Cheerful! Also: creepy!
Typical isn’t it? No news posts for years and then two come along at once! The reason for this second missive is to close off the dangling thread I left in last week’s post and properly introduce my new webcomic serial, Solid Metal Override. SMO is going to be taking the place of the recently departed Ghosts of The Great Mistake, updating every Tuesday both here at E-merl and in mobile-friendly infinite canvas format over at Webtoon.
Story wise, SMO is… hmm… I haven’t really figured out exactly how I’m pitching this one yet. It’s basically me taking a whole bunch of my favourite science fiction universes, putting them in a big blender and then sifting out all the bits that aren’t five robots talking shit in a bar. It’s also possible it may be a sort of sequel to MASIVO, although time will tell about how true that ends up being. Anyway! Why not tune in every Tuesday and we can discover what the hell it is I’m doing together?
In other news, Solid Metal Override’s arrival has given me an excuse to do a very light spring cleaning and refresh of the site’s colour scheme – let’s go with E-merl 8.5.1 as the current designation, shall we? While I was dusting around the place I also brought the Theory and About E-merl pages up to date with my most recent projects and publications. Oh, and if you’re interested in the comics theory side of what I do, keep your eye out for the online Transitions 9 conference from 8th to 10th April. I’ll be presenting a new paper called “How to Cheat at Comics” in which I’ll be lifting the veil on the various digital illustration processes I’ve used over the years (providing I can find some way to shave about twenty minutes off my current draft of the thing, anyway).
In my continuing quest to write these news posts further and further apart, it’s now been an impressive one year and seven months since the last one. To summarise events in this period: first life at E-merl towers got steadily better for seven months or so, and then the pandemic happened and things in general have more or less been put on hold for a year. Which, given how much worse than that the pandemic has been for many people, is something I can’t really complain about. So in lieu of complaint, lets solider on to the actual point of this news post: Ghosts of The Great Mistake, which finished its three-and-a-half year run this week.
Thanks to everyone who has tuned in regularly to read Ghosts either here at E-merl or over at webtoon. I began the series back in September 2017 at a time where I felt like I desperately needed to start making comics again, having taken more than a year off from regular webcomic updates to focus on finishing my doctorate. Between Trump and Brexit, the world didn’t feel like a particularly nice place in 2017 and Ghosts was at least partly a reaction to that. And then of course the world got worse, first on the home front and then for everyone with the arrival of Covid-19. But Ghosts kept on going through all of it and managed to do exactly what I needed it to – it let me rediscover the simple joys of making comics and it helped keep me sane at the times in my life when I really needed that extra bit of sanity. I think it was somewhere around episode 106 that I originally decided to start teasing out a storyline that might bring a conclusion to the series. I had no idea at the time that it’d take me another 76 episodes to finally wrap the whole thing up.
If you’ve enjoyed Ghosts and never sampled any of my other work, might I suggest you peruse this page and check out some of my previous webcomic series? And in case you’re wondering what you’ll do without Ghosts in your life every Tuesday then fear not – I’ve got a new series in the pipeline that will launching at E-merl and webtoon in the very near future. What series you ask? Well, more news on that soon but… okay… here’s a little hint.
Well, I guess it’s been a while hasn’t it? The last year has been… let’s say “significantly not great” on the home front, leaving little time to focus on keeping E-merl properly working and updated. At last though I have managed to carve out the time to fix all the things that have fallen over on the site and write a little news update to bring folks up to speed.
So welcome to… I guess I’m going to designate it E-merl 8.5. The whole site fell over in a major way back in August of last year, forcing me to rebuild big chunks of the back end WordPress stuff. This has resulted in a spiffier looking site, but also knocked out all the old webcomic archives which each needed to be rebuilt, one strip at a time. A year later and I’ve finally finished doing all of that, although sadly The Nile Journals could not be restored due to their Flash-based nature. I’ll have a think about finding some other way to get them back online at a later date.
Another causality of the crash was the old Brain Fist archive which stopped working for reasons I don’t really understand. However, this was a problem I could at least turn in to an opportunity, and I’m now re-running all of Brain Fist with a new strip appearing every Thursday at E-merl and in a smartphone friendly scrolling format over at Webtoon. Ghosts of the Great Mistake, which I’ve somehow managed to keep updating without interruption throughout the last year, is also now reaching a new audience at Webtoon.
Finishing out this news post are some updates to my Theory and Consulting pages which have details of some of my recent achievements on both fronts. Oh, and I guess I should mention that in the last year I did talks at Comics|Games, Transitions 8 and Wandering Games. Going forward I’m going to try and get these news posts out a little more regularly, if only so I can manage to mention when I’m talking at an event before the event actually takes place.
Oh look, it’s March already – time for a little E-merl News Update! Top of the news pile is an upcoming event – on Wednesday 18th April I’ll be speaking about digital comics at the British Library as part of their “Digital Conversation” series. The event is being organised by John Freeman, who provides the full details over on DownTheTubes.net. If anyone fancies coming along, tickets are on sale over here.
In the “things that I probably should have mentioned last year but didn’t” department, back in December I spoke about hypercomics and game comics at the Pixel Show in São Paulo, Brazil. It was a blast! I’m going to be visiting São Paulo a couple of times a year in my new role as link tutor at EBAC, so keep an eye out for me at more Brazilian events in the future. This also feels like a good place to plug the very long digital comics interview/conversation I had with Anthony Raguel that final saw publication in December. I say “finally” because the piece took shape over more than a year’s worth of back and forth e-mails. I think it’s a pretty good read if you’d like to get a snapshot of my evolving thoughts on the topic.
And lastly, in “comics what I have been working on” news, Ghosts of The Great Mistake continues apace at E-merl, with 26 strips under the belt so far (wow, half-a-year’s worth already!). I’ve also recently been able to start chipping away at the final chapter of volume three of Necessary Monsters – check out co-conspirator Sean Azzopardi’s blog post for an update on the artwork side of things.
Now obviously, no one is actually calling me anything of the sort. But if someone wanted to call me that, they now officially could. Because yes, I am finally and officially Doctor Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (DDes). Wooooooo! The minor corrections I did on my thesis over the summer were agreed by my lovey examination team (thanks so much Roger Sabin and Paul Williams!) and so I can now share my finished thesis with the internet in general.
The Impact of Digital Mediation and Hybridisation on the Form of Comics has received it’s own page at E-merl, which you can read by clicking that little ol’ hyperlink I snuck into the start of this sentence. You can either grab the whole thing as one handy PDF, or digest it in leisurely chaptered PDF chunks. I’ve also included links to the comics I made as part my thesis and uploaded a new video of Black Hats In Hell for your viewing pleasure. I hope academic folk who are interested find the whole thing useful, and that non-academic folk who read it will forgive the rather clunky writing style that the form demanded I adopt.
Hey folks! It turns out E-merl is not dead! When I wrapped up Dice With The Universe back in May last year, I didn’t expect it would be quite so long before I made another post to the site. But it’s been a busy year-and-a-bit here at E-merl Towers and sadly comic-making has had to take a back seat for most of it. However! E-merl is now back in operation with a spiffy v8.1 site update, a new webcomic series and this little ol’ news post to explain what I’ve been up to.
The first bit of business keeping me occupied was finishing my doctoral thesis on “The Impact of Digital Mediation and Hybridisation on the Form of Comics.” Catchy title, right? Thankfully I’ve now passed my examination and completed the minor corrections on the text so *fingers crossed* that should all be taken care of. I’m keen for folk to be able to read the whole thing so, as soon as I hear official word that I’m allowed to publish it, I’ll pop a copy up online for all to see.
The other thing that kept me busy during the last year was a rather sudden and unexpected promotion. Last September I took on the role of Joint Programme Leader for the Digital Animation and Games Programme at the University of Hertfordshire. This meant a big step up for me in terms of responsibilities and duties, along with an associated uptick in stress and “argh-oh-gods-what-do-I-do-now” moments. Thankfully nothing vital exploded or caught fire during my first year in the job and *fingers crossed again* hopefully that success rate will continue on steadily into the future.
Somehow during the last year the world in general also didn’t explode/catch fire, despite the sterling efforts of Trump and Brexit voters. In the spirt of the glorious end times in which we now find ourselves, I offer you E-merl’s new weekly webcomic: Ghosts of the Great Mistake. I would like to say that it’s a series full of hope and optimism but what it’s actually full of is ghosts, regret and the occasional aardvark. It’ll be updating with a new episode every Tuesday, thermonuclear war allowing.
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.