In what may be the beginnings of a new business model—at least for libraries and academic institutions—for supporting long-form serious comics narratives, Rob Berry, creator of Ulysses Seen, the online graphic adaptation of James Joyce’s literary masterpiece, has licensed the graphic work to the James Joyce Center in Dublin, Ireland, for online display, in addition to selling the center the original artwork in a separate deal. The license was announced May 1 as Berry prepares to release new chapters in the serialized adaptation, open the first of several exhibitions of the original artwork and prepare for a return to Dublin on Bloomsday in June.
Ulysses Seen is the first of several projects by Throwaway Horse, an online venture cofounded by Berry to make “difficult” public domain works like Ulysses accessible to modern readers by using comics, adding well-researched readers guides and delivering the content online and via apps. Berry has completed about 138 pages the classic work and beginning this week he is releasing two new chapters on the Joyce Center Web site in a move that will add about 163 pages for a total of 301 pages. He estimates it will take him about a decade to complete the adaptation.
In a phone interview with Berry, he said the licensing deal with the Joyce Center came about because, “it behooves creators to figure out a way to get their work out and make a living at the same time.” Berry described the deal, negotiated with Mark Traynor, director of the Joyce Center, as “acquiring the book in advance," though he added that they have not sold the book rights and that "Throwaway Horse will also be partnering with the Joyce Center to create some kind of physical object to sell as well." Berry described the deal as "a front door for academic institutions; they lease the content of the comic to publish online,” though he emphasized that “this deal depends on whether you’ve go a physical object to sell as well.”
Berry said his company, Throwaway Horse, owns the copyright to Ulysses Seen and licenses web rights, while Berry retains individual ownership of the physical artwork. The Joyce Center has purchased that physical art for its permanent collection. “This means a bigger audience for the comic, and for the Joyce Center,” Berry said.
Berry’s released two new chapters, the second and fifth chapters of the book, Nestor (in which Stephen Daedalus teaches at a private school) and the Lotus Eaters (in which Leopold Bloom walks through Dublin to pick up a letter), respectively, and the Joyce Center will publish five new pages each Monday beginning this week. The chapters are being produced out of sequence from the original book because Berry said, “I believe it makes it a better teaching tool.”
Besides the release of the new Ulysses Seen pages, Berry will be in New York to launch a new international exhibition of the artwork from the book. Called “Four Chapters In Four Cities,” the show opens In New York City at the Irish Arts Center and will feature original art from the new pages. Shows featuring original art from the previously completed artwork will also go on display in Dublin at the Joyce Center, in Trieste at the John McCourt and Trieste Joyce School and at Igor Jurilj, Irish Embassy to Croatia (Ljubljana) in the city of Pula, Croatia.
Berry will also be in Dublin for Bloomsday ceremonies June 10-17—the Irish Times is once again publishing a section of the book as a centerfold in the newspaper—and finally, 14 pages from Ulysses Seen will be included in volume 3 of the Graphic Canon: From the Heart of Darkness to Infinite Jest, the final volume of a mammoth project published by 7 Stories Press that enlists hundreds of cartoonists who have created graphic adaptations of the world’s great literary works.
“After years of trying to figure out the form of a digital comic that can contain Joyce’s language we’ve found a way to create a home for it online, on tablet devices and hopefully one day in print,” Berry said.