How to Steal a Soul

Heather Velez

How to Steal a Soul, inspired loosely by Goethe's Faust, is a web-based comic that follows the Devil as he joins the digital age.

What if you're as old as the Earth itself and have been banished from the mortal realm for centuries? How to Steal a Soul is a web-based comic that reveals the story of how the Devil adapts to the digital age and continues to ply his trades both on- and off-line.

This serial comic explores how he's had to change his strategy in procuring souls by adjusting to a world full of terms and conditions, social networking and online dating. A team of consultants primes the Devil for his return rebranding him as Luce, a hipster living with roommates in Brooklyn. He's ready to steal souls once again.

In my research, I read a number of articles and books pertaining to the impact of social media and other information technologies on personal relationships, intimacy and expectations of privacy. Some of my references include: Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting in the Digital Age by Ilana Gershon, Personal Connections in the Digital Age by Nancy K. Baym, Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy and the Integrity of Social Life by Helen Nissenbaum. I also revisited the heavy hitters in social media scholarship including danah boyd, Alice Marwick, Nancy Baym, to name a few, and reviewed statistics available from both official, the Pew Center for Internet Research, and less official resources, Ok Cupid! and, on social media usage and patterns.

I am indebted to the Comics class as well for exposing me to a great number of examples of web-based comics, that helped inform my aesthetic, page layout and navigation.

Also, I am thankful for the discussions I had with various professors over the semester, including Nancy Hechinger, Clay Shirky and Douglas Rushkoff, which helped me every step of the way from concept and refining my ideas to execution.

Lapsed Catholics, webcomic readers, millenials suspicious of how much time they spend on Facebook.

User Scenario
Ideally, visitors will read my comic. While it's necessary to read the Preface and the First Four Chapters in a linear way, I hope that any new content will be stand-alone, i.e., will not require prior knowledge.

My primary materials: Staedtler Non-Photo Pencil, Sakura Pigma Micron Pens, and bristol board pads.

First Stage: Adapt Goethe's Faust to the present day. Identify major and minor themes and significant plot points to use as a reference to create my own story in parallel. Identify the themes to focus on in my version: social media, the future of contracts, how we conduct ourselves online and how it impacts our privacy, security, and lives in general. Review feedback from script readers.

Second Stage: Storyboarding, solidifying the page layout and navigation for the comic. Get user feedback on navigation styles. Complete character studies.

Third Stage: Illustrate Preface and first two chapters of story. Scan hand-drawn illustrations and clean up images using Photoshop and Illustrator. Create animated gifs.

Fourth Stage: Design website. Upload test content and continue to refine illustrations. Get user feedback on presentation, layout, typography.

Fifth Stage: Upload finished content to website and finish illustrating the remaining chapters. Start creating social media profiles for characters on Twitter and Facebook.

What's next: Go social. Experiment with Facebook and Twitter as means to generate or influence story lines.

The most difficult part of the thesis process was finding an ending to my story. In Goethe's Faust, it's all about salvation and redemption. Gretchen is saved in the end by admitting to her sins, Faust eventually finds redemption for the sins he committed against her. But how does that translate to today? Does "redemption" exist online? I didn't think so. Only after talking with many folks both at ITP and outside and ruminating for weeks did I eventually shift my thinking - letting go of redemption in favor of "reputation." I also discovered that it was reputation that I had been thinking about all along. What are the lengths that one would go to maintain a "reputation"? What does it mean to be accountable online? How does one express regret or remorse? I had finally found something that struck a chord with me.