Electricomics – An Open Source Comic Book App For Creators And Readers

Moving away from traditional virtual worlds for a post here, one of my favourite subject matters concerns story telling, in all its forms. On that theme I bring news that graphic novelist Alan Moore, has teamed up with his own daughter, Leah and Ocasta Studios to produce a new Open Source comic book app for the iPad, Electricomics.

Alan and Leah are no strangers to storytelling. Amongst Alan’s work are titles such as Wathcmen, V For Vendetta and From Hell. Leah and her husband John Reppion also have plenty of work to their names including titles based around Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who … not in the same story I should add, although there’s actually potential there.

So what exactly is this app, you may be wondering? Well the basic blurb tells us that Electricomics :

is a digital comics reader app, which gives you free access to innovative digital comics by some of the best writers and artists in the business.

However in terms of the project as a whole there’s far more to it than that. In a blog post announcing the launch of the app, they announced :

Coming very soon, you will be able to go to http://Electricomics.net and download the creator tool to your desktop PC or MAC. It lets you lay out, and package your own comics, and read them in the app.

You can build Infinite Canvas comics, where the reader follows the story from panel to panel in whichever direction it leads. You can make Panel delivery comics, where you have control of the reading experience at panel level, every panel can be a reveal, and the page is fluid, changing.

The professional comics are a jumping off point, we want you to join in, and push forward what is possible for yourself.

So this isn’t just an app for readers, there’s a creation aspect to it too, but there’s more, the app will be Open Source :

Open Source code is used throughout, and full access to our JavaScript library, so if you can see a piece of functionality you could add to it, the code is there to use, and we can add it to the next update.

Whatever is added to Electricomics remains Open Source, and the property of the community using it.

Take it. Make with it. Improve it. It’s yours.

That means there’s a lot of potential here for people to build on the code and go in new directions.

The app as it stands is only available for the iPad, although the FAQ does cover the Android issue, it basically boils down to funding and time. iPad was the best fit in terms of getting the app out there.

I’ve downloaded the app to an iPad and had a play around with it. As things stand it allows you to read four stories for free. The stories are Red Horse by Garth Ennis, Sway, by Leah Moore and John Reppion, Cabaret Amygdala Presents: ‘Second Sight’ by Peter Hogan and Big Nemo by Alan Moore. The stories demonstrate different ways the app can work, for example some stories are moved on by swiping across the screen, others by scrolling up and down whereas others involve more interactive techniques such as touching items in a comic panel or even tilting the iPad.

The app is free so it’s worth looking at if this sort of thing appeals to you. I found it interesting and I’ll be interested to see how it develops, especially when the creator tools are available.

An interesting aspect to this comes in an interview Leah did with Wired, in which she talks about some of the challenges of developing the app :

Dad famously doesn’t have an internet connection. He’s eschewed pretty much the entire 21st century. So it’s been interesting to try and see how people with almost no digital experience would try and push storytelling in that direction. I think next time I might maybe use people who are slightly more digital-literate. There’s been a vast gulf between what people were able to get and what the technical team have been able to deliver.

My Dad doesn’t have an internet connection either, indeed his idea of Googling something is phoning me up and asking me to look something up for him. This is indeed challenging so I definitely empathise with Leah when it comes to developing an app with her Father’s input.

The way stories are told is changing, in truth it has always been changing. The Guardian recently published a good article about book apps for ios and Android; Interactive book apps – 10 of the best. Amongst the 10 are Electricomics but there’s also a title that some readers may be familiar with, Blood and Laurels by Emily Short. Blood and Laurels was published using Versu, which was once in the hands of Linden Lab, then put at the back of a cupboard or a dusty old bookshelf and then revived by Emily Short.

More apps will arrive, for PC, Mac, ios, Android and even virtual worlds where the power of storytelling isn’t really being talked about but they have the potential to be a really compelling platform for storytelling and immersion.

Electricomics definitely sounds like it has a lot of potential, it will be very interesting to see how it develops.

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