Science Tales: short comic stories about science, skepticism, evidence and woo

Darryl Cunningham's Science Tales is a fantastic nonfiction comic book about science, skepticism and denial. Divided into short chapters with simple layouts and graphics, Cunningham's book looks into belief in chiropractic and homeopathy; denial of moon landings, climate change and evolution, the anti-vaccination movement, and related subjects. It concludes with a tremendous piece on the forces that give rise to anti-scientific/anti-evidence movements, which Cunningham attributes to the deadly cocktail of cynical corporate media-manipulation and humanity's built-in cognitive blind-spots.

Cunningham has a real gift for making complex subjects simple. If you're a Mythbusters fan, admire James Randi, enjoyed Ben Goldacre's Bad Science, and care about climate change, you'll enjoy this one. More to the point, if you're trying to discuss these subjects with smart but misguided friends and loved ones, this book might hold the key to real dialogue.

To get a taste of Science Tales, click through below for the first five pages of the MMR story, courtesy of publishers Myriad Editions.

Science Tales Read the rest

Joss Whedon on his success

A beautiful note from Joss Whedon to the world, his admirers, and his past self, explaining what it feels like to have directed a movie that broke all box-office records for opening weekend:

What doesn't change is anything that matters. What doesn't change is that I've had the smartest, most loyal, most passionate, most articulate group of -- I'm not even gonna say fans. I'm going with "peeps" -- that any cult oddity such as my bad self could have dreamt of. When almost no one was watching, when people probably should have STOPPED watching, I've had three constants: my family and friends, my collaborators (often the same), and y'all. A lot of stories have come out about my "dark years", and how I'm "unrecognized"... I love these stories, because they make me seem super-important, but I have never felt the darkness (and I'm ALL about my darkness) that they described. Because I have so much. I have people, in my life, on this site, in places I've yet to discover, that always made me feel the truth of success: an artist and an audience communicating. Communicating to the point of collaborating. I've thought, "maybe I'm over; maybe I've said my piece". But never with fear. Never with rancor. Because of y'all. Because you knew me when. If you think topping a box office record compares with someone telling you your work helped them through a rough time, you're probably new here. (For the record, and despite my inhuman distance from the joy-joy of it: topping a box office record is super-dope.

Read the rest

Sweet Tooth #4: post-apocalyptic comic is a tour-de-force of dread

I just got around to reading Endangered Species, the fourth volume of Jeff Lemire's outstanding, post-bio-apocalyptic graphic novel Sweet Tooth (here's reviews of the previous volumes). Damn, this is good stuff.

In Sweet Tooth, a plague has swept the planet. Babies are born as human-animal hybrid "monsters." Adults die off in huge numbers, killed by what is assumed to be the same disease. "Sweet Tooth" is a young boy with deer antlers who is raised in a shack in the woods with his father, a mad (?) holy-man who is consumed with visions. When Sweet Tooth's dad succumbs to the plague, Sweet Tooth ventures into the world and meets Jepperd, a violent rover who seems to take him into his care, but whose motives we readers know to be suspect.

Four volumes in, and Lemire has proved that he can toy with our emotions with the best of them. The characters are flawed and likable, the mystery deep and compelling, the action fast and rough. Most of all, though, is Lemire's incredible ability to instill and sustain a sense of dread in the reader, a delicious horror-movie feeling that something bad is coming, something lost in the shadows and unknowable but dreadful. I've powered through each of these four volumes in less than an hour, unable to put them down. As DMZ draws to a close, it's great to know that there's another graphic novel series in the chute that's so utterly compelling.

If you haven't been keeping up with Sweet Tooth, there's no better time to start -- here's volume one. Read the rest

FILM CRIT HULK EXPLAINS HULK

The New Yorker has invited Twitter hero @FILMCRITHILK to write a great, insightful, ALL-CAPS essay on the attraction of The Hulk in stories.

SO PERHAPS THERE IS A MUCH BETTER QUESTION AT HAND: WHAT MAKES THE HULK DRAMATIC? WHAT ARE WE ROOTING FOR WHEN WE WATCH HIM? WHAT IS IT THAT WE WANT TO HAPPEN IN ANY GIVEN SCENE?

WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE CENTRAL QUESTION: WHAT MAKES THE HULK SO COMPELLING TO US?

HULK WRITES ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME, BUT ONE OF THE ONGOING PROBLEMS OF BLOCKBUSTER CINEMA THESE DAYS IS ASSUMED EMPATHY. IT’S AS IF OUR STORYTELLERS JUST PLOP A FILM IN OUR LAPS AND SAY, “HERE’S OUR MAIN CHARACTER AND WE’RE GOING TO ASSUME THAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THEM FOR THAT REASON ALONE. THEY’RE THE MAIN CHARACTER!” … HULK DESPISES THIS TREND. IT TENDS TO GET EVEN WORSE WHEN STORYTELLERS FALL INTO THE MARKETING-CENTRIC TRAP OF “LIKABILITY,” WHICH IS A WORD THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MAKING CHARACTERS INTERESTING. USUALLY IT’S JUST A CODE WORD USED BY EXECUTIVES WHEN THEY’RE WORRIED A CHARACTER IS “DOING BAD THINGS.” AND TO ADHERE TO THE WORRIES OF LIKABILITY IS TO THUS EMBARK ON A FOOL’S PLAY AT DRAMA.

Which gives me the chance to drop in my favorite joke from last weekend, shamelessly cribbed from The Observer: "YOU WON'T LIKE ME WHEN I'M ANGRY. I BACK UP MY RAGE WITH SOURCES AND DOCUMENTATION." -The Credible Hulk

THE HULK ON MARK RUFFALO’S HULK (via Making Light) Read the rest

When Art Spiegelman visited Maurice Sendak

"Childhood is cannibals and psychotics vomiting in your mouth!" Art Spiegelman drew his experience of hanging out with Maurice Sendak in 1993 for the New Yorker, and the magazine has "unlocked" the archival link in honor of Sendak's passing today.

(via Neil Gaiman) Read the rest

Leather "Batman" mask

Ukranian steampunk/fetish leathercrafters Bob Basset have taken a crack at golden age comics with this 1920s "Batman" mask.

Batman mask as it could be in 1920 Read the rest

Webcomic: Face-Skull, a graphic designer with a disembodied, crime-fighting alter-ego

Pat Dorian sez, "Cory blogged about my t-shirts he saw at NYC Comic Con 2011. I took one of my characters from my t-shirts and made a web comic based on him. I thought you might dig it."

The Face-Skull (Thanks, Pat!) Read the rest

Charlie Brown as Link from Zelda

Winter the Artist's Link/Charlie Brown shirt design, entitled "A Hero named..." is up for vote on Threadless.

A Hero named... (via Super Punch) Read the rest

Utilitarianism's darkly comical pitfalls

A characteristically great Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal installment explores the hidden pitfalls of extreme utilitarianism. I just re-read Starship Troopers and was once again struck by Heinlein's strange idea of a scientifically provable "moral philosophy" that puts every human situation to the test of being expressed in symbolic logic to weigh its validity.

We created a utilitarian ethics computer to replace government (Thanks, Jamie!) Read the rest

Gone to Amerikay: masterful, heart-tugging Irish immigrant graphic novel

Gone to Amerikay is a masterfully told tear-jerker of a graphic novel that tells the stories of multiple generations of Irish immigrants to New York, skilfully braided together. There's a storyline from 1870, the tale of Ciara O'Dwyer and her baby daughter who arrive in the Five Points slum ahead of Ciara's husband, who is meant to catch the next boat, but does not arrive. There's a storyline from 1960, in which a merchant seaman named Johnny McCormack jumps ship to become an actor, but instead ends up in folk-music-saturated Greenwich Village, discovering turbulent truths about his calling and his sexuality. Finally, there's a 2010 timeline in which a stratospherically wealthy Celtic Tiger CEO named Lewis Healy touches down in New York in his private jet so that his lover can give him a gift for the man who has everything: the secret history of a song that changed his life when he heard it as a child.

Writer Derek McColloch and illustrators Colleen Doran and Jose Villarrubia make this three-way narrative sing (literally, at times) by exploiting the unique visual storytelling capabilities of comics in ways rarely seen. Their masterful treatment boosts an already fine -- if sleight and sentimental -- tale into a higher orbit, giving it a velocity and a mass that makes the book both unstoppable and heart-tugging.

This is a sensitive treatment of race and class, sexuality and art, betrayal and gender, and above all, the immigrant experience in America. Like a great folk song, it is at once simple and complex, a paradoxical confection that could only have been rendered in graphic form. Read the rest

Mathematical approximations and how wrong they are

A great XKCD today: "Approximations: A Slightly Wrong Table of Equations and Identities Useful for Approximations and/or Trolling Teachers."

Approximations Read the rest

Vintage photo-portraits remade as superheroes

Foto Marvellini, a Milanese art workshop, posted a set of vintage portraits remade as contemporary superheroes called "Le Biciclette."

Le Biciclette - Milano (via The Mary Sue) Read the rest

Leo Geo, a lengthwise comic about a journey through the Earth

Jon Chad's Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth is a kids' comic story that blends science and fancy to tell the story of a scientist who goes all the way through the Earth's center from Argentina, headed for Taiwan. The long, skinny book is meant to be read "vertically," and instead of panels, the action proceeds directly across a series of two-page spreads that are dense with clever and fun details, from the realistic to the fantastic. This device is extremely charming, especially when Leo Geo reaches the Earth's center and begins his journey "up", and the pages suddenly change direction, requiring the reader to turn the book upside-down and read from bottom to top.

Leo Geo's journey is peppered with encounters with fantasy underground monsters and heroes, including some beasts that plot the downfall of the surface dwellers (that is, us). But Leo beats them all with science, and his travelogue is peppered with scientific observations that are interesting and informative, and provide a crunchy counterpoint to the gooey made-up stuff, like four-eyed quadclops monsters (Leo Geo is eaten by one of these, but beats it "with science" by travelling through its digestive tract and escaping through its "ileum and colon").

Chads art is fab, with a good, confident line and a lot of zest and silliness. The line-drawings cry out to be colored in by the reader, and the whole book makes a fabulous entertainment and distraction for the kids in your life, with its mix of science, storytelling, art, and humor. Read the rest

Brian Wood's DMZ: a critical look back

As the final volume of Brian Wood's brilliant anti-war graphic novel DMZ nears publication, Dominic Umile looks back on the series' 72 issue run of political allegory and all the ways that it used the device of fiction to make trenchant comic on the real world. DMZ is a story about the "State of Exception" that the American establishment declared after 9/11, a period when human rights, civil liberty, economic sanity, and the constitution all play second-fiddle to the all-consuming war on terror. Like the best allegories, it works first and best as a story in its own right, but it is also an important comment on the world we live in.

In DMZ #8, Matty Roth reviews a series of New York Times newspapers to reconstruct a timeline of the book’s war. Burchielli’s panels are nearly blacked-out. It’s as if Roth is squatting on a darkened stage: Nothing behind him is discernible outside of more yellowed newspapers, each slugged with copy that’s painfully close to our own real-life headlines. Brian Wood’s chief character is despondent and sounds like many of us do today in the era of Occupy Wall Street, hostilities in Afghanistan, the Obama administration’s drone campaign, and rampant corruption plaguing state and federal government, all amid an ever-theatric run-up to another presidential election.

Even as DMZ had another 64 issues and more than five years to go, Roth’s thoughts are rendered with an undeniable degree of both prescience and finality: “I never paid attention to politics. Never seemed to be a point.

Read the rest

Reading With Pictures Kickstarter project to produce high-quality textbooks in graphic novel form

Reading With Pictures is a great textbook in graphic novel form, which contains several short stories in comic form, each of which teaches elements of the US grades 3-6 core curriculum. I got a preview of the book at last year's New York Comic-Con and it is a fantastic effort. The 501(c)3 charity that produced the book has launched a Kickstarter campaign seeking to raise $65,000 to print the book and an accompanying teacher's guide. $10 donors get the DRM-free ebook; $25 donors get a hardcover print book. There's also a set of trading cards, as well as opportunities to get some of the outstanding original art.

Aimed at grades 3-6, The Graphic Textbook features a dozen short stories (both fiction and non-fiction) that address topics in a variety of disciplines (Social Studies, Math, Language Arts, Science) drawn from the list of Common Core Standards used in classrooms countrywide. The accompanying Teacher’s Guide will include Standards-correlated lesson plans customized to each story, research-based justifications for using comics in the classroom, a guide to establishing best classroom practices and a comprehensive listing of additional educational resources.

The Graphic Textbook will prove once and for all that comics belong in the classroom by creating a comic that every teacher will actually want to use and a textbook that every student will actually want to read!

Support Our Kickstarter | Reading With Pictures (Thanks, Matt!) Read the rest

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes: kids' comic-book stories about cubic mcguffins

My four-year-old daughter and I love to read comics together. Having thoroughly enjoyed the Hilda comics and gone absolutely bananas over Giants Beware, I stopped in at London's wonderful GOSH! Comics (recently relocated to a fantastic location in the heart of Soho) and asked the clerk for a recommendation. The gentleman behind the till recommended Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, an anthology of short stories aimed at middle readers, edited by Kazu Kibuishi (the creator of Amulet, who also contributed the final story in the book).

Each of the stories in Explorer relates to a "mystery box" -- a cubic mcguffin that each creator is free to interpret in his or her own way. The contributors display enormous ingenuity and range in their responses to this challenge. Emily Carroll's "Under the Floorboards" is a spooky, Twilight Zonesque take; Rad Sechrist's "The Butter Thief" is a great cross between Japanese legends and Grimm fairytales; Johann Mate's "Whatzit," is a madcap science fiction comedy; and Kibuishi's "The Escape Option" is a beautifully illustrated environmental parable. There are seven stories in all, and we read them together over three bedtimes. Though the book is aimed at middle graders, Poesy really enjoyed it, with a little bit of translating, explaining and narrating from me. As soon as we were done, she wanted to hear the stories over again, which is always a good sign.

I asked Poesy if she thought that other kids would like having this read to them, and she was very enthusiastic in her recommendation! Read the rest

Helped by friends, cartoonist battles Parkinson's

Courtesy of Richard Thompson

Cartoonist Richard Thompson's voice was quiet and reedy when we spoke, although the traces of his Maryland upbringing are clear. His voice sometimes gives out on him, he said, because of Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neuromuscular condition, with which he was diagnosed in 2009. I could understand him just fine when we spoke recently, but, as with so many aspects of his body's expression of Parkinson's, Thompson has just had to learn to work around it. Read the rest

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