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Graphic Artist Erik Menno van Os on crafting a comic for iPad

Ravenous by EM van Os (screenshot) Ravenous by EM van Os (screenshot)

Comic artists have been pretty comfortable in the print domain since the genre first emerged, but some of them are taking a more daring approach. This week, we had a chance to talk to graphic artist Erik Menno van Os, who recently published Ravenous, an exhilarating new comic for iPad. The journey to Ravenous was quite unique, for a graphic artist that is. The comic consists of more than 600 digital images distilled from thousands of PSD files. Erik didn’t finish a single drawing on paper. In this post, he’ll be sharing some tips for other comic artists that are looking to experiment with digital publishing.

What is Ravenous about? Can you give us teaser?

Ravenous is about a ‘bad lieutenant’ named Hugo Kingsley, who gets back on the job to track down a serial killer. As the story develops, he has to fend off the temptations of the local underworld and he falls in love in the process with a shameless young thief who is obsessed with a 14th century ghost.

Sounds thrilling! Why did you choose to publish it in an iPad app?

Graphic novels have traditionally lived in the printed page but I like to see my drawings fullscreen. They have more impact that way. It feels like you can easily get sucked into my imaginary world.
The change of format, from a standing letter format to a lying tablet format, has another important advantage: switching from a multi-panel to a single panel presentation. In a comic formatted for print, readers often overlook several drawings because there’s more to see on a single page. Telling a story this way is also like giving away its secrets. I don’t want the reader to see what is coming up next. In a single panel view, the reader stays totally unaware of what is going to happen.

Do you see Ravenous as a reinvention of the graphic novel?

I prefer to see it as a different way of presenting a comic, more committed to modern media. Only the platform changes, it’s still about a good story and drawing until you drop.

You’ve talked extensively about the hurdles you had to overcome to get your app published on the App Store in your blog. Based on your experience, what tips do you have for other content owners?

I worked for 4 years to escape the printed page, designing Ravenous as a digital product from the start. When Apple first reviewed it, they said it was primarily a book and asked me to submit it to the iBookstore! But after I sent them a convincing email (where I expounded on my hard work and disappointment), Apple finally got my drift.
As for tips, before you publish ask yourself what kind of reading experience you want to offer. If you want to create a unique experience, add specific functionalities or create a special reading environment, I suggest that you go for an app.

Erik Menno van Os Erik Menno van Os

Would you ever consider selling a version of Ravenous in print?

Print on demand offers a direct line between artist and reader, so it’s great in many ways. But to make Ravenous printable I would have to divide 577 panorama drawings over an indefinite amount of print pages.
It is literally not tailored for print. That doesn’t mean that I don’t see print as an extra revenue model. At the moment, I am focusing on the “tablet-first” option but within a year I’m planning to release a series of printable drawings.

Like Erik’s story so far? Download Ravenous for iPad or stay in touch with him on Twitter.

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