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The discovery of King Richard III has inspired comic book artists to take up their pencils to tell the tale of the controversial monarch’s dramatic life and death.
Since the announcement that the 15th century English monarach was discovered in Leicester, there has been a succession of Ricardian exhibitions, installations, cartoons and planned graphic novels from UK comic book artists.
Comic book artist and long-term Ricardian Emma Vieceli, who has drawn work for Marvel Comics and Penguin books, has worked on a range of Richard III-related pieces since the University began its Grey Friars dig.
She worked with friends Kate Brown and Paul Duffield to produce a series of graphic panels telling the story of Richard’s life for the University’s press conference announcing the discovery of a skeleton at Grey Friars.
She is working with her husband Andrew Ruddick on the three-part graphic novel about the Medieval King.
London-based graphic novel artist John Aggs produced a striking series of pieces for an exhibition at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, entitled Richard III: The making of a myth.
“The show was great fun to do,” said John. “Going into it, I assumed it would be a historical account, like a historical painting – but really, it was more of a reportage of the events that happened 500 years ago.
“I only had less than a month to do all 19 illustrations, so it was quite rushed – but comics are always a rush to complete. The centre first told me about it in early January, and had until the end of January to get it finished in time for the announcement.
“There was a lot of research material I went through to make sure each picture was correct. I was concerned to make sure all the banners were accurate! The detail was very important – especially as the historical details are the most important and exciting part of this study.”
Freelance archaeological illustrator John Swogger started work on a comic entitled “So Who Was Richard III?” immediately after the announcement of the skeleton’s identity in February.
The discovery of Richard III has also appeared in numerous newspaper and online cartoons – and has regularly featured in the Leicester Mercury’s Vicky Park comic strip, drawn by Rachael Smith.
Emma Vieceli, who is based in Cambridge, said: “It was so exciting getting to go to the press conference,” said Emma. “I can remember being in the hall and feeling the excitement in the room as they mentioned the scoliosis of the spine. I was so, so chuffed – not just that they found Richard, but also to be involved in the project.
“Richard has been an obsession of mine for a long time. I remember when I was in senior school we studied the Tudors, but there was only a brief mention of Richard – simply to say he was a villain. I can remember even as a kid thinking ‘that seems a bit dismissive’.”
John Swogger, based in Oswestry, Shropshire, said: “It was the excitement of the announcement on February 4 that really suggested the idea of a comic. The story has very visual subject matter – like the bones, the tests.
“One of the reasons why I did it was because it just struck me that Britain’s past very rarely comes up in terms of national debate. Almost immediately, there were people squabbling over the burial place – and that just doesn’t happen in Britain very often. That really grabbed me.
“Archaeology can be very dull at times, as it is usually about very small things. It is very rare for an English king to pop out of a burial. It is also really nice to have Richard Buckley so firmly identified with the discovery. It is rare in archaeology to have archaeologists fronting individual discoveries – so it is nice to give people that human connection with the study.”