Electricomics is a pioneering new digital comics project that is being overseen by Leah Moore, daughter of legendary Watchmen creator Alan Moore. This UK government funded arts project is aiming to develop an open source toolkit for digital comics creators with the aim of bringing this exciting medium to the masses via a cutting edge iPad app. Most excitingly for fans it will also feature exclusive Alan Moore digital comics as well as new titles from a host of big name writers and artists. Leah and developer Ed Moore [no relation] give us exclusive insights into this ground-breaking new project.
Tell us a bit about the idea behind Electricomics? Where does the inspiration come from and what are the ultimate goals you are hoping to achieve with it?
LM: Electricomics is a background detail in Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’ sprawling multi-media world The Show. Dad has just finished the screenplay for the feature length film, and there are already several short films, Show Pieces, already made, available to pre-order here, which they funded using Kickstarter. Dad had envisaged it as an interactive comic, which kids in the world of The Show view on a ‘Spindle’, a flexible device that looks like a scroll. He and Mitch had been talking about the various elements of the film, about actually creating them for real, so if there is music playing in the films, they’ll write it, if there is a cartoon on TV, they’ll create it, and Electricomics grew out of that.
Who was involved in setting up Electricomics and how did you get involved?
LM: Pete Coogan, a colleague of Dad and Mitch’s, mentioned the idea to his developer friend Ed Moore [no relation], and Ed, being the enterprising chap that he is, said he wanted to actually make it. It was Ed who told dad and Mitch about the Digital R&D fund for the Arts, and went through the application process.
I got involved at the outset. Me and John had written 150 pages of experimental digital native comic The Thrill Electric for Channel4Education, so Dad wanted us on board to consult at first and then my role grew to become the Editor of the comic itself.
You’re releasing it as an app, will it be iPad specific or iPhone as well? And will it work on other tablet and smartphone platforms as well?
EM: Initially it will be for iPad only, but our aim is to create an app that will be iPhone as well, the other main platforms will follow after initial launch when we’ve had a chance to review usage and made any tweaks to the offering. Release should be in late 2014 or early 2015.
How will Electricomics be different from existing app platforms like ComiXology or motion book publishers like Madefire? Will the stories be interactive or will it be the open source publishing model which is the driving force and the unique selling point for the app?
EM: The app may well be interactive and open source. Our aim is to create a better reading experience rather than being driven by a particular technical feature or approach.
LM: I think the main selling point will be the tool kit, and the platform for users to put their work up. It’ll hopefully be a bit like DeviantART, with users of all levels accessing the same service, and hopefully the tool kit will allow people to do something new and interesting with their comics.
Your Dad’s involvement is obviously having a positive influence on the app, how involved will he be in the app itself and how beneficial is his presence on the project?
LM: The positive PR is great, but this is a yearlong project, so we cannot rely on Alan Moore fans to carry the project for the duration. We’re hoping people get on board because of what we are hoping to achieve, as much as who is behind it at the start.
As far as involvement, Dad is not a digital user, so he won’t be sat beta-testing the software, but he is very enthusiastic fan of new ideas and inventions and technology. He has always been into future tech, and has always easily spun off huge sprawling worlds from that technology, so this is fairly normal in that respect. The only difference is that this time it’ll be real.
He attends every meeting, chips in on every part of the discussion, from creative decisions, to budgetary concerns, and technical decisions. He’s completely up for it and I think that seeing as he won’t be able to actually access the comics himself at the end of it, it shows a tremendous commitment! His story, Big Nemo, is his take on Winsor McCay’s beloved character, who is the subject of several reboots and re-imaginings this year, so I really look forward to seeing how he and Colleen bring it to life and make it their own.
EM: There is a published list of writers involved in the project, however our aim is to open it to everyone eventually.
LM: We have a fantastic list of creators on board already, with Garth Ennis teaming up with Peter Snejbjerg on Red Horse, Colleen Doran doing Big Nemo with Dad. Pete Hogan and Paul Davidson are bring us Cabaret Amygdala presents… and myself and John have Nicola Scott drawing Sway for us.
Going forward, we of course hope to raise further funding for more branded Electricomics, and if that happens we already have a wish list as long as your arm of people we want to involve. Of course even if we don’t get more funding, the toolkit will be there for creators of any level to use and have fun with.
As well as the talk of you producing comics via Electricomics the other main subject of the press release you sent out is the idea of Electricomics being an open source tool-kit for creators, can you tell us how that will work? What tools will be available and how will it work for creators looking to make the most of publishing their work with you? Is it an actual creative tool or more of a distribution platform?
EM: A creative toolset AND a distribution platform will give us a complete solution. It’s hard these days to deliver one or the other, in the mobile app world a development technology is always made available alongside a distribution platform.
LM: The ultimate goal is to make a toolkit that everyone can use to create experimental digital comics, and showcase that toolkit using the professional branded comic. The comic will hopefully be available on a reader app for iPad, the toolkit will hopefully be available on desktop devices, but its R&D so nothing is set just yet, it’s an organic process!
Electricomics sounds like a great way for creators to push the boundaries of digital comics without being restricted by big publishers and censors etc. how important is it for you to create an environment for creators to work in? Will there be any curation of content with Electricomics or is it a no limits approach to comics?
EM: The creative process should be paramount, we will deliver as much flexibility as we can as part of the development platform.
Finally how do you feel about the growth of digital comics as a whole? Is it something which is pushing the comics industry forward or is it just as stifling as the traditional print arena do you think?
LM: I think that there is huge potential for the medium using the digital form. I see it as very like the web. Way back, a website was basically a document that resembled a paper contents page. There were images, but inserted exactly how you would in print. The formatting was the same as print. We could not yet see beyond aping print. Websites now are slick and multi-layered, pulling API data from many sources, running several processes at once, and presented with incredibly sophisticated visuals, and a variety of ways to interact. I see no reason why comics should not embrace This kind of complexity and variety. A comic that uses local weather or news API data? why not! A comic that has numerous story strands at once which are on their own clickable paths and intersect in various ways? It doesn’t seem that hard to imagine. It’s all just interesting things we can try and have fun with, and let other people have fun with. If we do that, then the project succeeds right there.