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Are Comic Books The New Science Textbooks?

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In a world of decreasing scientific literacy, scientists must learn to employ
any tool at their disposal to explain the wonders of the natural world.

 – Jay Hosler, Biology Professor & Comics Author

Let’s not forget that comic books are books. True – they provide us with information about faraway lands and futuristic worlds, superheros and villains, and the constant battle of good versus evil. But there are also nonfiction comic books and graphic novels, hugely popular for their unique ability to offer factual information in an engaging and visually pleasing way.

For visual learners, a comic book or graphic novel could be the ticket to understanding otherwise complex subject matter. Here’s a look at our favorite comics we would have loved to trade in for our science textbooks:

Genetics: The Stuff of Life

The Stuff of Life: Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA

The Stuff of Life tells a complicated subject – genetics and DNA – in a whimsical and highly dynamic story. Mark Shultz, the author, had an interest in science and a background as a writer, and jumped at the opportunity to work on such a unique project. In an NPR interview, Shultz described the biggest hurdle in the book’s creation was expressing abstract concepts such as “the mechanics of how genetics work as an agent for development and change in organisms.”

The book required everyone involved – illustrators included – to read up on the hard science to get a solid grasp on what they’re representing. To ensure factual accuracy, all content was not only edited but vetted by a professional scientist.

Here’s an animated promotional clip:

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth

Starring the same characters as The Stuff of Life (and illustrated by the same artists), The Story of Life on Earth explores the history of evolution. Jay Hosler, the writer, is our kinda guy: a biology professor with a knack for writing comics. Told through the eyes of an alien scientist, Bloort 183, the book discusses the atomic, the planetary and everything in between. Check out this comic book created using student work from an Animal Behavior class. What a smart way to make science reach a broader audience.

Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’

Graphic Adaptation of Darwin's On the Origin of Species

A graphic adaptation of one of the most important scientific books ever written. Full-color illustrations accompany condensed versions of the original text, to produce a highly readable take on Darwin’s original November 24, 1859 work.

Biowars: The Body’s Immune System

The Immune System: Biowars

We like to think that when it’s published, Biowars will join the ranks of these great works of graphic nonfiction. There are fictional elements of the story, but the scientific backbone is 100% factually accurate, inspired by the epic battles going on inside our blood streams. We wanted to cast the oldest struggle of good versus evil in a whole new light, to capture how truly phenomenal the human body’s natural defenses are.

Who knows? Maybe someday our BioWarriors will make their way to the desks of classrooms. Here’s hoping!

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