
The one which has impressed me most since then, was CHARLIEHEBDO by Tompte (@mumblemonkey) which I am still reeling from. It was an entry to the most recent challenge we ran, and it totally blew me away. He seems to be able to cram in ten times more everything into his comics, and I’m not sure any of it would be possible, how he does it, with paper comics. He makes me certain the digital comics medium is a really separate hybrid art form, and different to paper comics. Its not just a gimmicky format change, or marketing decision.
You’ve released a desktop version of Electricomics for those without tablets, how important was it for you to open the platform up to a new audience and are there many major differences between the app and desktop versions?
LM: It was massively important to us. In the very first meeting we had to decide iOS or Android, and we came down with iPad because it has one screen size, so we would not have optimise for every android tablet size. Since we announced, I have had nothing but comments asking for the android version, and while some folks were very polite about it, some really weren’t. What had been a very practical development decision for us was perceived by some as us being sell out corporate shills, endorsing Apple products for some sinister motive. I got a message asking when the android version would be out, because their factories had lower suicide rates.
Anybody who has even the remotest knowledge of Orphans of the Storm, and the politics of Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins, its founders, will know their ethos is expressly set against the corporate model. They make their independent films on tiny budgets because they keep creative control and keep their rights to the property. The idea that they would pick iOS as a platform out of some kind of brand loyalty or attachment is ludicrous.
The desktop reader is all down to our main developer Giulia Alfonsi (@electric_g), who started coding it at Leeds train station while waiting for her train home from Thought Bubble this year. She had been so impressed and inspired by all the creators she had met, and had a head buzzing with ideas. She has been the driving force on the tech side, so if you are reading our comics on your PC its her you have to thank for it!
We hope the desktop reader will open it up hugely while we work on the Android version. Once we have it available across all platforms we can work on refining the Generator, and the Apps to make them the most efficient they can be. All of it requires funding of course but we are very determined.
And finally, what’s next for Electricomics? An android or kindle version? Some big new features?
LM: We are pushing on with the Android version, and then we are going to work on the Generator, and also optimising for phone size screens. Once we have that done, the main thing we will need is a back end system so people can have accounts and post their comics with it, and follow each other. its a whole other project in itself really, but it would be the other side of the publishing ecosystem we have set out to create. Once people are selling their comics and making money from it, that’s the big End of Level Boss we have in our sights.
Also will there be more comics from Alan Moore, Garth Ennis or yourself and John Reppion, or any other big name creators?
LM: We hope to do some more of our own comics yes, and take things further this time, now we know what is possible, and yes we want to commission some other folks to do some too. As soon as we announced I had a pile of emails from interested parties, and they would be a dream team to work with, so yes, once we get funding I want to let some other people have a play with the toys.
Download the Electricomics for iPad via iTunes via iTunes or read via the Electricomics desktop reader which available via their website.