For a university seminar about health, I wanted to treat the subject “mercury” as a medical treatment. As a result, for three months I researched, wrote and illustrated a first chapter for a fictional graphic novel about the medical use of the chemical element in history.
In times of Covid-19, I was interested how humanity fought some of the deadliest diseases in the past. The one that catched my eye was syphilis – a bacterial STD which made it’s (arguably) first big appearance in the late 15th century. During my research I read about mercury that was used as a treatment against syphlis and other diseases like leprosy, while technically not only being basically useless: mercury is deadly by itself. Some of mercury’s compounds count to the most deadly poisons on earth and mercury itself can induce changes in the central nervous system. Nevertheless, the element was used as a therapy against syphilis for around 400 years.
The first chapter of my graphic novel is about the “sudden” appearance of the STD syphilis in the late 15th century, it’s symptoms and how and why mercury was used as a remedy. A lot of the comic-panels and character designs are based on actual paintings from back then. Next to my illustrations I used real photos (public domain) of the disease from the 19th century to make the story more impactful.