Action Philosophers: philosophy of the ages in comic form

Action Philosophers is a delightful and educational comic created by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, presented as a series of vignettes that explain the biographies and ideas of the philosophers through the ages. I stopped by their booth today at New York Comic-Con after being struck by their very funny Karl Marx vs Ayn Rand poster and went back to my room to read the free preview. I'm sold!

Action Philosophers


    1. Seconded. And I say that as someone who read Atlas Shrugged and liked it (I was 16). There is no actual philosophy in there… it’s a polemic dressed up as a novel. 

  1. I’m so bummed Ryan was sold out of the comic book cookbook we did together before Saturday. It’s half recipes, and half the story of Dirt Candy, my wife’s restaurant in NYC. We were lured into working with Ryan via ACTION PHILOSOPHERS and it was great. If you’re interested…

    Here’s the book trailer Ryan and I made for the Dirt Candy cookbook:

    And here’s the Comics Journal review of the cookbook:

    You can buy a signed copy here:

  2. Yeah one of the problems with the book was the american-centric point of view, that is the author actually claims Rand is a philosopher. If you talk to real philosophers they rarely recognize Rand because she didn’t try to be a philosopher, she pushed ideology over everything else.

    There are a few good explanations here:

    “There’s good reason why I don’t list Ayn Rand as an American philosopher: I don’t consider her a philosopher. Neither do other philosophers — you won’t find her works taught in most (any?) philosophy departments. You also won’t find her discussed in any standard works on the history of philosophy — either in general or specifically American philosophy.”

    If someone is teaching Objectivism in a philosophy course, they are either a Randian or they are trying to educate students about examples of non-philosophy. Rand was never able stand her ground against philosophers and her sole attempt in her epistimology book was roundly rejected.

    1. Hi! This is Ryan Dunlavey, the artist of the book.

      Fred and I consciously took a neutral position with every figure featured in Action Philosophers (of which the Rand section only occupies 8 out of 300+ pages) and tried our best not to let our personal biases and belief systems slip through. The fact is that a lot of people *do* consider Rand to be a philosopher, and we thought her story was interesting enough to include it, so we did. Whether you or I agree with her philosophical relevancy is kind of moot.

      Honestly I never knew Rand was such a polarizing figure until I made this comic, I thought she was just a boring writer and her followers were largely assholes, but it made a fun comic.

      We do blur the line quite a bit with who is included in our philosophy pantheon – for example both Sigmund Freud and Thomas Jefferson are featured prominently and we excluded both Socarates and Russell, choosing to fold their philosophies into the Plato and Wittgenstein stories, respectively, simply because they made for more interesting comics.

      Really the comic is just a way for us to entertainingly encapsulate history’s best known thinkers. We’ve never claim to be authoritative or comprehensive, just factual and funny.

      Thanks for reading!

      1.  I found out about the comic because of Fred’s comic work in things like Iron Man and your art help sell it to me. I like your work and cannot wait to see what else is coming up.

        I gave a copy of the book to a friend taking philosophy and she thought it was fun to read. Much less stressful to take in than the normal textbooks.

  3. I love Action Philosophers. I wish this stuff had been available when I was in high school and college. I’d have been much more likely to take a philosophy class if the material had been presented in comic book form!

    once upon a time the Action Philsophers guys were supposedly working on Action Presidents. anyone know if that ever happened/is going to happen?

  4. Thanks so much for the post Cory!
    That “poster” was actually a piece of original art I did for the New York Comic Con charity auction:  and the joke was written by actor Ben Fine , who ad-libbed it when he played both Friedrich Nietsche and Jean-Paul Sartre in the Action Philosophers stage play.
    Based on the positive response it got, I’m thinking I should probably make a print available too!

Comments are closed.