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Fascination with Roman history inspires graphic novel

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JOSHUA A. BICKEL/THISWEEKNEWS
Travis Horseman, seen in his home office Sept. 10 in Columbus, is a local actor and writer currently working on Amiculus, a three-volume graphic novel about the fall of Imperial Rome.
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Travis Horseman is attempting to produce an epic graphic novel -- with the help of an Italian artist -- that's ... well, here's how the 36-year-old Clintonville resident describes it:

"What I tell people, the short description, is that it's like 300 meets V for Vendetta.

"That gives you a clear idea of what I'm trying to create."

It's something he's been trying to do for a very long time, and it's grown over the years into quite the ambitious project.

Horseman, a native of Springfield who now works as assistant to the director at the Franklin Park Conservatory, first wrote Amiculus: A Secret History as a 10-page play when he was a 19-year-old college student.

It deals with the fall of Rome in 475 A.D. when the 12-year-old king, Romulus, was forced to surrender his crown.

The 10-page treatment turned into a one-act play, which then became a short story. Horseman said he eventually came to believe that a graphic novel would be the best approach to telling the tale.

"I probably have written like 14 or 15 drafts and it's changed considerably," he said.

"It is A.D. 538, and the Eastern Roman army of Byzantium has come to reconquer the West," a description of the book's plot Horseman posted online states. "With them is Procopius of Caesarea, a Greek historian, who, in his search to learn the fate of Romulus, discovers something else: an account of Rome's last days, written by the boy-emperor himself," the website says.

"I've always been a fan of Roman history," Horseman said. "This just was such a compelling idea that I started researching and learning more and more and more about it.

"It sort of turns into a domestic dispute across a huge page of history."

According to the online post, the fall of Rome described by Romulus "is very different from the sparse history that has come down to us. It is a mosaic of conspiracy within conspiracy, bloodshed and betrayal, tragedy and loss.

At its center is Amiculus, a mysterious cloaked figure manipulating the fates of kings, generals and all of western civilization, according to the website.

Horseman originally anticipated writing the copy for a 32-page graphic novel. He's now looking at a three-volume work of more than 200 pages.

He said he visited Rome to "get the lay of the land, get a sense of what the city was like."

A Kickstarter campaign to provide funding to not only complete Amiculus but also get it published was unsuccessful, but Horseman does have enough money so he and his Italian artist, Giancarlo Caracuzzo, can create a 20-page standalone edition to be used to try to entice a publishing firm to take on the entire project.

For his part, Caracuzzo, who turned 53 last week, is pumped about Amiculus.

"I was born and I live in Rome, and the idea of participating in a project on the history of my city was very exciting," Caracuzzo wrote in an email. "My hope is to complete our project.

"I consider it an extraordinary job," he wrote.

"Travis is a writer of great talent, and Amiculus is an idea that will have a success in the USA and Europe, I have a lot of confidence in this project."

According to his online biography, Caracuzzo has been an illustrator, comics artist and a storyboard artist since 1982.

Horseman approached Caracuzzo about being the artist for Amiculus after seeing examples of Caracuzzo's work in DC and Marvel comics.

"He is a fantastic partner in this," Horseman said.

"He shares my enthusiasm for this. I totally trust him at this point and I love the way he's been interpreting my words."

Horseman said he and Caracuzzo hope to have the preview copy completed by late this winter.

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