The Iliad + Digital Island Project 2021 + A Comics Movement?

So I’ve moved on to the next stage of my Unofficial Residency. I’m back to doing Freelance Work. (Nov-Dec is one of my busiest seasons of the year. Of course I wouldn’t miss it.)

Though I only completed like, almost 3/4 of what I set out to do during the first phase of the residency, I’m grateful for whatever progress I am able to make. Afterall, any headway during 2020 is a miracle! Luckily there’s a second phase to catch up on things. So fingers crossed I can get some more in.

I mentioned earlier in the blog that I was writing the draft for Alexander Comic. Well, the good news is that I got past a troublesome chapter (very shoddily, but at least all of the materials are there, which is the most important thing when drafting). The sort-of bad news is that the following chapter is also troublesome – though not as bad or mind-spinning. Unfortunately it requires me to read The Iliad in order to acquire the thought, depth and structure needed to do that chapter justice. 800+ pages of barrier I need to blaze through. So little time.

Sigh, the things I do for this comic…

Sometimes I wish I have more brainspace and time dedicated solely to the writing of Alexander. But of course, with the delays caused by 2020, I’m forced to work on my children’s graphic novel at the same time. That GN has been taking up a lot of space, mostly due to its urgency (the deadline for the final artwork is in March – April). I don’t regret it. I just think it’s unfortunate that things happened at the wrong time. Hopefully, 2021 will ease up.

And that’s the thing. I haven’t had a quiet year in a long time. Since 2012 I’ve always juggled a thousand things, whether it’s academia or comics or art. I only recently left academia two years ago, so the things I’ve been juggling are the latter two. And yet, in those two years I’ve been juggling THREE comics projects, in addition to minor freelance work. I don’t think I can keep doing this without going bonkers in the head.

I originally intended to return to academia in 2021. However, with the pandemic going on, I decided to delay it (to 2022? to 2023? God knows. But I am expecting a year and a half, at least). The visa application process is not worth it for two years of online learning in a practical internship course. Not to mention the international student fees. I’d rather be late so I can enjoy my studies properly.

Anyway, this means I have 2021 as a confirmed free year. A year of nothing.
(Except Alexander.)

And that’s another thing. I have actually never gotten a whole year dedicated to a project. The last time I had something similar was the 7 months after high school when I debuted The World in Deeper Inspection. That was 2013.

One of the strange sideeffects from the Unofficial Residency is that now I’ve developed a taste for ignoring freelance work. No I don’t mean ignoring my paying clients (I love my reputation and my pride too much to do that). I mean, when potential clients come to my inbox, I’ve started to enjoy saying ‘Thanks so much! But I’m on break until XYZ. Are you okay with waiting?’. I used to just pick up anything and everything asap and get them done quickly, because I am fast and efficient and a workaholic. But lately I wanna take my time and preserve my energy. You know, to be efficient in a different way. So I’ve been thinking bout how to restructure my life to best accommodate my love for working with others and working on my own craft. To add more Unofficial Residencies into my year.

So I’ve decided to make 2021 a residency year. A year of very few freelance. Solely about developing myself and Alexander and the next stage of my career. Speaking of which…

I was writing down my plans for 2021 in a journal, and I had a thought, which I tweeted. To my surprise it gained a significant amount of traction. I knew many of the comics community have expressed interest in communications, but not like this.

Thinking bout how cool it’d be if there’s a movement of comics creators partnering with academics/museums/institutions in the sciences and humanities to produce books and materials for outreach and communications. I know I am not the only one wanting to break in.

I’m seeing creators publish short comics in digital magazines about mushrooms and AI and politics, making books based on historical figures/classical literature, etc. We love communicating knowledge to the public and we have the SKILLS to make it engaging!!!

There’s @GraphicMedicine (comics creators working with medical professionals) doing interesting work, especially during COVID, and I wish to see more of this in the rest of STEM and also the humanities. The things we can do with ART HISTORY!! BIOLOGY!! SPACE!!

(My niche is in intertextual art history and classical literature e.g the Alexander legends; and weird macabre things. But I’ve a STEM degree and love astronomy – how the universe began, how life forms and diversifies, how it may die. Food history is great too.)

Also feel free to go off in this thread on what subject matter or field you’d like to make comics for (or if you’re an academic/someone in an institution looking for a creator). Maybe something will happen, haha.

Thread with advice on how individually, artists can reach out to the relevant people to get this movement happening (in your career at least, not yet an industry norm)

Me tweeting. (This thought is somewhat related to my previous post on Institutional Recognition)

And a response to my thoughts from my friend Ned Wolfe.

I’ve been thinking about this thread for the last two days, because comics and history and museums are very very very dear to my heart! I keep thinking about HOW we can make this happen

We have the Smithsonian/IDW partnership to look forward to over the coming years, which I think can be fantastic in setting the stage for how these COULD happen

I’m really excited for this partnership, and cannot wait to see what’s announced in terms of their graphic novels. You have so many experts at the Smithsonian, experts about SO many things. It’s going to be incredible.

I do think that while we wait for Big Official Projects like this to happen, we need to set groundwork for ourselves as creators. What do we want to do? How do we want to do it? What does a partnership *look* like?

We have to ask ourselves “what do I want to do.” What interests you? Is it science, or history, or art? Is there a museum/institution near you that specializes in your area of interest? Reach out to them. They aren’t going to come to you – they don’t know you exist.

When I was planning my first research trip to Oxford for the TE Lawrence books, I reached out to the librarian who had organized the exhibit I wanted to attend. I let him know about what I was doing, and asked if he could put me in touch with the Bodleian Libraries – which he did

Through that connection, I learned HOW I could access archival materials, and was able to make a connection with the Bodleian. I’ve used this in my work, Dreamers of the Day. What I wanted was access, and I got it.

You have to reach out to the potential interested parties. And not email the broad museum email address. You want to find the individual who can help you, and reach out to them. Say you live in Boston, and the preeminent Sargeant scholar is at the MFA. Email them directly.

Be sure to show them examples of your work. Before even emailing the librarian at Magdalen College, I had a short TE Lawrence comic ready to go – it showed I was serious about my work.

Say, rather, that you want to work with a historian or scholar on a comic. The same thing holds – the onus is on YOU to get in touch with them. But how do you find scholars to work with or follow? Same way as artists, potential collaborators, publishers. Twitter.

I started attending lectures about the First World War back in April, primarily hosted by @DanHillHistory. Through this, I found researchers who were doing cool work that aligned with my own interests.

I’ve become friends with several, expressed interest in collaboration, and lo and behold, they are interested in collaborating as well! Nothing has been solidified YET but the mutual interest is there.

Again, we’re both able to show the other what we are doing, and see how our interests align with each other’s, and how a future collaboration could look.

I’ve attended a couple lectures by @ChrisKempshall, who has done extensive work on FWW and video games. In one of his lectures, I asked him what his ideal collaboration situation would be. Chris said that he’d want to be asked from the beginning. Historians hold the stories…

…and they want to share them. And that’s what we as cartoonists do. We share stories. And we can do this and build the bonds with academia and institutions.

Funding is, of course, a COMPLETELY different issue that I am not qualified to speak on! I’ve applied for funding many times! I have not got it once.

HOWEVER. Some institutions have FELLOWSHIPS for artists – I’ve looked at Magdalen and All Souls Colleges in Oxford for future applications. The @BL_Labs (Britsh Library Labs)have annual awards for pieces created out of their digital collections!

These opportunities are OUT THERE. Part of it is creating them for ourselves, by either Doing the Work, or reaching out to those who can helps us Do the Work. Comics is collaborative. Let’s include academics, etc in creating them.

tl;dr: we need to just Do the Thing and not wait for others to drop the thing into our lap. Because by DOING the thing, people know who’s laps to drop opportunities into!

Ned Wolfe

Along with a few friends, it’s gotten me thinking about how I want to go about this. I knew I wanted the next stage of my career to focus on scholarship and communications. To use comics to communicate STEM and humanities to the public. Bring people into museums. Get them excited about topics. I am working on how to achieve this personally using Alexander (in the form of a strange hybrid website – a blend of webcomic, history resource and comics craft documentation). But I wanted to apply this on a macro scale. Make it an industry norm.

Some ideas are percolating in my mind… but I will need to stew them first. But it’s exciting. Interesting. It’s definitely a further specialisation into a skill that I already thought was specialised. We will see what happens.

So yeah. Some mundane-interesting stuff happening. I’m looking forward to it. Stay tuned. ;O

Hello, hello

Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

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