Science storytelling, comics-style
Once upon a time, comics were primarily the domain of costumed heroines and heroes preoccupied with battling evil supervillains and saving the planet. But generations of comics creators have proven that the graphic format used by comics can convey a wide range of narratives.
And a series of nonfiction graphic novels is proving that comics are terrific for telling stories about science.
Today (Nov. 16), First Second Books announced 13 upcoming titles in their "Science Comics" book series, to be released from 2017 through 2019. These nonfiction graphic novels combine engaging and vibrant artwork with characters who will introduce readers to a range of fascinating science topics: the history of drones, the evolution of the human brain, crows' intelligence, and the unexpectedly compelling life of trees.
The notion of combining graphic storytelling with science subjects made sense to First Second — in a statement, they called Science Comics an "amazing mix of two nerdy things that go excellently together." The series launched in March 2016 with two volumes: "Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean," and "Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers," followed by "Volcanoes: Fire and Life," published Nov. 15, and "Bats: Learning to Fly," which will be available Feb. 28, 2017.
But there are many more Science Comics waiting in the wings — and First Second gave Live Science an exclusive peek. Here's a hint of what's to come.
Brains (Tory Woollcott and Alex Graudins)
When a mad scientist and his zombie assistant kidnap a girl named Fahama to try and steal her brain, she must learn the evolution and science of the human brain as quickly as possible, in order to plan her escape.
Publish Date: Winter 2019
Cars: The Engines That Move You (Dan Zettwoch)
Writer and illustrator Dan Zettwoch takes the wheel in a road trip exploring the history of automobiles, how they're put together, and how they came to shape the world we live in today.
“I’m excited about all the brain-tingling research and high-octane art I’ll get to do for this book," Zettwoch said in a statement. "There’s gonna be so much fun stuff to learn about and then get to turn into crazy (but hopefully clear!) cartooning: weird history, complex contraptions, obscure and (mostly) lovable characters, and literally thousands of explosions."
Publish Date: Spring 2019
Computers (Penelope Spector and Perry E. Metzger)
A cast of anthropomorphic Victorian-era dinosaurs introduce readers to the basics of how computing originated, what the first computers looked like, and how they developed into the machines that can be found in nearly every corner of our lives.
"Computers really are complicated," Metzger said in a statement. But we've set out to prove that with the help of some well-mannered dinosaurs and a lot of surrealism, children — and perhaps even some particularly bright adults — can understand how these marvelous machines function."
Publish Date: Spring 2019
Crows (MK Reed and Kyla Vanderklugt)
Scientists have long known crows to be highly intelligent, capable of recognizing faces and using tools. But human fascination with these birds goes back much farther in our own cultural past, with crows playing prominent roles in different cultures' myths and legends. MK Reed and Kyla Vanderklugt investigate the history that humans and crows share, and show what researchers are just beginning to discover about their cognition and behavior.
"I've always loved watching the crows in my yard," Vanderklugt said in a statement. "They're scary clever. I'm looking forward to learning about what makes them tick in the process of making this book.”
Publish Date: Fall 2019
Polar Bears: A Survivor's Guide (Jason Viola and Zack Giallongo)
Experience the Arctic through a mother polar bear's eyes, as she teaches her young cubs what they'll need to survive in the icy polar environment.
"I love learning about how these enormous bears can thrive in such a harsh, constantly changing environment," the book's co-author Jason Viola said in a statement. "Admiring their cunning survival skills and playful personalities at this precarious time reminds us of the responsibility we have to nature and the planet."
Publish Date: Spring 2018
Robots and Drones (Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot)
Ready to welcome your robot overlords? Autonomous machines have actually been around longer than you might think. Mairghread Scott and Jacob Chabot provide a glimpse into some of today's most sophisticated robots, revealing how they're designed, how people operate them and what they enable us to do — on Earth and in space.
Publish Date: Mar. 27, 2018
Sharks: Apex Predator of the Sea (Joe Flood)
Sharks are fearsome and efficient predators, and as such, they play a vital role in ocean ecosystems and food webs. This book dives deeply into the sharks' biology and habits as part of a larger interconnected network of life in the sea.
"Not only do I love the ocean, but I’ve always been fascinated by sharks," author Joe Flood said in a statement. "And this book gives me an amazing opportunity to explore both of these subjects more in depth.”
Publish Date: Mar. 17, 2018
The complete list of 'Science Comics'
"Dogs" (Andy Hirsch) Publish Date: Oct. 31, 2017
"Robots and Drones" (Mairghread Scott, Jacob Chabot) Publish Date: Mar. 27, 2018
"Sharks" (Joe Flood) Publish Date: Apr. 17, 2018
"Polar Bears" (Zack Giallongo, Jason Viola) Publish Date: Spring 2018
"Rockets" (Jerzy Drozd, Anne Drozd) Publish Date: Spring 2018
"Cats" (Andy Hirsch) Publish Date: Fall 2018
"Weather" (MK Reed, Jonathan Hill) Publish Date: Fall 2018
"Cars" (Dan Zettwoch) Publish Date: Spring 2019
"Computers" (Perry E. Metzger, Penelope Spector, and Jerel Dye) Publish Date: Spring 2019
"Crows" (MK Reed and Kyla Vanderklugt) Publish Date: Fall 2019
"Trees" (Andy Hirsch) Publish Date: Fall 2019
"Brains" (Tory Woollcott, Alex Graudins) Publish Date: Winter 2019
"Solar Systems" (Rosemary Mosco, Jon Chad) Publish Date: Winter 2019
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.
Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science editor for the channels Animals and Planet Earth. She also reports on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.