We've run two interviews here on Bleeding Cool where comics creator Alan Moore talks about the new open-access app launched by Orphans of the Storm, NESTA (the funding body), and Ocasta Studios (the software developers), called Electricomics. On the initial launch of that free app in early September, the public were introduced to four comics, each showing off different narrative techniques possible through the experimental format which incorporates many features like motion, subtle animation, differing narrative directions, and more into the text. Those comics included "Red Horse" by Garth Ennis and Frank Victoria, "Sway", by Leah Moore, John Reppion and Nicola Scott, "Cabaret Amygdala Presents: 'Second Sight'" by Peter Hogan and Paul Davidson, and "Big Nemo" by Alan Moore and Colleen Doran. So many options have been introduced through this grant-funded project that it has led Alan Moore to question whether this might be some "new medium" rather than simply a new iteration of comics.
In the meantime, since our interviews were conducted, Electricomics have launched the "toolbox" mentioned in previous interviews, as a usable system for the creation of digital comics open to users with varying levels of experience, whether new to digital or well-versed. You can find the introductory codes here, and an explanation to get you started.
In our first interview, we talked about the background and intentions behind Electricomics, spear-headed by project manager Leah Moore, and in the second interview, Alan Moore walked us through the app's comic features to be found in his own offering, "Big Nemo". Today, we're in for a lighter element of the conversation–his punishing treatment of technology and his venture into that world via his film series with Mitch Jenkins, collectively known as Show Pieces.
Alan Moore: I'm not the best person for handling the app. Using that light touch, that light "tap" that's required for the app. I'm kind of incapable of that. I will be pounding the tablet and possibly shouting at it. I'm a bit heavy-handed with touch screen technology.
HMS: Well, they make these special cases for young children to use with tablets to keep them from breaking them. Ruggedized. Maybe you could use one of those…
AM: Is that like "punch screen" technology? That might be more in keeping. I'm sitting here with my stainless steel keyboard in front of me. Industrial strength. I got this one because the other ones would keep melting and just become really unusable really rapidly. So I've gotten this industrial one that can handle red hot cinders, things like that. Apparently it can have power hoses turned on it from all four directions without actually affecting its function.
But I had managed to actually kind of screw it up within one month. And I'm not proud of this, but I was kind of proud of that. The fact that it's an invulnerable keyboard that's supposed to be able, apparently, to survive an active volcano, and I'd mastered it within one month. It's still functioning, but some of the keys stick a little bit.
HMS: Dear Lord. Is this some kind of NASA keyboard for scientists or explorers or something?
AM: I think you use it in an industrial environment. Presumably around furnaces and things like that. It seems to be able to mostly stand up to the kind of punishment I give it. But yeah, my relationship with modern technology is still at a distance. The thing is, just because I don't actually use this technology doesn't mean that I'm not aware of it and don't have at least a rudimentary understanding of it. I do have thoughts about it!
AM: Even if it's not something I'm using, I'm aware of it as something in the world. And it would be foolish of me not to have ideas and thoughts about it. But I'm very much looking forward to sitting down and looking at Electricomics and seeing how many of those "wild surmises" turned out to be of practical use.
HMS: You'll then become a reader of Electricomics yourself, and in a way, the Spindle from The Show.
AM: Well, the funny thing about the Spindle was that, a few years ago, way before we made His Heavy Heart, we were at one of our frequent points of being stalled in production of the films. We suddenly had an immense amount of interest from Hewlett Packard. They were really interested in doing The Show, possibly as an app. What had gotten them so excited was the idea of the Spindle, because they were already producing such a thing. They sent us their in-house magazine, which contained things they were working on at the time where there was a device exactly the same as the Spindle, called something different of course. They said that there was a problem with the fact that they could only manage to unroll the screen and roll it up again about 12 times before the screen started to disintegrate. But that was a problem they were working on, to have this thing available within a couple of years.
However, then Hewlett Packard had a bit of a scare, which apparently was all sparked off by trying to make "Jimmy's End" into an app to put onto their tablet device. It was going to be launched as the first movie to be launched as an app. They took it to their software people and asked them to load the film onto the tablet with certain features, and the software people said, "You do have a problem. Your tablet doesn't do what you think it does". At which point, Hewlett Packard seemed to panic and withdrew completely from hardware and bought a software company for something like 7 billion. Then they've had nothing but problems ever since with the software company. Obscurely, we and our film were the cause of that, or at least were part of that story. I don't know where the Spindle is, but in the meantime, Electricomics has materialized. The first of our products from another dimension to have done so.
AM: There is that computer game I was talking about, which is called Escapism. My other daughter Amber, has created a game document for that and we've thought the whole thing through. The thing is, as with everything, we want complete control, which makes the whole thing much harder. Ad people are offering us deals, but they want control and ownership. So we're having to find different strategies for getting things done. There are a lot of things, from ridiculously pointless products to things that might have a more serious application that are kind of embedded in the fabric of The Show.
I suppose, ultimately, it might be interesting if we could establish this principle of creating things in an imaginary world that we could then export to reality. Then there might be say, useful social institutions that you could introduce in this fictional Northampton that might be possible, in these fluctuating times, to realize in the actual Northampton and other towns. If we could establish the principle, I can think of a lot of things it might be useful for. It's quite a strange idea, but I don't see why it shouldn't work if handled properly.
HMS: That has an almost alchemical feel—creating something in an imaginary world and then introducing it into the real world—like when the alchemists would use a sealed glass container to try to grow things. As an enclosed environment.
AM: Like a homunculus or something?
HMS: [Laughs] Yes.
AM: Well, funnily enough, alchemy is actually quite a big part of The Show, even with the first five films, there are little hints. The fact that the dancing girls are called, collectively, the Bare Brides, that's a reference to Marcel Duchamp's enigmatic masterpiece, 'The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors' Duchamp was interested in alchemy and that was intended to be an alchemical work, so he left it outside his studio in the rain so that the elements could actually have a part in the art. And, of course, one of the images we use in The Show itself, the feature film, is a pub sign, for a pub called The Bird and Bottle. It's a big glass jar with a live crow inside it.
HMS: Wow! Yes.
AM: Which is an image from alchemy. I know that in "Act of Faith", there is that toy crow which is seen a couple of times. Which we had made at tremendous expense. I think even the eyes cost 80 pounds each, I believe. The crow is in Faith's bedroom in "Act of Faith". We had them made, I think, by a German family who specialize in making eyes. That's a strange way to make a living (laughs). But yes, the crow is of alchemical importance. There's a lot of stuff under the surface of The Show that will become more explicit as we go through the feature film process and hopefully the possible television series after that. But given how long it's taken us to even get the first short films out, no one would be advised to hold their breath. These things take a lot longer than in the world of comics.
HMS: Yes, definitely.
AM: Well, to get back to the app, I'll add that this is probably fantastic and everyone should go out and immerse themselves in the experience as soon as possible.
You can learn more about NESTA and the digital arts fund by following them on Twitter @nesta_uk or the hashtag #artsdigital
All photographs are copyright Mitch Jenkins/Orphans Of The Storm
Screengrabs are copyright Orphans Of The Storm
All art copyright Orphans Of The Storm
Sway is written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, art by Nicola Scott, with colours by Jose Villarrubia and letters by Simon Bowland
Big Nemo is written by Alan Moore with art by Colleen Doran, colours by Jose Villarrubia and letters by Erica Schultz
Red horse is written by Garth Ennis with Art and colours by Frank Victoria and letters by Erica Schultz
Cabaret Amygdala Presents: Second Sight is written by Peter Hogan, art by Paul Davidson, colours by Jose Villarrubia and letters by Simon Bowland
All animation and enhancement of the art in the app was done by Ocasta, namely Giulia Alfonsi, with assistance from Sean Gannon
Art prep and colour flatting is by Andy Bloor and Craig Scheuer
The cover image is by Colleen Doran and coloured by Jose Villarrubia
All Logo Designs are by Todd Klein