Paradise by the desktop light

Photo: Charles Wessels

After a 20-year silence, Dutch comic artist Erik Menno van Os (1965) presents his graphic novel specially made for tablets. In 'Ravenous' there are no pages involved. The screen of your tablet will be filled by slidable same sized images. Mr Fox gave him a grilling.

Mr Fox: What's new about Ravenous?
EMVO: After years I've managed to get rid of the page.

Mr Fox: Explain...
EMVO: A comic is a story of text and drawings but there is no law that says you have to use a page.
 A page is a limitation that comic artists tend to love, because they like to see their work in print. With the advent of digital media and tablets, there is no need for print anymore – so why work on pages? 

Mr Fox: Isn't the graphic layout of a page an enrichment for the medium?
EMVO: It’s rather the merit of the artist. A page remains a restriction after all. I haven't missed all the fiddling about with measurements for a moment. Imagine: you are free to use any size drawing you want. How cool is that?

Mr Fox: But not all the images are of equal importance?
EMVO: Correct. But have you ever heard a movie director say ‘There’s so much empty space in this shot, I’ll paste the next scene in it’? These lack of space problems are exclusive to working with pages.

Mr Fox: Is that why reading Ravenous is more of a cinematic experience?
EMVO: Ravenous is still a classic comic though. There is no animation or extra interactivity whatsoever because it would distract the reader from the story.

Mr Fox: How about text formatting?
EMVO:  I skipped text balloons because they’re ugly and take up too much space. I used a subtitle-like font (Myriad pro) instead. Which created another problem… In movie dialogues you can cut back and forth between the actors but it's a visually poor technique for comics. So I allowed myself to use multiple dialogues in the same drawing. Another interesting problem is what does the eye read first – the text highest up or the text most to the left?

Mr Fox: How did you get used to this new concept of comic?
EMVO: Conditioned by working on pages for 30 years, I kept dividing my space into multiple images. It took me months to overcome my agoraphobia and dare to use the whole space. Today I will only divide my space if the reading speed requires it. Another strange side issue: I don't have one single finished drawing on paper. Ravenous consists of around 600 digital images distilled from 1200 psd's.

Mr Fox: Why a romantic mystery thriller?
EMVO: When my friends were playing in the sandpit I was hanging around in graveyards. As a student I would hitchhike around Great Britain and France to spend the night in abandoned mansions and haunted castles. So it's an old love of mine that I try to make as plausible as possible. The less suspension of disbelief the better.

Mr Fox: Twenty years ago you released two comic albums. Why did you stop and why did you pick it up again?
EMVO: There is no market or industry for the graphic novel in the Netherlands. The internet allows me to reach a different audience. Ravenous was revealed to me, on the 8th of March 1996, in a nightmare so gruesome I woke up instantly to write it down. I worked on it at intervals in an attempt to compose a full-fledged novel but it didn't satisfy me at all. So I eventually decided to turn it into a graphic novel. It took me another three years’ solid work to finish the project.

Mr Fox: What will be the release date for the app?
EMVO: Say asap... Spring 2013?

Mr Fox: Any recommendations for aspiring comic writers?
EMVO: Yes: skip that $%^&* page!

Get Ravenous here!



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