Welcome to a new era of The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship.

We believe that comics scholarship requires platforms that provide the legitimacy and recognition that academic authors need without compromising on most readers’ ability to access quality research. Current technologies and open licenses provide the means to empower authors to take ownership of their published work by granting them the freedom to share it as widely as possible.

The Comics Grid published its first born-digital, media-specific article on 31 January 2011. Since then we have published 92 peer-reviewed short articles in open access form offering critical analyses of specific examples of comics pages as well as 48 peer-edited blog posts (interviews, conference reports, calls for papers, book reviews).

Our goal when we started The Comics Grid was to create a platform for a comics scholarship of the so-called digital age. As we phrased it in an internal document dated 23 May 2011, The Comics Grid’s mission was:

“To consolidate an international network of comics scholars and to offer a forum to promote their academic work online. Our intention is to become a reliable online research resource.

We function as an online laboratory where different critical approaches to comics are publicly and collectively put to test. Though our scope wants to be as diverse as possible, our aim is to focus on the analysis of specific comics page layouts and panels. Our content is media-specific.

We foster public engagement through open access, Creative Commons licenses, social media tools and other dissemination activities.”

Two years later, the general values that underpinned our mission statement still stand.

We worked very hard and long hours online across borders and time zones on collaborative, open peer review, and for many editors and contributors this meant learning to navigate our WordPress platform. As authors and editors, together, we also became very much aware of the inner mechanics oinf online publishing. For some this meant a steep learning curve that soon delivered benefits.

However, one of the reasons many colleagues explained they were not submitting to the journal was that we were blog-based; they argued that as academics aiming to advance their careers they needed to publish research articles in journals that they could submit to evaluation committees. Though our initial intention was mainly to demonstrate that peer-reviewed academic blogging was possible, over time we realised that our platform offered some limitations for both readers and authors, and we started working towards becoming a full-fledged open access journal that would guarantee the sustainability, accessibility, and quality of the articles we were publishing.

WordPress was too fragile for the sustainability and preservation requirements of professional academia, and its setup did not really offer the features that review processes for promotion, tenure, etc. in academe demand of publications in order for them “to count.” By migrating from a WordPress-based publication to an open access Journal platform, we are guaranteeing the sustainability, preservation, and peer-reviewed quality assurance academics require.

There was no way we could keep working at the rapid publication pace we had set up for ourselves without professionalizing our editorial workflow and therefore without securing a way to make this work sustainable (at some points we were reviewing one article peer week). The amount of email and collaborative editing on Google Docs was time-consuming, technical and laborious, but time and professional incentives to participate were not the only challenge. The first core editorial team could hardly afford the yearly web hosting fees — so after two full years of our initial system, it was clear to us it was time to take the next step.

Now published by the London-based open access independent, researcher-led publisher Ubiquity Press, the journal you are now reading, The Comics Grid, has finally become, in its third year, a fully-fledged open access journal offering all the features that will make publication attractive to academics seeking a quality venue for their born-digital research work.

Perhaps more importantly, The Comics Grid remains loyal to the principles that saw its birth and development as an online academic resource. We will keep encouraging collaboration and transparent constructive feedback through our open peer review process, and enabling open access to all of its content, at no cost to readers whomever and wherever they may be.

What this means is that the journal continues and will continue to combine peer-reviewed publication with academic blogging, offering a hybrid digital publication that can offer the best of two worlds, guaranteeing the quality and fixity that current academic standards require via peer-reviewed articles in HTML and PDF form, coupled with the flexibility and ease of use and access of academic blogging via short, timely posts written by comics scholars.

The Comics Grid’s editorial board is very pleased that Ubiquity Press has taken us as one of their journals. Ubiquity Press aims to support smaller journals with the same features larger publishers offer, but in an affordable manner. We are now the first UK-based, independent, born-digital, full open access peer-reviewed journal of comics scholarship, and as far as we know the first open access journal dedicated to comics scholarship to provide Digital Object Identifiers and metrics to every peer-reviewed article.

Some of the features readers and authors will find in our new platform are:

Comics are, after all, a popular expression that interests millions of readers of all ages and backgrounds around the world. We strongly believe that all readers, regardless of their affiliation or career, who are interested in high quality comics scholarship should be able to access it. We also believe that authors should be able to track and demonstrate the reach of their work within academia and beyond. Sustainable open access publishing is a route to achieving this.

There are challenges in scholarly communication that we are only beginning to tackle, but the opportunities are too great for us to remain comfortably protected by the shade of conservatism. Progress demands the taking of risks, and there is no solution that will fit all.

We have seen in online technologies the means to recover control, as academics, over our own work, and to re-connect academic research once again with its most noble mission, the dissemination and construction of knowledge, across borders and without paywalls for those who should most benefit from it: learners and readers, regardless of who or where they might be.

With this new stage of The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship we are starting a new adventure towards a fully-open access, fully-sustainable open peer-reviewed publishing platform for the 21st-century. We hope many of you will be willing to share the journey with us.

To submit, click here.