Comics and Science: An Explosive Combination

In honor of Free Comic Book Day, we present this essay by Jon Chad, author of Science Comics: Volcanoes: Fire and Life, and the co-author, with Maris Wicks, of "Science Comics," a free comic available in comics stores all over the world today.

I have two passions that are fulfilled by drawing comics about science. The first is drawing! Drawing has always been how I share what is going on in my imagination with others. I love drawing monsters, robots, and fun characters that wobble about and sweat everywhere. I also love pouring energy into drawing things like rocks, leaves, water, clouds, and smoke; the minutia of the world around us. When I was a kid, I would spend less time looking for Waldo than I would looking at the scene around Waldo and making up my own stories. Those are the drawings I want to make; intricate worlds that pull you in.

The second passion is my love for exploring the relationship between readers, the physical object of the book, and the narrative contained therein. I've drawn picture books, but have found the comic form to be more dynamic. Panels…word balloons…sound effects…page turns…there are so many moving parts in comics that can wildly affect how the comic is read. Comics can be both nuanced in their application, and instantly understandable by the very young to the very old.

I'm particularly attracted to creating work that can help form a relationship between the reader and science. I think when a reader can link a fact (or, their memory of acquiring a fact) to some sort of immersive narrative moment, there's a relationship that forms that is stronger than if you just encounter the fact a cold, emotionless description. For example, I learned about ferromagnetism from an episode of the Justice League cartoon. Me telling you that magnets lose their attractive qualities if they are heated to a certain point is not nearly as exciting as seeing someone with magnetic powers lose them when blasted by someone throwing fire. That moment wasn't even a big part of the episode, but it's been cemented in my mind forever.

I am very committed to making work that isn't a Trojan Horse for science facts. I'm not trying to trick readers into learning. I don't want them to walk away and realize, "hold on, I just learned something!" There's no reason for authors to hide the science from readers. Books about science don't have to be just static facts like placards on the side of the road.

Science is all around us and as real as any character!