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Graphic art illustrates University of Leicester's historic search for King Richard III

Posted on 16/10/2012
University of Leicester

Graphic art illustrates University of Leicester\'s historic search for King Richard III

A graphic artist who created stunning visuals to describe the University of Leicester’s Search for King Richard III has revealed she is producing a graphic novel series about the life of the slain king.

UK-based comic artist Emma Vieceli created a series of five striking images which provided a backdrop at the press conference when the University announced its potentially ‘momentous’ archaeological findings.

She has now provided the University with a teaser image of the novel she is working on.

Mrs Vieceli, from Cambridge, said: “As someone who genuinely cares a lot about this monarch, and who has spent many hours researching into his life and times long before the dig even happened, watching the events of this archaeological dig unfold has been utterly exhilarating for me.

“My graphic novel series will not be about the dig, but about the life of Richard, from Middleham to Bosworth. I most likely wouldn't normally even be talking about it yet as it's a long way off completion –but being a small part of the dig was just a perfect chance to share this teaser image for a graphic novel series that's a real personal project.”

Mrs Vieceli produced her inspirational art with Kate Brown (flat colours and textures) and Paul Duffield (panel borders and text). She said: “We wanted the images in colour as we wanted them to feel alive. Richard III may have been dead for over 500 years, but he's very much alive in the hearts and curiosities of many; perhaps the mysteries surrounding him have done that much. Once he was a living, breathing man, not a Shakespeare character or a historical villain. I hope these images and this whole dig get us all sparing a moment to remember that.

“I knew that the press conference could not display photographs of the findings, for several reasons, so having something visual for people to be able to look at was a nice idea. We were also able to sum up the reasons for the location of the dig, and also why the search may hit difficulties. As a ‘comicker’ myself, I tend to believe that nothing can't be told with pictures and words combined.”

Her inspirational perspective on how images can convey anything and everything is a testament to the imagination that goes into art. Mrs Vieceli, who has worked in the past for such influential companies as Marvel and Hasbro, has a wide range of experience bringing all sorts of news to life through her art.

“Just the same day as the Richard III press conference I had another press release go live; this one about a 10 page comic promoting a drug called tranexamic acid for medical communities,” she said. “I'm so happy to see comics and illustration being used in such important areas as history and medicine.”

The images of Richard III, which emulate stained-glass windows in style, have been drawn deliberately in a way that captures the past, while remaining innovative.

Mrs Vieceli added: “For as long as mankind has existed we've used images to tell stories and capture a moment. Whether cave paintings or digital photos, we rely on images to sum up a time and a memory as well as convey that feeling to others. When we picture medieval England, a lot of it is visualised for us via illuminated manuscript, stained glass windows or paintings.

“The battle of Hastings will always provoke images in our minds of the Bayeux tapestry. Linking images to important events is something we've always done...and so much can be told in an illustration that can be conveyed quickly and easily to any culture, with no need for translation. Images can bring characters and events to life in different ways to prose. Comics in particular combine prose and images. For me, this is better still.”

Many school children and young students would agree with Mrs Vieceli that images can add life to events on a universal scale. Elizabeth Lawlor, a community college archaeology professor in Southern California, believes that her students and younger people will be able to relate to Mrs Vieceli’s graphic panels in a positive way.

She said: “Sometimes students ask why we do archaeology for those times when we have historical records. I answer that if history is written by the winners, then archaeology sheds light on the losers. Here we have a great example of that.

“I’m all for science being communicated in any compelling and accurate way possible. These panels achieve that well, with integrity. The illustrations and sparse writing work together to move the story along in a format that speaks to young people.

"And with all the fictional archaeologists in popular culture, it’s great to see art featuring a real archaeologist, Richard Buckley of University of Leicester Archaeological Services. I hope people appreciate just how complex the site is and how little of the friary was exposed for him to interpret. That, to me, is the most impressive aspect of the project. In interviews he has made it sound easy, but that's decades of experience talking."

Mrs Vieceli has created an engaging set of images that remain true to the subject matter of the Richard III dig, while inspiring those who may otherwise have been unable to relate to it.

She is currently working on two graphic novel series: THE AVALON CHRONICLES with Nunzio Defilippis and Christina Weir for Oni Press, and the New York Times best-seller and goodreads award-winning VAMPIRE ACADEMY with Richelle Mead and Leigh Dragoon for Penguin books. She hopes to release her graphical novel about the life of Richard III in the near-future, and is currently involved in talks with publishers.

• The University of Leicester has led the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society. The search will be the focus of a forthcoming documentary being made by Darlow Smithson Productions for Channel 4.

Pictured: Emma's latest work - a teaser for her graphic novel (Credit - Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown, Paul Duffield).

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