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Usually when we use the term “comic book science” around, it’s to refer to the close-enough-for-fantasy hand-waving that goes into kinda-sorta explaining things like yellow sun radiation allowing a man to fly, or alternate dimensions created by a mad doctor’s time-travel machine in our favorite superhero comics.
There is, of course, the other kind of comic book science, too — real science that appears in comic books about science. Comics like these two very different, new-ish releases that tackle some of the most difficult subjects ever put in panels: Margreet de Heer’s Science: A Discovery in Comics and Darryl Cunnningham’s How To Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing The Myths of Science Denial.
Of the two, De Heer’s is perhaps the more ambitious, attempting as it does to tell the entire history of science, from the murky dawn of mankind up until where quantum theory stood at the point of publication. All in just 180 pages!
And she manages to get it all in!
How? Well, mainly through abbreviation. While various major scientists (Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin, etc) get little, multi-page stories, many more simply get an image, a label naming them and a dialogue bubble saying, “I was the founder of Optometry!” or whatever.
Darryl Cunningham’s How to Fake a Moon Landing, which debuted last month at MoCCA Arts Fest, looks at a number of popular fallacies, from homeopathy to global warming denial, and lays out not just the science behind each one but the history as well, including the personalities who drove them.
Personal tales crossed over into science in Cunningham’s first book Psychiatric Tales, which not only described different mental disorders but related stories about each one, told from Cunningham’s vantage point as a care assistant on a psychiatric ward and his own experience with depression. How to Fake a Moon Landing is less personal but still has a point of view, which is that there’s good science and bad science, and it’s important to be able to tell the difference. (You can see excerpts from the book, and his other work as well, on his blog.) I spoke with Cunningham about both books during a quiet moment at MoCCA.
ROBOT 6: Do you have a background in science?
Darryl Cunningham: I worked as a care assistant in an acute psychiatric ward, and after a few years, I thought I would do training to be a mental health nurse. I did a three-year course, which is very, very academic — more academic than it needs to be. Through that I learned how to write essays and research things, and to be skeptical about research, to look at how things have been properly peer reviewed, [whether] the evidence has been replicated, that kind of thing. I got a sense of how science works. After eight years of doing this, I was completely burned out. I couldn’t continue — I had a major crisis, really, started suffering from anxiety and depression, and I had to leave that work, but out of that whole experience, Psychiatric Tales came out.
I got into the habit of researching and have been able to boil down a lot of information into a comic strip format. And I listen to science podcasts when I’m drawing — some are famous ones, like The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe — and listening to these, I realized there was a whole series of hot-button issues that came up time and time again that people didn’t really understand, things like the idea that the moon landing was a conspiracy, the MMR vaccination controversy, and evolution, not so much in Europe but very much here. I had the whole book structured for me and ready to go. All I had to do was research, write, and draw it. [Laughs] It took the better part of a year.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. This weekend, the focus turns on the creators — both established and newcomers — with the School of Visual Arts’ Illustration & Cartooning Department’s Fresh Meat exhibition in New York City and Stumptown Comics Fest is Portland, Oregon.
Meanwhile, our contributors select their picks for the best comics going on sale Wednesday, including Jupiter’s Legacy #1, Vader’s Little Princess and Morning Glories #26.
Conventions | The Orange County Register previews WonderCon, which returns this weekend to Anaheim, California, and selects some of the highlights from the programming schedule, including panels dedicated to “Batman: The Zero Year,” The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. [Orange County Register]
Conventions | The Detroit News runs down the upcoming slate of Michigan conventions dedicated to comics, anime, fantasy/sci-fi, horror and collectibles, ranging from Shuto Con to Kids Read Comics! to Detroit FanFare. [The Detroit News]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we reveal our picks for the best Super Bowl ads … er, where we talk about what we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guest is Sonia Harris, who writes a weekly column – Committed – for Comics Should Be Good, and is a graphic designer on books such as Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker (collected in hardcover now from Image Comics) and upcoming comic books SEX (beginning March) and The Bounce. (beginning May).
To see what Sonia and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.