Graphic Novel in Works

USF students are creating a photo graphic novel that capitalizes on the current popularity of vampires and zombies.


By Daylina Miller

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 3, 2011) – Imagine a world that exists in the crumbling aftermath of a scientific breakthrough. A scientist engineers food to make it grow faster but at a cost – the miracle steam he uses turns out to be toxic.


A lot of people die and most that survive are mutated individuals that are neither vampires nor zombies, but retain their human consciousness and crave their loved ones’ blood. The few who survive uninfected are the Steam Punks.


The scenario described above is the premise for a graphic novel a USF student and her friends are working to create. Unlike typical graphic novels, which are illustrated, The Toxic is told through photographs with effects put in using Photoshop.


USF student Victoria Julison plays one of the main characters in the graphic novel, a bloodthirsty vixen named Lilah.


“This project tests the complete range of my acting abilities,” Julison said. “I’m in horror, I’m in shock, I’m screaming and crying. It’s very different.”


Because the novel uses live models instead of relying on illustrations, models have to be able to express a wide range of emotion while staying still for the photographer for each shot.


“It’s a combination of modeling and acting,” Glover said. “You have to have the facial expressions instead of just standing there and looking pretty. You have to get in character and get into it. Otherwise it’d just be a bunch of people standing around.”


Two other students with ties to the USF community are involved with The Toxic project. Graduate Chris Shupe and former student Courtney Glover are also modeling. Shupe and Glover had originally met as members of USF’s Heavy Metal Enthusiast’s Club.


The novel’s main writer, and the coordinator of all the actors/models is Juliette Burns, an Art Institutes student in Tampa working with local photographer Annette Batista.


“There are so many great graphic novels out there that nobody has heard of because so many people think they’re for sci-fi nerds,” Burns said. “But now with the Vampire Diaries, graphic novels aren’t just for the sci-fi nerds, they’re for everybody.”


The storyline was a result of a phone discussion between Burns and Batista and poor reception. Batista wanted to work on two separate novels, one on vampires and one on steampunk, a genre of Victorian science fiction that has spurred a fashion and subculture.


“Our phones were breaking up so I thought she wanted to combine the two,” Burns said. “I wasn’t completely familiar with Victorian steampunk so I didn’t know that she was referring to that.”


The group has been working on Book One since May. They tend to get together a couple days a month and shoot several scenes a day since most people involved in the project work and are students with busy schedules.


But the concept and style of The Toxic, they all agreed, is what intrigues them and keeps them working the photo shoots into their schedules.


“I remember in the USF Bookstore several years ago I saw several classic novels ‘With Zombies’ (as in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), which were apparently top sellers,” Shupe said.” I think everyone – not just college students – possess some degree of morbid curiosity which attracts them to such things.”


“It’s an idea I’ve never heard of before,” Glover said. “When you think of a graphic novel, you usually think of like Sin City, drawn art, not stylized photographs.”


The Toxic’s different take on both the graphic novel and the zombie even landed it a six-page spread on the pages of Beyond Fantasy Magazine’s September 2011 edition.


Right now, the students are in negotiation with several publishers and hope to have the graphic novel available for pre-order and as an e-book through their website and Amazon in November. Collectors editions signed by the cast with behind-the-scenes photos will also be sold.


Daylina Miller can be reached at 813-500-8754.