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Three flights of narrow winding stairs above a small serene park in downtown Amsterdam take you to the quiet little apartment where I found most of Rosto’s belongings albeit the great man himself. He was enjoying a couple of days at the Holland Animation Film Festival in Utretch this week, where his band Thee Wreckers were the opening act and his graphic novel and film projects were being discussed in rapid fire amongst the attending film buffs.
Header images: Rosto: Mind My Gap graphic novel: www.mindmygap.com
Original publication: Desktop Magazine 2008
Republished with permission
Graphic novels are starting to come out of the closet. No longer just the secret fetish of those who simply refuse to give up their comic days, they can now be found in most art festivals as working pieces and have become the basis of a number of the latest Hollywood flicks. But it is the new online medium that is causing most of the resurgence. The web 2.0 and flash technologies have finally provided a platform that allows the creative juices of graphic novelists to take form rather than become flat and lifeless as on the previous limited graphic environment of non-dynamic HTML.

One of my favourite GN’s “Mind My Gap” by Rosto AD from the Netherlands, was a leader in the pack when it came to teasing and testing the limitations of the web environment. Grainy, washed-out colors merged with mutated photograph fragments give MMG a unique style, but it is more than just the artwork that gives this GN its inner dimensions.

In an interview with Rosto on my last visit to Amsterdam, he intrigued us all with the story of how he was sitting in his little apartment one day and had an idea for creating his already well developed characters into an online version that would become a graphic novel. Not having coded or dealt with web technologies before he did not feel limited to the developing web conventions and so set about to create an online world in a way that would allow him to work with his story in a more three dimensional manner than he was able to do on paper.

The tale that unfolds in MMG is that of Diddybob and Buddybob, two friends that are separated by cruel fate. The graphic novel, and therefore the underlying web presence, is broken into two different perspectives that intertwine. “Diddybob’s Travels” takes place in the present, while “The Open Horizon” unfolds in the past. When reading (or watching) the series, you alternate one episode at a time between these two perspectives that are presented as a continuous circle, much like the elements of time on a clock face.

The first pair of episodes of the series were conceptualised, created and coded in less than 24 hours, with Rosto continuing to work on subsequent episodes two at a time ever since. The final instalments are planned for release later this year.

The GN, in a similar fashion to the trilogy of films Rosto has also developed, are all based on, and feature, music as an underlying ingredient. The music itself also comes from the deep dark creative juices of Rosto’s direction and are projected by his band. Rosto says “the interpretation of the music with the visuals happened in a period in my life where I learned there were no real boundaries between different ways of expressing myself. There were stories in my music and that there were films in my stories and that everything was connected in a way. I decided that I didn’t just have media to share, but I had my world to share. Whenever I was doing music I had these visions. These songs were intuitively connected. It was just a matter of listening closely and reading the lyrics and then the stories and characters would reveal themselves.” To make the point, or perhaps to underlie the versatility of the visuals and the music Rosto has made the tracks for each of the chapters of the GN available to download from within each episode.

The characters themselves have an even deeper route of existence. Rosto says of his gangly mob “As ambiguous as it comes, this theme has its roots in my earliest nightmare that I can remember, consequently bringing dreams to my work to never depart from it again. I must have been 4 years old, when I had this dream of an 8mm film-projection of a black and white Disney movie going bad. All the Disney characters had their heads bitten off. This nightmare gave me my lifelong Mickey Mouse fetish and the basic principle of the Langeman (which is Dutch for long, slim, lanky man (like myself)), representing the more animalistic instincts in an uncontrolled yet harmless, fun and natural way. Unlike my other alter egos.”

Rosto goes on to explain, “To cut a very long story short, it all started with a book that I completed in 1992, called “The Four Riders of Dog”. It was my bible, an eight-or-so chapter book that would be the grid of all my independent productions to come. Mind My Gap was the shortest of these chapters. All chapters had their own ‘universe’ and themes although some of the characters overruled the boundaries of the chapters. These were my alter ego’s and opposites the Langemanne and Virgil. Before this shortest chapter exploded into the biggest project I ever did, I wrote songs. Basically conceived by means of the automatic writing technique, triggered by a given landscape and the ‘rule’ that every song had to contain the most basic of rock and roll-themes: the crossroad. This series of songs together formed a journey, travelling through landscapes and mindscapes. When I later starting interpreting these songs I pulled out a main story, subplots and characters. Some of them introduced themselves and were fleshed out along the way but some of them were very old friends from the world that was I starting to be so familiar with.

Expanding and developing your own world is almost like dreaming. It is a personal place with it’s own rules and concepts, arguably tapping from the same vain as dreams. I never had dreams of whales or crying fish-babies (both of which do appear in his latest film project). Dreams speak in a language that I start to understand better and better while studying it and speaking it. My stories come to me and I present them to you in the way dreams present themselves, making irrational connections between seemingly unconnected events and places which undeniably have a certain resonance when put together.”

Terri Dentry is an independent film journalist, animation producer, and the Director of thinkRED film & media in Melbourne, Australia.

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Peter Chung (USA): Aeon Flux and the psychology of desire
Rosto (Netherlands): A Graphic Novel that asks you to “Just open up and don’t be scared”
Regina Pessoa (Portugal): Tragic Story with a Happy Ending
Rosto: Mind My Gap
Rosto: Mind My Gap
Rosto: Mind My Gap
Rosto: Mind My Gap
Rosto: Mind My Gap
Rosto: Mind My Gap