By Olly MacNamee
With the success of winning the Pipedream Comics' Digital Comic App of the Year Award for App of the Year 2015 (and beating some impressive competition too) as well as Electricomics recent launch of its desktop app which we covered here, we thought it was about time we caught up with Leah Moore and sit down for a chat about all things Electricomics.
Olly MacNamee: Hi, Leah, and thanks for taking time out answer a few questions for us here on Bleeding Cool. Firstly, you've just announced the launch of a desktop app for even more opportunities to read your current batch of Electricomics. Given that you incorporate a lot of animation that is intrinsically linked to the actions of, say for example, tilting a tablet to activate a particular effect, will anything be lost in translation, so to speak, onto desktop?
Leah Moore: Ah you've spotted the flaw in our master plan! I did think the same thing when Giulia Alfonsi said she had finished the Desktop Reader, but then I read Sway, which is the only one with the feature you mention, and the solution she has for it is really neat and didn't impede my enjoyment of it at all. I think that until we get the Android version out, which hopefully will be fairly soon, then this is a great way to include all the people who were left out by the iPad format at the start. All the comics look great on it actually; it's fantastic to see them on a big monitor.
OM: What were the short-term goals for Electricomics and have you achieved them, do you think?
LM: The short term goals were to make the app, the comics and the Generator, and hook it all up so people could make their own, and that was it. We knew we didn't have the budget for any more than that and at times we really weren't sure if we had the funds to finish it all. We did though, mainly thanks to Ocasta and their impressive work ethic, they put in a lot of late nights to get it all out the door, so I owe them thanks.
OM: And, I suppose, the most obvious follow up to that is where do you see Electricomics going in the long-term? You do promote it as something of an online community don't you, sharing free open source toolkits and the ability for anyone to produce their own online comic? Is it a truly digital democracy?
LM: Absolutely it is! We launched the Desktop Reader recently, so everyone with a laptop or desktop computer can read the comics. This was important to us because we were painfully aware that launching as an iPad only App risked alienating a huge part of our audience, and also the audiences of the creators we were trying to encourage to use the Generator.
Giulia Alfonsi started coding the Desktop Reader while waiting for her train home from Thought Bubble, after talking to comics' creators for two days. She saw they needed a wider platform than just the iPad before they would invest time in making the comic.
One day we will get to a place where people can log in, publish their comics, follow each other, follow a title, and upload issues etc, but for now I am so happy to be where we are. We have just over twenty comics made by our users, in our Library page, for anybody to read. They are so varied, and so imaginative. The quality of them has been a real eye-opener for me. I knew people would enjoy messing about with it, but I did not expect the results to be so exceptional.
Tompte is a real talent, any of his are worth a read, and S James Abbott is really taking to it too. @BiblicalComix are using Electricomics to publish all kinds of stuff, including a weekly series called Stoners, and soon a full 22 page issue which will be a first for us.
Electricomics is now a Community Interest Company, which means we legally have to put the profits we might make back into the company in a way that directly benefits the comics' community. This also sadly means I'm prevented from running off to Antigua with the petty cash tin. You are all stuck with me!
OM: What else can users find on the Electricomics webpage beyond the comics and the tools to create your own? What about the research you've just made available too users?
LM: Our Final Report is up on the site, as is the link to the full footage of 'The Comic Electric- A digital comic symposium' which we held at The University of Hertfordshire, organized by Dan Goodbrey and Alison Gazzard, our research team. The day had fourteen speakers on digital comics covering every angle, and from all corners of the globe. Its all up on YouTube, and there is a storify of the slides used, so folks can dig in! I am going to blog the interviews Alison did with the creative team during the project, and also some I did with them toward the end of the project. There is a ton of material, so the challenge is just making it presentable, so its not just huge chunks of text.
OM: How do you see digital comics developing in the future? I mean, with the added element on animation it is, arguably, a different experience of reading and therefore, possibly, not the death knell of the printed word (or comic) that many feared.
LM: I don't see it as the end of print at all. I see it as the beginning of a completely different hybrid medium. The way that digital comics can include movement, or sound or animation and still give the reader the control over the speed they read, and to go forward or back, that makes it unique. When you read a digital comic, the drama and pacing is often greatly heightened because the panels are often delivered one at a time, so its the ultimate turnover, but also you have the flexibility to suddenly go huge, to pull back, or switch direction completely. Digital comics are exciting, and have so much uncharted territory still but they can't replace print comics. That's like saying films will replace novels, or that plays will replace radio. Digital comics is a new hybrid medium, not a content repackaging stunt, or a marketing technique.
OM: Other than the obvious collaborator, your dad, how did you get the likes of Garth Ennis onboard? I hear his script was something of a catalyst for change when it comes to your own dad's writing style.
LM: Dad wanted to get Garth onboard so he just asked him to do it. I sent a great big email with all the things we were aiming for with the technology, and all the things he might want to do with his comic, but in the end he stuck to what he does best, and his comic is really simple and clean and perfect that way. It's proof that you don't need a lot of added features to make a digital comic worth reading.
Yes, Garth has had a profound effect on dad's workflow. Dad read a part of one of Garth's scripts, where he described two planes engaged in a dogfight in the sky, but got it all into a couple of incredibly succinct almost poetic, perfect lines. Dad has always written a Full Script, which he always told me came from his never knowing who might be drawing his story, back in the day, and so if he wrote in every single little detail, and where it all was in the panel, the artist couldn't go wrong, and the result would be as he'd intended. Looking at his catalogue of work, this approach must have worked, but some artists must have wondered why he took two pages to describe one page of comic.
He had this moment reading Garth's script where the scales fell from his eyes, and he realized he could probably trust the artist to know what he meant, especially if he wrote in an evocative but concise way, like Garth does. He has done so ever since, and said it has more than halved the time it takes him to write a script. Who knew, eh?
OM: And finally, with big names and new faces hanging around on Electricomics, what would be your overall philosophy behind this brave new world venture of yours and your partners?
LM: We want to give comics creators the same ability to self publish and maintain control of their creations that the Small Press now has with Print. The cost of print has tumbled in the last ten years with Eastern Europe and China able to undercut traditional print options. Electricomics hopes to do that for digital comics. We want anybody to be able to make a digital comic that is as powerful and entertaining as one put together by a big company, and then publicize and distribute it as they see fit. Rather grand aspirations, some might say, but then would it be an Alan Moore project without them?
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don't..