May 22, 2013, by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
What’s an ideal way to tell a story about science, history, and conservation that gets us to care and wonder about all three? Writer Jim Ottaviani and illustrator Maris Wicks teamed up to create the new book Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, out next month from First Second Books (pre-order your copy here). Here’s Jim and Maris on Primates and why comic books are a great way to raise interest in science and nature.
From author Jim Ottaviani:
Near the end of Primates, we show Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas at the 1974 Werner-Gren Conference on “The Behavior of Great Apes,” discussing what we now call ecotourism. Fossey was not a fan:
So what would she think of an actual comic book about…her? At that time, probably not much, since the state-of-the-art back in the mid-1970s was along the lines of Evel Knievel: The Perilous Traps of Mr. Danger, Master of Kung Fu, and a whole bunch of Giant-Size titles, including one starring a creature called Man-Thing. (No, really.) I do have a soft spot for some of the later issues of Master of Kung Fu, but overall? Dismal and dismissible junk was the rule of the day.
The good news is that comics have changed in the decades since Drs. Fossey, Galdikas, and Goodall met up at that conference in Austria, and you now find them in bookstores, in classrooms, and on coffee tables of the literati. So if Dian Fossey saw what we today call graphic novels, she probably wouldn’t mind playing a leading role in one.
We hope not, anyway, since we think comics are an ideal medium to tell the story of these three pioneering scientists. In comics, the words provide one layer of meaning, the images another, and the reader’s imagination combines the two. Readers also share control with Maris and me of the pace with which the story unfolds—it’s a collaborative experience. And comics demand that readers fill in the gaps between the panels, interpolating the narrative where they’re missing information. It’s a process of discovery.
Imagination. Collaboration. Interpolation. Discovery. Sounds a lot like science-in-the-making to me.