And that was Dice With The Universe! A massive thank you to everyone who ever rolled a dice to see what would happen next. It is accurate to say that this series never could have happened the way it did without you. It’s been a lot of fun chronicling the adventures of Beatrice, Cromwell and The Elephants across the last two-and-a-bit years. It’s also still mildly terrifying to remember that for all that time I had no idea which way the dice would fall from one week to the next. Fortunately, even though Dice has ended, I still have plenty of mild terror to go around – my next job is to at last finish writing up my doctoral thesis on digital comics. You can expect E-merl to go quiet for the next few months while I take care of that little bit of business. See you on the flip side!
E-merl.com ~ New Experiments In Fiction
It’s been a busy time in stately E-merl manor over the last month. Let’s break it down in reverse chronological order, shall we? Starting in the future – next week on Wednesday October 14th we’re holding The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium at the University of Hertfordshire. Check that first link for the full run down of talks, but I can tell you now that it’s going to be a crammed-full day of digital comics demonstration, discussion and theorising. We’ll hopefully be finding some way to live-stream and YouTube the day, so keep an eye on @merlism and @electricomics for details.
As part of the Electricomics keynote that opens the symposium I’ll be doing a new take on the history of digital comics. To get a little flavour of that, you could check out my introduction to Writing Visual Culture: Digital Comics, which was published this week. I’m not sure how I found time to edit a second journal of digital comics theory this year (the first one is over here), but I hope those with an interest in the area will find lots more interesting stuff to chew on in this edition. Plus, this volume includes my own paper on sound in digital comics, which fans of The Empty Kingdom might be particularly interested in.
Still on the Electricomics front, as part of the project launch I contributed the first new Electricomic to be created for reading in the app. If you copy this URL and open it in the app, you’ll be able to read Grandfather’s Hammer for yourself and let me know what you think (the first review to come in was pleasingly positive). Then, if you’re feeling inspired to make some comics of your own, our Electricomic generator tool is now online and available for download. It’s a bit bare bones at the moment but it’ll get you on the way to making your own iPad-friendly digital comics. Then, if you’re interested in taking things further, why not try dipping your toes into our open source code library on github? Go on, you know you want to.
Meanwhile, hopping across to the strange and mysterious world of printed objects, September finds me back in the Diamond Comics Catalogue with Necessary Monsters Volume 1 being solicited from 1st Comics / Devils Due. If you’ve ever watched a horror movie and thought the bad guy would be far more interesting if he was reluctantly conscripted into a Mission Impossible style spy-team, then this is the book for you. Drawn by the amazingly talented Sean Azzopardi and out in stores in November, I suggest you place your order now if you fancy getting hold of a copy.
Annnnd that just about wraps it up for this massive news update. Oh! I’ve also updated my Theory page with a few new bits and pieces. Plus! I couldn’t possibly sign off without offering a massive thankyou to everyone I met at El Festival in Mexico. The entire place was full of simply wonderful people who were incredibly friendly and genuinely inspiring to talk to. There were also significantly more flamingos than I was expecting and a pleasing quantity of free mescal. Heaven!
The Electricomics app is now live and available for download on iPad! Yay! Since release we’ve been getting lots of press in places like Wired, The Guardian and Bleeding Cool, with more stories and reviews popping up all the time (probably most easily tracked via the Electricomics blog itself). And this is just the first stage of the Electricomics rollout – the comic creator toolkit will be following along shortly, as well as a new little demo comic by yours truly called Grandfather’s Hammer. More news on both these fronts in the next few weeks.
Now on to the other half of the news headline – tomorrow morning I’m hopping on a plane to Mexico to attend El Festival in Cuernavaca. Double Yay! I’ve been invited to the show along with Leah Moore to talk about digital comics in general and the Electricomic project in particular. We’ll be there to network and spread the Electricomic gospel throughout the week, with a special digital comics masterclass scheduled in for Friday evening. If you’re reading this and happen to be attending the festival then do be sure to say hello if you spot me. Questions, queries and random offerings of tequila will be very much welcomed.
Hello E-merl readers! You’d like a little update on a couple of things I’ve been up to lately? Why certainly! First off, the academic journal on digital comics that I’ve co-edited is finally live on the web! Networking Knowledge 8.4: Digital Comics features six articles that between them cover webcomics, videogame fan comics, hypercomics and the crossover between digital comics and theatrical performance. Taken as a whole I think it’ll prove to be a very useful resource for anyone looking to expand their studies of the field.
My academic adventures continue, as I’m currently busy organising the world’s first Digital Comics symposium. The Comic Electric will be taking place on October 14th at The University of Hertfordshire. Myself and the rest of the Electricomics team will be there to deliver our research findings, and we’re keen to invite others to share their own digital comics research as part of the event. The deadline to submit abstracts for consideration is July 27th, so you’ve still got a few weeks to get writing – full submission details available over here.
What’s that E-merl readers? You’d also like to know what I was up to half-a-year-ago but forgot to mention? Well! I did do a nice little interview with Hannah Means Shannon at Bleeding Cool about my work on the Electricomics project. And Dan Berry and I had a lovely chat about digital comics (and my career and teaching and… stuff) for his podcast, Make It Then Tell Everybody. Well worth a listen, I’d say.
My new game comic, The Empty Kingdom, in now live on the Interwubs for your perusal. This one is a little different from Duck and Icarus – while it’s a bit adventure-gamey and does draw on my memories of MMOs, it maybe sits best in the genre that RPS likes to call “walking simulators.” Only you’re walking around inside a comic with your headphones on and there are these little alien dinosaurs and… anyway. Have a play and let me know what you think?
Once you’ve had a play you might also want to listen to the chat I had with Fredrik Rysjedal for the Norwegian comics podcast, Teiknesamtalen. We had a good talk (in English, since my Norwegian is rather limited) about some of the ideas behind The Empty Kingdom and my wider thoughts and experiences of digital comics as a whole. I think it ended up being quite a useful discussion of the emerging digital comics form, so will hopefully be of interest for those of you who are into that sort of thing.
While I’m thinking about it, those folk might also like to check out these two reports of the Electricomics panel at Thought Bubble. I think the panel finally succeeded at getting the message out as to what we’re actually trying to achieve with the research project, and I was very pleased to see this reflected in Asher and Hannah‘s excellent coverage.
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 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.
Folks who have been paying attention to the news have likely already caught wind of the ‘major new digital comics research project’ I teased back in February. Electricomics was officially announced to the world at the end of May although I’ve been attached to the project for a year prior to that, so it’s lovely to finally be able to tell you all about it here at E-merl. Essentially, Electricomics is a digital comics research project born out of the mind of comics legend Alan Moore and funded by the NESTA Digital R&D Fund for the Arts.
We’ve got a whole load of talented comics folk on board to create our initial proof-of-concept comics, Ocasta Studios providing the tech know-how and myself and Alison Gazzard acting as the project’s two research partners. Together we’re all trying to figure out what makes digital comics tick and then create an open source toolkit for their creation. You can find out lot more detail by taking a browse of the Electricomics website and I’d like to particularly draw your attention to this recent article by myself and Alison that lays out some of the digital comics theory at the bedrock of the project.
Speaking of theory, I thought it was well past time that I opened a section of E-merl devoted to it. And thus, the Theory page was born! Check it out to get a feel for the highlights of my comic scholarship over the last few years of my doctoral study – hopefully it’ll prove to be a useful resource for anyone else researching digital or architecturally mediated comics. In a similar spirit, I also took the time to get the Consulting page up to date with details of my recent consultancy and exhibitions (which hopefully will prove equally useful for people who want to hire me to do comics things for money).
Hey look, it’s May! How did that happen? It seems since February a few of the vague events hinted at in my last news post have now come to pass, so time for some updates. First off, UK readers may already have heard of the Comics Unmasked exhibition that’s just opened at the British Library, as it’s been getting lots and lots of favourable press. What folk may not know is that as part of the show I was asked to curate an exhibit of significant digital comics by UK creators. You can read more details about the exhibit in the press release over here and I’d heartily recommend anyone visiting London over the summer to go and take a peek in person.
Elsewhere in the world of digital comics, we’ve recently put out a call for participation for a second academic journal focussed on the medium. Myself and Jayms Nichols will be co-editing an edition of the Networking Knowledge journal and we’re keen to accept abstracts that examine all aspects of comics crossover with digital media. Full details of the call are over here. In related news, I’m going to be presenting some of my own recent research into sound in comics at the Digital Reading Network‘s first symposium. The event is taking place on June 19th in Bournemouth and is still open for registration for those that fancy coming along.
And finally, a look into the Internet’s crystal ball has revealed that I’m going to be a guest at The Lakes festival in October. I’ll be there to take part in a discussion about digital comics with Scott McCloud, who is just about the best person to be discussing that with ever. Book your tickets now or risk missing out on what critics everywhere are sure to call “two friends having quite a nice chat about comics.”
Hey look, it’s E-merl 8.0! Everything’s gone a bit wider and more colourful, hasn’t it? And what’s that? Why, it appears to be brand new, twice-weekly webcomic serial, Dice With The Universe. Picking up the baton from the recently completed MASIVO, Dice will be updating every Tuesday and Friday. But unlike… well, just about every serial I’ve done before, Dice will need you (yes, you!) to take a hand in determining what transpires each week.
Meanwhile in other news… there is no other news I can tell you. Yet. While it looks like I’ve got a very exciting and rather busy 2014 ahead of me, I’ve been thoroughly sworn to secrecy about the lot of it. So! Vague hints it is! In the year to come look out for a second webcomic serial to debut at E-merl, a new comics installation to be exhibited somewhere in London, a discussion panel 12 years in the making and the announcement of a major new digital comics research project. Comics! Excitement! Vagueness! Yay!
Time for an autumnal news update, don’t you think? Starting off with an upcoming event – Thought Bubble 2013 will soon be upon us and I’m going to be there, sharing table 149 with Mr Noble. Debuting at the show will be not one, but two new issues of Necessary Monsters: Murderbox by myself and my esteemed colleague, Mr Azzopardi. Also at the show will be Mr Miers and his fascinating Score & Script anthology, which just so happens to contains new strips by both myself and Mr. Noble. Why not bring your freshly-purchased copy along to our table and enjoy the bout of fisticuffs that will no doubt ensue as we attempt to settle which of the strips is the finer.
Remember my gallery comic, Black Hats In Hell? I mentioned it in a news post a little way down the page? No? Well then allow me to direct you towards two aide-mémoires. Firstly, the comic has had the good fortune to be featured in Paul Gravett‘s new book, Comics Art. Part of Tate Publishing’s Contemporary Art series, the book presents a fascinating tour of the medium that I’d recommend to everyone as thoroughly worth checking out. Secondly, I’ve now completed my own write up on Black Hats, in the shape of an academic paper entitled Images In Space. Based on the talk I gave at Oxford in September, the paper examines the comic alongside other architecturally mediated works and tries to get at what makes this subset of comics tick. Take a peek and let me know what you think via the twitters or, even better, in person at Thought Bubble next weekend.
Despite the unprecedented outbreak of summer, production has not slowed in the E-merl comic factories. Freshly unleashed on the public is my new game/comic hybrid, Icarus Needs. Folks may remember the game’s protagonist, Icarus Creeps from his appearance in a couple of previous tales here at E-merl. For those interested in getting some further insight into the ideas behind the game, I’ve popped up a pdf copy of the Game Comics talk I gave last month at the Joint International Graphic Novel and Bande Dessinées Conference in Glasgow.
Staying in the world of comics theory I’ve also recently had the good fortune to see the publication of my first two academic papers on digital comics. Digital Comics: New Tools and Tropes can be found in Studies In Comics (Volume 4, Issue 1) while my hypercomic history From Comic To Hypercomic is in Cultural Excavation and Formal Expression in the Graphic Novel. Should any of my fellow comics scholars happen to be reading, I’ll also give a quick plug for the new journal on digital comics that I’m going to be editing. Writing Visual Culture: Digital Comics will be out in early 2014 and I’ll be taking submissions for papers up until 18th August. For full details, check out the full call on the TVAD blog.