Superheroes and heroines have recently started flying from the glossy pages of their traditional formats to the ever-expanding digital world. Local photographer Charlie Thiel is fully aware of the advantages of going virtual and has used the new medium to bring to life an idea he’s been nursing for years.

Launching the web comic Blood Rose — which uses digitally altered photographs of real people — in December of 2009, Thiel discovered he could avoid many of the overhead costs associated with publishing a printed book by using the internet. Interested viewers will be able to easily, and cheaply, view Thiel’s work online. The weekly editions are only the beginning of his aspirations. The hope is that web hits will warrant an expansion for the concept.

“The beauty of Blood Rose is that the web comic may be the platform from which we develop the story in all sorts of visual forms — printed graphic novels are definitely a part of the plan, but short videos, video webisodes, all the way up to a feature-length film are possible with this concept,” says Thiel. “The technology is so accessible now, we already have access to what we need to shoot a feature-length film in hi-def, and it can be achieved relatively cheaply.”

Thiel currently owns the minimal equipment necessary to produce the upcoming episodes of Blood Rose. With a trusty digital camera and Photoshop, Thiel has created the images that compose the graphic web comic.

Despite the incredible capabilities of the program — as all graphic designers know — it can’t do the entire job alone. The actors play another critical role in the production. The finished product is based on still photography, which presents a unique challenge to the actors who must display the emotion of an action scene while holding a pose.

“The translation of a still photo to a comic look requires emotional expression in their faces as well as in their body language in order for the authenticity of the emotion to carry over to the finished product,” Thiel says. “I quickly learned from the pilot episode that the actors have to put more into their expressions and body language to make the finished comic feel authentic.”

Thiel has been lucky to find several talented local actors, including one he knew was perfect for the part even before the project was a reality. After being introduced to Danielle Ward at a cast meeting for a play by Nick Smith — co-producer and script writer for Blood Rose, who is also City Paper’s contributing arts editor — Thiel instantly sensed that she possessed the understated beauty and energy of Rose, the comic’s main character.

“She is obviously beautiful, but she also has great presence,” Thiel says. “She can radiate strength and power one moment and girl-next-door friendliness the next.”

The heroine is a typical girl when she’s first introduced in the pilot. A barista by trade, Rose believes her life is mundane and feels a void she doesn’t know how to fill. A sudden chain of events displays Rose’s unexpected talent: kicking ass. The realization leads her on a path of self-discovery over the next several episodes, where she will learn more about the past and get a glimpse of her destiny.

The accurate portrayal of Rose is an integral part of the comic’s success. Unlike the majority of other heroines in the comic book world, Thiel wanted to make Rose’s beauty believable and not over-sexed or voluptuous.

“I am a huge fan of the wide range of the female athletic body in all its forms, but many comic books take voluptuousness to an absurd extreme,” Thiel says. “Yes, I want the Blood Rose character to have a sexy edge, but that sexiness will come from her inner strength and her confidence as well as from her beauty and her athletic body — all of which reflects real world sexiness, in my opinion.”

The official first issue (after the pilot), “Lost Lives,” is set to launch April 2.