Uncanny Valleygirl by Alex De Campi #1: OMG! Like, Comics! On My Phone!

This is one of the many dangers of IM. Send a quick note to moan to a friend about frustrations surrounding the launch of one’s e-comic, and before you know it you’ve agreed to do a column and are batting back and forth vile puns on Tubeway Army song names for use as titles.

So hello, my name’s Alex, I’m a girl, and I wrote some comics a few years ago:  Smoke, which only a couple thousand people read, but luckily two of them were on the Eisner committee. Two series through Tokyopop that you probably didn’t read because you’re not a teenage girl; and two series through Humanoids in France that you probably didn’t read because you’re not a French teenage girl (although I bet a couple dozen of you play one online).

I then got distracted from comics by hanging out with indie bands and shooting music videos for them. I still do that; this weekend I’m shooting the live-action beds for a part-CGI video about a man turning into a robot for the British electrofiends Gyratory System. I have, for the shoot, spent a good portion of this week buying robots online with other people’s money. You begin to understand the appeal of this whole music video thing, yes?

But anyway. I missed writing comics, and various artist friends and I started making some plans. We wanted to keep our rights, so that cut out all the publishers who would pay us a page rate, and a few who wouldn’t. We wanted some form of attention and validation as we were doing the book, rather than toil in oblivion for eighteen months or so before giving birth to a complete graphic novel. And, y’know, money is lovely and a great motivator, so we didn’t want to just throw up a webcomic for free.

But to do 22-pagers… well, the only time I go to a comic shop any more is every five months when an issue of PHONOGRAM comes out. I want to break out beyond the comic shop-going audience, out of the wilting, sunless little garden where Diamond has walled in so many sequential fans – and walled out even more.

I consume all my content digitally, and technology is finally almost to the point where comics can be bought and delivered digitally to a wide selection of wired and wireless devices. This column will be concerned with the untold reefs and other hazards to navigation which surround the simple word ‘almost’ in the previous sentence.

02So was born the Valentine project. Here’s the idea; it’s really not that original, but the devil, as always, is in the details: Christine Larsen and I create a pulp action/thriller comic with monthly episodes of circa 65 panels that comes out on iPhone, Kindle, as CMZs for reading on laptops, and any other place I can get the piece. We’ve crowdsourced translations into 11 languages from friends worldwide, who are getting a cut of their translation’s income.

We’ve set the format free in some ways, creating a series of single panels all the same size that will display perfectly full screen on both iPhones and Kindles. The benefit of this is for readers in, for example, Japan and Israel, they get a flawless, native right-to-left reading experience.

We are not doing “motion comics” because frankly if I wanted to do a story as a series of animations I’d just, y’know, direct more actual animations (warning – the last NSFW due to surprise!buttseks).

33When this is all over, if Christine and I survive, she’s working at a big enough format that we can publish this as a fat B-format paperback that can be racked spine out in bookstores. I’m not looking forwards to the days I will have to spend in Illustrator re-sizing panels to give a proper manga/GN sense of pacing, with panels per page ranging from 1-5, but hey, them’s high-class problems.

And if this works even mildly well – electronic delivery and disintermedation means the cuts artist and writer receive are so many multiples greater than in made-from-trees comics, we need to sell very few copies to do pretty darn well for ourselves – I and artist friends are noodling around with a couple other series (including more Smoke with Igor; I’ve written Episode 1 already).

Meanwhile, the underlying irony in all this is that I can’t afford an iPhone. I’m hoping earnings from Valentine will pay for one…

Stick with us foolish dreamers and part-time futurists as our launch date comes rampaging towards us like a pissed-off sea monster, and we bounce in our tiny ship between the Scylla of the tech curve and the Charybdis of close-minded sacks of meat with little empires to protect.

And, of course: twitter @alexdecampi and facebook.com/alexdecampi.

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