Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth tries to reinvent the graphic novel

The Roth Project
screenshot from The Roth Project (Image credit: David Lee Roth)

COVID-19 has put a hold on singer David Lee Roth's solo Las Vegas residency and his gig as the opening act to KISS's End of the Road arena tour, but that hasn't stopped the on-and-off-again Van Halen frontman from expressing himself creatively. 

Variety reports for the last several months 'Diamond Dave' has been drawing and posting Covid-19-themed single panel sketches on his social media pages and now he's launched The Roth Project, a new interactive digital graphic novel.

According to the Hollywood trade, Roth explains the graphic novel - a collaboration with PhotoshopCAFE founder Colin Smith - is an entirely new approach to the form and what he calls an immersive "hyper-classic" platform that pairs Smith's animations with Roth's Japanese Sumi-e inspired illustrations

"You can interact with it. You have narration. You have music," Roth explains. "You have the future."

Roth narrates the story himself - in full "In a world" trailer mode - which also includes original songs, incidental music, and sound effects he created. 

The story scrolls - sometimes up and down, sometimes left to right - for readers, and according to Roth, it was inspired by his interest in the computer program AlphaGo. 

screenshot of the opening screen to The Roth Project (Image credit: David Lee Roth)

The plot, as Variety attempts to summarize, "imagines a futuristic world where artificial intelligence has attained the capability to mimic humans — Roth among them — to chaotic and, eventually, murderous ends."

"There’s a real hard-boiled, dark undertone that's perfectly fitting to the general anger of our tremulous times," Roth says. “Relatively few artists get to show that side of the coin. But Diamond Dave is very, very real."

But what Roth is most excited about is the format. 

"The most entertaining, the most colorful, and the most engaging thing is the medium itself – the mechanism," Roth tells Variety. "It's vastly superior to the turned and printed page." 

"When there aren't any more trees, your comic books are going to go the way of all vinyl," he adds.

Speaking of your comic books going the way of vinyl, here's a look at the best digital comic book readers

I'm not just the Newsarama founder and editor-in-chief, I'm also a reader. And that reference is just a little bit older than the beginning of my Newsarama journey. I founded what would become the comic book news site in 1996, and except for a brief sojourn at Marvel Comics as its marketing and communications manager in 2003, I've been writing about new comic book titles, creative changes, and occasionally offering my perspective on important industry events and developments for the 25 years since. Despite many changes to Newsarama, my passion for the medium of comic books and the characters makes the last quarter-century (it's crazy to see that in writing) time spent doing what I love most.