THE CARTOON GUIDE TO BIOLOGY, by Larry Gonick and Dave Wessner
Many a high school and college student will be amazed at how easy and truly fun it can be to learn about biology in a comics format. And in a significant way. Seriously, all you students out there at whatever level, you can have an enjoyable immersive experience and LEARN, not just cram facts. Behold, THE CARTOON GUIDE TO BIOLOGY, by Larry Gonick and Dave Wessner, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
A riot of life!
Let me jump right in and get to an important point. If you are somehow new to comics, well, this may blow your mind. If you are familiar with comics, then this will still blow your mind. Here’s the deal, comics are uniquely capable of explaining all sorts of things. And cartoonists are uniquely compelled to explain things! I should know. I am a cartoonist. What Larry Gonick excels at is really utilizing the impressive tools offered by the comics medium. One of the most magical things about comics is its ability to make the most impact by being as concise as possible. There is truly an art to taking something complex and boiling it down to its essentials. Gonick has figured out how to do that. Anyone who has lugged a biology textbook can appreciate this, if there was a way to make the subject more relatable and accessible, then that would be a most awesome thing. Gonick has done that! And he’s teamed up with Dave Wessner, a Professor of Biology and chair of the Department of Health and Human Values at Davidson College. Between the two of them, they deliver the goods.
The pulmonary arteries.
Gonick has tapped into the art of being economical with text as well as with artwork. And it’s all for the sake of clarity. We don’t want any clutter, especially when learning about as heavy a subject as biology. But, oddly enough, Gonick finds a way to keep things consistently light, or light-hearted. There are little jokes to keep the pace moving along. And, there are just so many wonderful moments of sheer energy and involvement that it can’t help but rub off on the reader. It’s as if Gonick has timed it just right to give you a little joke here, plus a light illustration there, then a fun detailed illustration, and so on.
The cell membrane.
We all learn in different ways and it’s usually not as straightforward as you might think. It’s not just a case of some people learning best by doing and other people learning best by reading and so on. It’s a mix of a lot things and it involves whatever will engage the student. It’s pretty hard to resist the comics medium, especially when you have such a master as Larry Gonick leading the way. He takes numerous bits of information and manages to give the reader the sort of hooks they will need to not only remember but to thoroughly process such things as how a plant creates glucose from carbon dioxide and water. This can be pretty dry material for any student to slough through so having such an engaging book as this becomes a most valuable resource.
THE CARTOON GUIDE TO BIOLOGY is a 313-page trade paperback, full illustrated, available as of July 30, 2019. Be sure to visit HarperCollins for more details on this book as well as others like THE CARTOON GUIDE TO ALGEBRA and THE CARTOON GUIDE TO CALCULUS.
There are so many superhero comics out there but readers are always open to a new wrinkle. How about a comic that encompasses a world made up of trillions, a hundred times more populated than Earth? That is a world that we all live in now, inside our own bodies, made up of trillions of cells. Welcome to BIOWARS.
This is definitely something new within the superhero genre. What will first interest readers is how this comic engages with real biology. With a majority of superhero comics heavily tied to either pulp fiction or mythology, BIOWARS, published by Gabriel Creations, confidently goes deep inside a vast alien world with many possibilities. Creator Gabriel Shaoolian envisioned a comic that dove into a whole new terrain. With a story that literally takes place inside and outside, there is great potential here.
The story begins with a sounding of alarms in the first issue, aptly entitled, “Infection.” We see the emerging war take shape. Written by Mark Powers (Marvel Comics, Devil’s Due), we get a nice dose of action, and even humor. Microphage armies and B-Cell forces, given human-like form for the sake of more vivid storytelling, are deployed to subdue the enemy invader. The artwork (Lucius Cross, Joana LaFuente, and Gonçalo Lopes) brings it all to life with impressive results. The next time you get a cold, you can picture a war like this one raging through your bronchial passages.
But there’s far more going on. Whatever this virus or bacteria is, it is unlike anything the immune system A-teams have ever encountered. And things aren’t any less tense in the great unknown world outside. Out there, on the streets of New York’s Chinatown, there’s a young man, Alex Hawking, running for his life. Outside, danger looms even closer as Alex is being chased by a killer. The killer is quite familiar with what’s wrong with Alex from the inside.
The intrigue continues as more details are revealed in the second issue, entitled, “Revelations.” With two issues in, a suspenseful story has unfolded that carries the weight of a first-rate superhero tale. We know that Alex is in a lot of danger. And we have some clues as to what he might do next. Good use is made of superhero tropes. There’s Janice Lee, the reporter who gets too close to her story and is now wrapped up with Alex’s fate. There’s Alex’s classic conflict with his father, Marcus. And there are two villains: a mad scientist, Ernst Kelso, working in the outer world; and Raze, the master mold, working in the inner world. All in all, a pretty promising start to a new all-ages comic.
BIOWARS #3, entitled, “The Virus Invasion,” comes out January 14, 2014. Visit our friends at the BIOWARS website here.