To celebrate the launch of Upgrade Soul, here’s a screen shot of an eleven year old prototype I made that sets artwork from Will Eisner’s “The Treasure of Avenue ‘C’” (a story from New York: The Big City) in two dynamically resizable panels. At the time I was deep in production on Chroma, but my head was also ringing with inspiration from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, and emboldened by a generous conversation with the man himself (who had been recently asked to comment by a New York Times reporter on whether Chroma was a graphic novel. The verdict? No, and rightly so).
It struck me that it would be pretty cool to make a comic with panels that could be resized, so I scanned in Eisner’s work and put this test together (complete with little window resizing icons in the lower-right corners to grab on to). Digital comics have been a passion for me ever since.
(See what I did there?) The last couple of months have seen an uptick in published commentary on Strange Rain, much of it owing to notice the app received at this year’s Modern Language Association conference in Seattle. Strange Rain was included in a wide-ranging electronic literature exhibit curated by Dene Grigar, Kathi Inman Berens, and Lori Emerson, and was also the topic of a paper presented by Mark Sample for the panel ”Reading Writing Interfaces: Electronic Literature’s Past and Present.” Also featured in the e-lit exhibit were Ruben & Lullaby and Blue Velvet at dedicated stations, and Chroma and Public Secrets indirectly as part of the Electronic Literature Collection 2. I feel very fortunate to see such a variety of projects garnering interest, and in such good company to boot—a Storify archive has been posted that captures some of the who, what and when.
Below are links to the two MLA-related essays which discuss Strange Rain, along with another piece from a recently-launched Tumblr called The Chimerist (they don’t love my writing, but I find it somehow inspiring when folks tweet critical reviews of their own work, so I’m following that example!).
”Toward a Mobile and Geolocative E-Lit Aesthetic”, by Kathi Inman Berens
”Strange Rain and the Poetics of Motion and Touch”, by Mark Sample
”Strange Rain”, by The Chimerist
Dialogue bubbles huddle together in the Unity authoring environment like backstage theatre performers awaiting their chance to shine in the forthcoming iOS and Android release Upgrade Soul, from Opertoon.
Here’s a clip demonstrating the Flex-based tool I’ve built to help create the physics-driven curves which shape the imagery of The Knotted Line, a forthcoming project directed by artist Evan Bissell. The Knotted Line consists of an enormous horizontal painting depicting 75 key moments in the history of labor, education, and incarceration in the United States from 1495 to 2025. The piece is simultaneously a new media art project and an educational tool, with related curriculum planned at the middle, high school, and college levels.
Slabtype, the text rendering algorithm I developed for Public Secrets, has been adapted by web developer Brian McAllister as a jQuery plugin. If you’re interested, you can read details about the inner workings of the original algorithm. Very gratifying to see past work live on in new forms!